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Astronomy Hacks

Astronomy Hacks

5.0 6
by Robert Bruce Thompson, Barbara Fritchman Thompson

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Why use the traditional approach to study the stars when you can turn computers, handheld devices, and telescopes into out-of-this-world stargazing tools? Whether you're a first timer or an advanced hobbyist, you'll find Astronomy Hacks both useful and fun. From upgrading your optical finder to photographing stars, this book is the perfect cosmic companion.This


Why use the traditional approach to study the stars when you can turn computers, handheld devices, and telescopes into out-of-this-world stargazing tools? Whether you're a first timer or an advanced hobbyist, you'll find Astronomy Hacks both useful and fun. From upgrading your optical finder to photographing stars, this book is the perfect cosmic companion.This handy field guide covers the basics of observing, and what you need to know about tweaking, tuning, adjusting, and tricking out a 'scope. Expect priceless tips and tools for using a Dobsonian Telescope, the large-aperture telescope you can inexpensively build in your garage. Get advice on protocols involved with using electronics including in dark places without ruining the party.Astronomy Hacks begins the space exploration by getting you set up with the right equipment for observing and admiring the stars in an urban setting. Along for the trip are first rate tips for making most of observations. The hacks show you how to:

  • Dark-Adapt Your Notebook Computer
  • Choose the Best Binocular
  • Clean Your Eyepieces and Lenses Safely
  • Upgrade Your Optical Finder
  • Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment
The O'Reilly Hacks series has reclaimed the term "hacking" to mean innovating, unearthing, and creating shortcuts, gizmos, and gears. With these hacks, you don't dream it-you do it—and Astronomy Hacks brings space dreams to life. The book is essential for anyone who wants to get the most out of an evening under the stars and have memorable celestial adventures.

Editorial Reviews

This handy field guide is designed for the more than 1 million Americans who identify themselves as amateur astronomers. Astronomy Hacks covers the basics of sky observation; what you need to know about tweaking and adjusting your telescope; and tips and tools on using the large-aperture Dobsonian Telescope.

Product Details

O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Bruce Thompson is a coauthor of O'Reilly's Building the Perfect PC and PC Hardware in a Nutshell. A born geek, he built his first computer in 1976 with 256 bytes of memory, toggle switches, and no operating system. Since then, he has bought, built, upgraded, and repaired hundreds of PCs for himself, employers, customers, friends, and clients. Robert spends most clear, moonless nights outdoors with his 10-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope, hunting down faint fuzzies, and is currently designing a larger truss-tube Dobsonian (computerized, of course) that he plans to build.

Barbara Fritchman Thompson, the coauthor of Building the Perfect PC and PC Hardware in a Nutshell, worked for 20 years as a librarian before starting her own home-based consulting practice, Research Solutions. She's also a researcher for the law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge, & Rice, PLLC. During her leisure hours, Barbara reads, works out, plays golf, and, like Robert, is an avid amateur astronomer.

