Help with buying and using a scope

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Monday, June 11, 2007
Springer-Verlag London Limited

A new book from a longtime observer has come to my attention. If you're new to amateur astronomy, thinking about buying a telescope, or wondering what you can point your new telescope at, pick up James Mullaney's A Buyer's and User's Guide to Astronomical Telescopes & Binoculars (Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2007).

Rather than select a specific piece of equipment for you, Mullaney introduces you to the universe of binoculars, telescopes, and accessories. He begins with the basics — defining terms. He uses clear and simple language, often combining explanatory diagrams to help illustrate a point. For the binocular section, he goes into the different types of prisms used in binoculars, and in chapter 3, Telescope Basics, he discusses the different mounts used with telescopes.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 deal with refracting, reflecting, and catadioptric telescopes, respectively. Each chapter provides a quick introduction to the particular telescope type. Mullaney chose to illustrate these chapters with actual telescope images from manufacturers, which I thought was a nice touch. Chapter 7, "Accessories," talks about eyepieces, finder scopes, star diagonals, and more.

Chapters 8, "Binocular Sources," and 9, "Telescope Sources," give short, general product descriptions and contact information for all major binocular and telescope manufacturers. Because the author chose not to use actual product designations, you'll need to visit the manufacturers' web sites for those. Once there, you'll find a lot more information than any book could list, and the manufacturers also will update it as needed.

OK, so much for Part I of A Buyer's and User's Guide to Astronomical Telescopes & Binoculars. Part II, which easily could have been a separate book, tells you how to observe (chapter 10) and what to observe (chapters 11 through 14). Don't miss Appendix 3, "Celestial Showpiece Roster." There, Mullaney lists 300 objects you can look at through telescopes 2 to 14 inches in aperture. And, actually, he's chosen these objects so carefully that many are visible through small telescopes or even binoculars.

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