Christopher R. Kitchin: Telescopes and Techniques. An Introduction to Practical Astronomy. Springer Verlag, London 1995. pages. Softcover 39,00 DM. ISBN 3-540-19898-9

The subtitle says it all. In just 200 pages, the director of Hertfordshire University Observatory, Dr C. R. Kitchin, gives a successful introduction to practical astronomy. This paperback is introductory in the sense that no prior knowledge is assumed, but not in the usual sense that maths is avoided. Anyone who wants to learn about telescopes, how they work, how to use them and how to choose one for their own use will find this book helpful.

The rather apocryphal story that in 1608 the children of a Dutch spectacle maker discovered, while playing with lenses, that with a certain combination of lenses a distant church spire appeared closer, introduces the refreshing and detailed overview of historical and modern telescope types. The optical components of a telescope, together with their imaging properties and aberrations, are explained, accompanied by easy-to-understand mathematical formulae. Although the subsequent instructions for adjusting the telescope mirrors are not nearly sufficient to achieve professional results, the following chapters make up for this with their detail.

Numerous drawings are used to illustrate the different coordinate systems, which are particularly confusing for beginners, as well as the overlapping true and apparent movements of the individual celestial bodies, which are known to have caused headaches not only for budding astronomers but for entire previous generations. Things like sidereal and solar time, right ascension and declination, conjunction and opposition etc. are explained. A small collection of practice questions rounds off this chapter, as well as most of the others.

In the second half of the book, following the style of the first chapters, classical and modern methods of astronomical observation are compared. Here you will find tips for visual observation of the moon, planets and stars, as well as for instrumental observation using detectors such as CCDs, the technology of which is discussed here. Anyone who wants to go beyond simply enjoying the images and process the data obtained in this way, or even wants to do photometry or spectroscopy with their telescope, will be given the necessary basic knowledge here.

The author’s book is aimed at first-semester astronomy students as well as budding amateur astronomers in the non-university sector. Those who require further reading beyond the basic knowledge are referred to the extensive bibliography, which, however, only contains English literature. Should this easy-to-read book be translated into German, an addition would only be desirable at this point.

The edited text appeared in Sterne und Weltraum 35 No.6 [1996], Page 512