I am relatively newbie and discovered this awesome book. I also read about the author. I am wondering if some of the people here at CN could work on a new edition of the Burnham's Celestial Handbook, to keep his work alive. I work in the medical field, and it is usual that great classic books in medicine can be started in the past by an authority in the field, e.g., Harrison's Internal Medicine, or Rosai & Ackerman Surgical pathology, both textbooks that are now continued in new editions by new authors keeping the original styles.
I think that Burnham's second edition could be updated with new astronomical knowledge, tables and coordinates can be also updated, new images could be added, etc. I don't know who could work in this project, but I know that many of the people in this forum have the knowledge to work on a second edition of Burnham's celestial handbook, like Bill Paolini, just to cite one name.
I too understand your position and believe me, there's no source to date that captures the imagination like RBj did. I posted a similar topic some years back and have battled in several other BCH forums regarding the matter and they can get very heated, myself included because had it not been for RBj, I wouldn't be here now. His work has always been a driving force for countless reasons most struggle to relate to today.
Several years ago, I had a good number of personal exchanges with Craig Crossen who would have been willing to take on the monumental task and in my opinion would have been the most suitable choice for the project regarding the possibility to update BCH. Dover responded but explained that the book was still selling fine and that they wanted it to remain as a timeless "classic". Believe me, there is no one who cherishes this source more than I in fact I have been updating the astrophysical data myself over the course of the past 25 years which is why mine are so beat up. I have about twenty copies which lay in various parts of my house as well as our cars and at work.
To this very day, they still remain my main source for many reasons most others can't seem to grasp because they are so hung up on data. Data always changes and is available everywhere. They still work better than any other source for me because the tables of objects are still very useful for observation but most importantly, the writing is timeless and off the charts. I could probably write a book at this point about why this source remains timeless and how it affected me so hard.
Just yesterday I was doing some research about the human mind and one's perception of color and imagination specifically while reading because I get endless calls from angry, frustrated imagers with the same story. Today, amateur astronomy is flooded with imagers and photographers. I call them the "celestial paparazzi" but here's what most fail to understand and it is the main cause for my departure of the industry within the next few years in order to seperate myself from this mentality that has sadly flooded the market. It's okay for business if stuff works, but it's bad for amateur astronomy and unless one is on the receiving end of it, they will never understand it, and sadly, most don't. That I can tell you is an absolute fact and I can see the direction it's all going.
The question is, do readers see colors and visualize anything when they read a novel or a book of interest? Most do with the exception of a few and the imagination can be very colorful! Most novels are just writing without any pictures, yet readers can see everything clearly and visualize colors. But, today's astro enthusiasts just want to look and tinker with colorful pictures. That's all most seem to care about and even go as far as to inform others they can't see much if anything visually. For me it's a complete disconnect and a bunch of bad information to teach others to believe that. I know, because I'm on the receiving end of it each day. So, how does this relate to Burnham's Celestial Handbook?
Burnham used astro imaging as a tool to convey the universe and the changes it makes over time. There's a huge difference between a person who takes astrophotos just to look at a loud picture, dressed up with fancy colors and a person who sees far deeper than a photo. You know what the problem is? So few read books about astronomy anymore. They are mostly consumed by all the digital, marketing hype and the internet. Burnham was an amazing writer and very few know how to write. If writing doesn't capture one's imagination, then many just resort to colorful pictures. How can one appreciate what they see or hardly see if they don't even take the time to read or understand anything about it in the first place?
RBj had the most colorful imagination. He explained things in ways that made the observer contemplate their position in space and to appreciate the most subtle of things at the eyepiece. Artists like Chesley Bonestell and Arther C Clarke to name a few had huge imaginations. You walk into a bookstore like Barnes&Noble and you go to the astronomy section and you open these astronomy books today and they're all the same. They are just littered with endless, loud pictures of the same objects we've seen time and time again. It's like a broken record. There's just no soul or great writing anymore. That's why this industry is so dead inside. Instead, enthusiasts just bicker over some data and coordinates but where's the writing and imagination folks? Who of these individuals even understands what coordinates do or were even meant to do anymore? All most do now is push buttons, look at digital screens, fight software and even software doesn't get along. In the end, all this tech stuff becomes and ending in itself and a complete disconnect from nature which is what Burnham wanted others to appreciate as an earthling. I look at screens all day. The last thing I wanna see is a screen, especially at night. Amateur astronomy isn't astronomy anymore. It's merely become a form of IT astronomy.
Annal's of the Deep is helping to carry the torch.
Edited by Daniel Mounsey, 09 September 2021 - 12:25 PM.