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Astronomy Hacks 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SeattleDave More than 1 year ago
In this hectic world of rushing around, some of us are lucky enough to get outside and enjoy the night sky from time to time. This book will help you get the most out of your time practicing amateur astronomy. It's a collection of advice, short essays, tips and tricks that will help you get up to speed without many of the frustrations typically encountered when learning this hobby. The authors jump right in with invaluable tips that every amateur astronomer should know. The first chapter is loaded with goodies that will help you get geared up and understand basic safety, observing site etiquette, preparation, and offers advice on choosing the right equipment. From there, you are taken into the field with a heap of great observing hacks. Starting with the basics like how to keep your night vision, you'll learn how to describe the brightness of an object, identify stars by name and understanding the various celestial coordinate systems. Fundamentals like learning to locate objects geometrically, star hopping, and learning to see both deep & shallow space objects are also covered here. Urban observing skills, organized logging, and how to prepare for and run a Messier Marathon are included as well. The book closes with chapters covering scope and accessory hacks like collimation, tricking out your Dobsonian, aligning and upgrading your finder scope, and help on choosing planetarium software for your computer. The hacks vary in length from quick single-pagers up to some very thorough ten-plus page hacks. The book contains many black & white photographs that compliment the text. When you decide it's time to clean your primary mirror for example, several photos of the multi-step process help guide you through. Icons accompany each hack, indicating the relative complexity of the hack, from beginner to expert. Each hack is numbered (from 1 to 65) and cross references are shown where related hacks are mentioned. Other reviews of this book mention the authors' bias towards Dobsonian scopes. The authors don't have blinders on; they thoroughly describe many types of telescopes (and binoculars) and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. They have spent a huge amount of time in the field and they are simply reporting their observations when they say "If you attend a large star party, you'll probably see more Dobs than all other types of scopes combined." The reason so many people buy them is simple: Dobs offer arguably the best bang for the buck. If you're a beginner, you'll do well to learn the basics of star hopping and celestial navigation without relying on the crutch of a go-to scope. Have the batteries in your GPS ever died when you were in an unfamiliar area? Good thing you know how to read a map. ;) Astronomy Hacks is the second book I've read by the dynamic duo of Robert & Barbara Thompson. Their book Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders was an excellent read and continues to be a great resource. I highly recommend both of these books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got my telescope less than a year ago. I have spent hours on-line reading and researching and searching for help. Now it's all in one place! Many people suggest books for newbies but this should be one of the first. Hack#19 has already saved me a ton of hassles. It is easy to read (even for a newbie like me)but not one I'm likely to 'outgrow' for quite some time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book covers a wide range of subjects related to Astronomy. It is well written and thought out. It is a must have for any newbie and even experienced astronomers will benefit from it too. I was one of those people who spent a lot of money on a telescope and after a few uses let it sit for over a year in a corner collecting dust out of discouragement from not seeing the spectacular DSO¿s found on most web sites. This book explains what you can expect to see along with techniques to see them. It has helped me locate objects I have never been able to find before and given me information on care of my telescope. It has given me the comfort and confidence to do maintenance on my telescope I was too afraid to do out of my own lack of knowledge. It has re-sparked my interest in the hobby and I found I am using my 8¿ DOB more and more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely the best book on observing the night sky that I¿ve read. It¿s excellent and without a doubt written by some real pros. I¿ve been thinking of buying a telescope, and I¿m glad I read this book before I put down any money¿I might not have purchased the right telescope for my needs. The authors begin with a really good explanation of the various types of telescopes available, the range of prices, and what to expect (in terms of quality and optics) in each category, as well as some general recommendations depending on what your interests might be (e.g. astrophotography vs. general observing). Of course, the book contains an excellent section on the constellations and their locations. Additionally, the authors illustrate how to read star charts and describe a couple of the most popular stellar catalogs. There are also quite a few tips and ideas for improving your observation experience including different ideas on how to dark-adapt. I just figured that living near a lot of lights would make it impossible to see anything in the night sky. As the authors point out, light can make the observation experience more difficult, but it can still be enjoyable and rewarding. I would absolutely recommend this book to the amateur astronomer who is really serious about improving the night time viewing experience. This is an excellent book that really increased my understanding and appreciation of astronomy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a word, wow. I like to actually read all of a book before making comments, and there is a lot of content in this book, so it took me a while to get all the way through it. As someone with a very minimal background and marginal interest in astronomy, I would feel very comfortable using this as my primary guide if I was going to start observing at most any level I had no trouble following the text, even the technical information and tables looked like I would be able to understand and use them if I had the need to do so. Well written. This strikes me as an essential resource for any neophyte, one that includes useful information for experienced folks as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book provides a lot of good information for the novice to intermediate astronomer. As someone who is looking to buy a telescope, this book has given me the information I need to decide which model to get. Also I know a lot more about what to do with a telescope once I get it. I suspect that a lot of the information on subjects like how to collimate a telescope might be suitable for more than just the novice audience. In a world full of books for dummies, Astronomy Hacks is really astronomy for intelligent people who may not know much about the topic yet.