Reviews for the previous editions: Because it stays focused, it succeeds. When you read Stargazing, you feel as though you have a friend who's helping you think about the world of telescopes. --Sky and Telescope
A practical guide that demystifies the process of buying a telescope... valuable advice on how to instantly spot misleading labels on low-end telescopes. --Astronomical Society of the Pacific "Books of Note"
Buying a telescope is essential for the stargazer who wishes to progress from binocular sky watching. With so many choices in technology and price, how does one choose just the right one? Robin Scagell supplies an expert's objective advice to making a smart purchase.
Newly updated and revised with the latest technology, Stargazing with a Telescope demystifies the process of buying and using a telescope. The features and benefits of the different types of viewing instruments are evaluated in straightforward terms, and color illustrations help to clarify the choices.
Equipment covered includes:
New to this edition is information and guidance on taking astro-images not only with a camera but by using CCDs (charge-coupled devices), which are better for capturing nebulae and fainter objects beyond the solar system. There is also new and exciting guidance on using webcams to capture objects moving in the night sky.
The book provides brand names and model numbers and the general advice applies to all brands, including recent model releases. Lens size, focal lengths, focal ratios and much more are explained with clear diagrams and non-scientific text. Also covered are accessories such as eyepieces, filters, mounts and supports, with suggestions for photography through the telescope, and choices of cameras and film types.
Robin Scagell, formerly the Vice-President of the Society for Popular Astronomy, is the author of numerous astronomy books.
This book is for anyone who always wanted an astronomical telescope but was never sure how to go about it, or maybe who has one already and doesn't know how to put it to best use. It is written for the beginner to astronomy, and for that reason I have tried not to make assumptions about what you might know already. With the help of this book you should be able to make sense of the ads you find in the astronomy magazines, and know what all the bits and pieces are for. I hope I can guide you through some of the pitfalls that may result in making a wrong choice. There are some things I can't cover, particularly regarding the quality of instruments from particular manufacturers, but I hope I have given enough detail for you to make up your own mind.
When it comes down to it, telescopes are very individual things. The optics are usually hand-finished, and they must be aligned accurately within the tube -- which leaves plenty of room for things to go wrong. If you get a bad telescope, you should expect it to be replaced -- but you will have to know what you are talking about. Even the best telescope manufacturers tell stories of customers who insisted that the instrument they had bought was no good, even though in reality it might have been of excellent quality. Few people know what to expect to start with and there is no driving test for telescopes! I hope this book will give you a good start and the confidence to know what you are seeing.
There are other books that take things a stage further, either regarding telescopes or astronomy, so I hope that once you have found your feet with this book you will be able to progress further. I recommend Philip S. Harrington's Star Ware (John Wiley) for learning more about telescopes and accessories and Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook, edited by Ian Ridpath (Pi Press), for more general observing methods. If you would like a basic introduction to astronomy as well as star maps and a constellation guide, modesty does not prevent my mentioning my own Night Sky Atlas (Firefly) and the enlarged version, Complete Guide to Stargazing (Philip's).
When I wrote the first edition of this book, Go To telescopes were new on the market. Now they are an established part of the scene, while other instrument designs have been developed. There is more choice than ever before, to the extent that not only the beginner but also more experienced telescope users find it hard to keep up with what's new. So that the book does not go out of date, I have created a dedicated website to accompany the book -- www.stargazing.org.uk. There, you can find out about new instruments on the market, more comments on those in this edition, and even let me know your own views.
Because this book is intended for a worldwide market, over a period of time, I've had to give just an indication of prices. That's why you will find references to costs in terms of other purchases -- such things as a TV set, hi-fi or car. This may be indirect, but it has its advantages. First, it is independent of your local market conditions. In general, the relative costs of such goods are the same wherever you are. Second, it doesn't date very much. And third, it puts into context the cost of a hobby like astronomy compared with other household goods. It would be even more telling to compare it with the costs of some other leisure items, such as sports goods, but comparatively few people are aware of the price of skis, golf clubs or ice hockey gear, for example.
Actually, you can enjoy astronomy at minimal expense, even if your skies are poor. We tend to see the photos taken by people with large telescopes, expensive equipment and access to ideal observing sites, but you can get a great deal of enjoyment from observing outside your back door with a small telescope or even binoculars. The important thing is to get out there and use your eyes, and to do your best with what's available. It costs very little to make friends with the Universe.