Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Time for a second edition of Burnham's Celestial Handbook?

  • Please log in to reply
30 replies to this topic

#26 geovermont

geovermont

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 357
  • Joined: 06 May 2016
  • Loc: Vermont

Posted 14 September 2021 - 07:50 PM

I think Starman1 nailed it in #22. It's just not going to happen and I'm OK with that. I do treasure my copies and will read them to pieces as the years go by. The reading for today is the entry on Vega starting on page 1137 (in Volume 2)....



#27 turtle86

turtle86

    Mr. Coffee

  • *****
  • Posts: 6,167
  • Joined: 09 Oct 2006

Posted 14 September 2021 - 09:00 PM

I would love to see an updated version but agree that it's not likely to happen for a lot of reasons.  I'm OK with that too because there are plenty of other alternatives for observing guides and current data.  What makes BCH so special is the poetic quality of its prose and how it inspires us to observe and wonder.  The important thing is that it's still in print and readily available to inspire new generations of amateur astronomers.  That BCH in its unrevised form has managed to stay in print all these years really speaks to its timeless quality.  BCH and Starlight Nights are the two works that for me best capture the joy of stargazing.


  • Daniel Mounsey, Knasal, DennisM and 1 other like this

#28 Daniel Mounsey

Daniel Mounsey

    Vendor (Woodland Hills)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 8,063
  • Joined: 12 Jun 2002

Posted 18 September 2021 - 08:08 AM

I think the mean issue and what is far too often overlooked in BCH is that it helps observers ask the right questions. For example you read a constellation and you realize there's these really interesting details about stars. I would then ask myself...Hey,  I wonder what has changed? No other source captures the imagination like this man. Nothing online is even written in a manner like this work, even today.

 

This is how I would identify those interested prior to star parties. Before star parties, I would always visit local coffee houses and spend about three hours reading about an object or just a few doing research and then scribble in notes about what has changed or not changed with an object. How can I elaborate further upon this work? I've been doing it for over 25 years myself because RBj said so, so I did exactly that.

 

There's two ways you can look at this. You can have discussions about how quickly you can observe or you can sit and absorb one object at a time. BCH is about sucking you in to ask yourself these question and to take it upon yourself to have the initiative to be curious to know more. If you're sitting across from me at a coffee house prior to observation and all you want to talk about is software and gear, then that informs me the level of interest one has to understand or partake in an observation of just a few objects and to discuss what is going on with each.

 

Right now there is such an overwhelming amount of information for enthusiasts to gargle that it's difficult to even help them "be still". It's like most of these astrophotographers I deal with. They just take a pictures of something without knowing much if anything about their nature. It's like going to an art museum and you see a picture but you know nothing about what's going on within it. Now imagine the artist themself doesn't even know anything about their own picture either. That's what tour guides are for. They stand in front of an onlooking audience and explain more about the history of the painting and why it was depicted in the fashion it was. 

 

Most enthusiasts are just running around like fireflies, complaining about everything, yet,  they're not absorbing anything. Many of the pictures of stars RBj took with the 13" plates had halos. Even though halos were present, he wasn't necessarily worried about halos. The purpose of these images was to help the curious onlooker and merely illustrate how the brightness of a stars changed over a particular period of time. Today, all people do is complain about halos and discuss how to remove them while the nature of the objects themselves gets ignored. That's exactly the opposite of what Burnham was trying to teach enthusiasts. It's just so disheartening to see how others perceive this work today. 

 

RBj's ending was certainly unfortunate, but what's even more unfortunate is the approach in which enthusiasts take now. It's become nothing more than a competition for the loudest APOD award. It's fine if people want to do that, but in my world, that's not amateur astronomy. 

 

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • bch.jpeg

  • Jon Isaacs, davidpitre, turtle86 and 6 others like this

#29 Starman1

Starman1

    Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 51,991
  • Joined: 23 Jun 2003
  • Loc: Los Angeles

Posted 18 September 2021 - 08:52 AM

Aesthetic enjoyment of the art and astrophysics are the yin and yang of astronomy.

They both are part of the whole, and you need both.


  • starquake likes this

#30 Jon Isaacs

Jon Isaacs

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 94,563
  • Joined: 16 Jun 2004
  • Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA

Posted 18 September 2021 - 09:27 AM

I am sorry, I am newbie.  I don't understand why there is opposition to update a classic textbook with a new edition.  In "professional" science (at least what I know, biology and medicine), this is normal.  To give you an example, in diagnostic clinical pathology there are several texts, some are focused on descriptions of pathological tissue samples at the microscope (including shapes, colors at the eyepiece), while others are more focused on molecular data including math, and less on descriptions.  For our work and for study, we need both types.  Rosai& Ackerman's book is an example of old microscope descriptions.  This style is still appreciated in modern times, despite of molecular diagnostics.  The first edition of this book was in 1953, today the book is in its 11th edition, written by new authors with updated information but keeping the same original style rich on microscopic descriptions, including keeping parts of the original text when still valid today.  Being an outsider (or newbie), I don't understand why there is reluctance to work on a new edition of the Burnham's Celestial Handbook with updated information, but keeping the same style, including the original descriptions by Robert Burnham but just updating data and tables.  Again, in the scientific world this is accepted and normal.  As in modern scientific texts, it cannot be done by one person.  The usual approach is to have few head editors working with a team of authors who distribute the text in sections to review and update, while the head editors review and make sure that the distinct style of the book is preserved.  

I am sure that Robert Burnham would love to see his text revived in a fresh edition. To me, this is the best text of descriptive astronomy, at least for a newbie like me. I agree with Daniel that many of the texts today are too focused on techniques rather than descriptive astronomy at the eyepiece.  

 

Burnhams is not a text book. It is not a scientific work that is relied upon by professional astronomers, it never was.  

 

It is really a philosophical discussion of astronomy and of observing the universe based on his experiences as an observer.  It's classic written by a very special writer.  

 

When I read it, I know there are better sources of data, I have many of those. Hopefully you do too.  But what is so special about Burnham are the words. his way of thinking.. it's a masterpiece of the art of writing. These are things you do not touch. You start over, take his themes, take his inspiration and write your own book.

 

If you were to try to update Burnham, it would require more than just updating tables and data, in the years since it was written, many concepts have changed. 

 

Jon


  • Daniel Mounsey, desertstars, Charles B. and 3 others like this

#31 desertstars

desertstars

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 45,783
  • Joined: 05 Nov 2003
  • Loc: Tucson, AZ

Posted 19 September 2021 - 01:38 PM

When I read it, I know there are better sources of data, I have many of those. Hopefully you do too.  But what is so special about Burnham are the words. his way of thinking.. it's a masterpiece of the art of writing. These are things you do not touch. You start over, take his themes, take his inspiration and write your own book.

A thing no few authors have done over the years, and to good effect. Which explains why there are so many books sitting on the shelf with my copies of Burnham's classic.

 

To be frank, if someone did "update" Burnham's, I would have little or no interest in obtaining such a work. I'd save my money for the next volumes of Annals of the Deep Sky.


  • Jon Isaacs and DHEB like this


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics