Cover image for The planet observer's handbook
The planet observer's handbook
Price, Fred W. (Fred William), 1932-
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xvii, 429 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Solar system -- Celestial sphere -- Telescopes and accessories -- Atmosphere and seeing -- Mercury -- Venus -- Mars -- Minor planets (asteroids) -- Jupiter -- Saturn -- Uranus -- Neptune -- Pluto -- Constructing maps and planispheres -- Planetary photography and videography -- Photoelectric photometry of the minor planets, planets, and their satellites.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QB601 .P67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This is an informative, up-to-date and well-illustrated guide to planetary observations for amateurs. After a brief description of the solar system and a chapter on the celestial sphere, readers are shown how to choose, test and use a telescope with various accessories and how to make observations and record results. For each planet and the asteroids, details are given of observational techniques, together with suggestions for how to make contributions of scientific value. From a general description and detailed observational history of each planet, observers can anticipate what they should see and assess their own observations. The chapter on planetary photography includes the revolutionary use of videography, charge coupled devices and video-assisted drawing. There are also chapters on making maps and planispheres and on photoelectric photometry.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Price (State Univ. of New York, Buffalo) describes how amateur astronomers with telescopes of modest size can derive great pleasure from observations of planets and satellites. He discusses which observations make sense from a scientific point, given the superb information that has been provided about these objects by the many space probes of the last two decades. The book begins by outlining the basics of celestial coordinates and the principles of optical telescopes, and concludes with two chapters on photography and electronic imaging. All are written at an introductory level well suited to the beginning observer. The main body is devoted to descriptions of each of the planets, including the history of the viewing of these objects, selected advances from space, and suggestions as to what kinds of observations are likely to be the most fulfilling. The chapter on Jupiter is especially well written, combining history and current understanding in a balanced way. A number of the other chapters would have been stronger had their emphasis been similarly shifted from ancient observations to space observations. This book is recommended as an observer's guide; for data on the planets a compilation such as Michael E. Bakich's The Cambridge Planetary Handbook (CH, Oct'00) will be more complete. General readers. D. E. Hogg National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgementsp. xv
Abbreviations used in this bookp. xvii
Introduction: Why observe the planets?p. 1
1 The Solar Systemp. 4
Generalp. 4
A scale model of the Solar Systemp. 9
Bode's Lawp. 10
Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motionp. 11
Elements of planetary orbits. Perturbationsp. 12
Planetary conjunctions, oppositions, phases and transitsp. 12
The sidereal and synodic orbital periods of the planetsp. 15
The brightness of the planetsp. 18
Further readingp. 19
2 The celestial spherep. 20
Generalp. 20
Positions on the celestial spherep. 21
The ecliptic and the Zodiacp. 21
Celestial latitude and longitudep. 25
The precession of the equinoxes. Nutationp. 26
Sidereal time (star time)p. 27
The apparent motions of the planets on the celestial spherep. 27
Further readingp. 30
3 Telescopes and accessoriesp. 31
Types of telescopesp. 31
The choice of telescopep. 40
Protecting the telescope from dust and atmospheric pollutionp. 65
Cleaning the mirror of a Newtonian reflectorp. 66
Housing and care of your telescopep. 66
Further readingp. 68
4 The atmosphere and seeingp. 69
Generalp. 69
Assessing atmospheric seeing conditionsp. 70
The effect of telescope aperturep. 70
Local effects on seeingp. 71
Further Readingp. 72
5 Mercuryp. 73
Generalp. 73
History of observationp. 75
Visibility of Mercuryp. 85
The axial rotation of Mercuryp. 88
Observing Mercuryp. 90
Transits of Mercuryp. 95
Further readingp. 100
6 Venusp. 102
Generalp. 102
History of observationp. 105
Space probe exploration of Venusp. 120
Observing Venusp. 124
Transits of Venusp. 133
Further readingp. 134
7 Marsp. 135
Generalp. 135
Orbital characteristicsp. 136
Predicting oppositionsp. 138
The retrograde motion of Marsp. 139
Martian seasonsp. 141
Surface featuresp. 143
Atmospheric phenomenap. 146
History of observationp. 148
Observing Marsp. 170
Features for observationp. 177
Longitude determination of Martian featuresp. 183
Further readingp. 186
8 The minor planets (asteroids)p. 188
Generalp. 188
Discovery and history of observation of the minor planetsp. 189
Visibility of the minor planetsp. 197
Observing the minor planetsp. 197
Further readingp. 207
9 Jupiterp. 209
Generalp. 209
History of observationp. 213
Variations in the cloud beltsp. 222
The 1994 Shoemaker-Levy cometary impact event on Jupiterp. 227
Surface markings of the satellitesp. 230
Spacecraft observation of Jupiterp. 223
Visibility of Jupiterp. 236
Observing Jupiterp. 237
Determination of the longitudes of Jovian features by central meridian transit timingsp. 238
Classification and description of Jovian disc featuresp. 243
Determination of latitudes of Jovian featuresp. 245
Disc drawings, strip and sectional sketchesp. 249
Determination of rotational periods of Jovian features from longitudinal driftp. 251
Observations of the Great Red Spotp. 253
Colour changes and intensity estimates of Jovian featuresp. 256
General observing notesp. 257
Further readingp. 269
10 Saturnp. 270
Generalp. 270
History of observationp. 273
Spacecraft exploration of Saturnp. 301
The satellites of Saturnp. 305
Visibility of Saturnp. 307
Observing Saturnp. 307
Recent oppositions of Saturnp. 320
Further readingp. 321
11 Uranusp. 323
Generalp. 323
The discovery of Uranusp. 327
Prediscovery sightings of Uranusp. 330
History of observationp. 330
Spacecraft exploration of Uranusp. 339
Visibility of Uranusp. 341
Observing Uranusp. 341
Further readingp. 344
12 Neptunep. 346
Generalp. 346
The discovery of Neptunep. 346
Prediscovery sightings of Neptunep. 352
History of observationp. 353
Spacecraft exploration of Neptunep. 357
Visibility of Neptunep. 361
Observing Neptunep. 361
Further readingp. 362
13 Plutop. 364
Generalp. 364
The search for a trans-Neptunian planetp. 365
The discovery of Plutop. 366
History of observationp. 367
Beyond Plutop. 372
Visibility of Plutop. 374
Observing Plutop. 374
Further readingp. 375
14 Constructing maps and planispheresp. 377
Generalp. 377
The horizontal orthographic projectionp. 377
Cylindrical projectionsp. 378
The polar projectionp. 381
Further readingp. 382
15 Planetary photography and videographyp. 383
Generalp. 383
The planetary photographer's camerap. 383
Choice of filmp. 387
Characteristics of some filmsp. 388
Black and white film processingp. 389
Photography of individual planetsp. 389
Exposure timesp. 392
Video and CCD photography (videography) of the planetsp. 393
Using a CCD camerap. 396
Suppliers of CCD camerasp. 400
Video-assisted drawing (VAD) of the planetsp. 402
A note on digital imagingp. 403
Further readingp. 403
16 Photoelectric photometry of the minor planets, planets and their satellitesp. 405
Generalp. 405
The photoelectric photometer and its componentsp. 406
Telescopes for photoelectric photometryp. 408
Photoelectric photometric procedurep. 409
Photoelectric photometry of the minor planetsp. 409
Colorimetric photoelectric photometryp. 411
Photoelectric photometry of the planets and their satellitesp. 412
Further readingp. 414
Appendix Milestones in Solar System explorationp. 415
Name indexp. 417
Subject indexp. 421

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