Cover image for David H. Levy's guide to observing and discovering comets
David H. Levy's guide to observing and discovering comets
Levy, David H., 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
ix, 177 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm
Why Observe Comets?: -- Of history, superstition, magic, and science -- Comet science progresses -- Discovering comets -- Comet searching begins -- Tails and trails -- Comet searching in the twentieth century -- How I search for comets -- Searching for comets photographically -- Searching for comets with CCDs -- Comet hunting by reading -- Hunting for sungrazers over the Internet -- What to do when you think you've found a comet -- A New Way of Looking at Comets -- When comets hit planets -- The future of visual comet hunting -- How to observe comets -- An introduction to comet hunting -- Visual observing of comets -- Estimating the magnitude of a comet -- Taking a picture of a comet -- Measuring where a comet is in the sky -- My passion for comets.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB721.4 .L46 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



David Levy has held a lifelong passion for comets, and is one of the most successful comet discoverers in history. In this book he describes the observing techniques that have been developed over the years - from visual observations and searching, to photography, through to electronic charge-coupled devices (CCDs). He combines the history of comet hunting with the latest techniques, showing how our understanding of comets has evolved over time. This practical handbook is suitable for amateur astronomers, from those who are casually interested in comets and how to observe them, to those who want to begin and expand an observing program of their own. Drawing widely from his own extensive experience, Levy describes how enthusiastic amateurs can observe comets and try to make new discoveries themselves.

Author Notes

David Levy has discovered 21 comets, eight of them using his own backyard telescopes. In collaboration with Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker, he discovered Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994, producing one of the most spectacular explosions ever witnessed in the solar system. He is a contributing editor for Sky and Telescope magazine, Science Editor for Parade magazine, and is the author or editor of twenty-nine books. He won an Emmy in 1998 as part of the writing team for the Discovery Channel documentary, 'Three Minutes to Impact.' He and his wife Wendee are currently involved with the Shoemaker-Levy Double Cometograph comet search program, based at the Jarnac Observatory in Arizona

Reviews 1

Choice Review

One of the most successful comet discoverers in history, Levy has produced a very readable account of his fascination with comets. He begins with a short history of comets and their discoverers. Levy himself began with visual observations (telescope and eyepiece) and determination to discover a comet. His first independent discovery came after more than 917 hours (spread out over 19 years) of searching. He provides details and observing hints on searching with eyepieces, with photography, with CCD imaging, and even through poring over historic records. The book includes stunning images in color and black-and-white of comets along with instructions on how to make accurate sketches of comets. Levy frames his material with scientific information about comets and why they are important to astronomy. An appendix of objects, which he has personally found troublesome because they masquerade as comets, is strangely listed in the order in which he recorded them rather than the more useful order of astronomical coordinates. This minor flaw does not detract from a book that is highly recommended to amateur astronomers and others wishing an introduction to the scientific process of discovery. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. M.-K. Hemenway University of Texas at Austin

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Part I Why observe comets?
1 Of history, superstition, magic, and sciencep. 9
2 Comet science progressesp. 17
Part II Discovering comets
3 Comet searching beginsp. 25
4 Tails and trailsp. 35
5 Comet searching in the twentieth centuryp. 43
6 How I search for cometsp. 51
7 Searching for comets photographicallyp. 61
8 Searching for comets with CCDsp. 71
9 Comet hunting on paperp. 77
10 Hunting for sungrazers over the Internetp. 81
11 What to do when you think you have found a cometp. 87
Part III A new way of looking at comets
12 When comets hit planetsp. 95
13 The future of visual comet huntingp. 105
Part IV How to observe comets
14 An introduction to comet origins and characteristicsp. 111
15 Visual observing of cometsp. 119
16 Estimating the magnitude of a cometp. 131
17 Taking a picture of a cometp. 139
18 Measuring where a comet is in the skyp. 145
Part V Closing notes
19 My passion for cometsp. 153
Appendixp. 159
Indexp. 173