Friday, June 08, 2012

Bob Prokop's New Book on Observing the Nearest Stars

This, from a longtime friend and frequent commenter here, looks like a good introduction for anyone who wants to do some astronomy.


Jim S. said...

That looks great! Bob, are you going to try to get a publisher or just stick with the online availability? (I prefer the latter.)

B. Prokop said...

It's actually available through , but I've priced it "at cost" (I don't make a dime of profit off of it), and therefore I decided to make it available to anyone who wanted to see it online. But if you desire a hardcopy, you'll have to pay the printing cost.

By the way, I've made a couple of alterations (hopefully, they are improvements) since this posting. If you want the latest and greatest version, you'll have to order a copy!

Matt DeStefano said...

Prokop, this is awesome. Do you have any advice on telescopes? I've gone to my university's observatory a few times, but it would be cool to have my own equipment.

B. Prokop said...

Matt, depends on how much you are willing to spend. Telescopic equipment can cost a lot - but the real surprise to beginners are all the "accessories", which aren't really accessories, but necessities (tripods, eyepieces, mounts, etc.).

Free advice: don't go cheap! Junk is junk, and when it comes to optical gear, junk is not only junk, but frustrating as well. I've seen too many would-be stargazers drop out after cursing their cheap scopes once too often.

Strongest Advice: Find a local astronomy club (we're everywhere), attend one of their events, look for yourself through others' equipment (which everyone is always eager to let people do), learn what you really want (and can afford), and find out who is selling what at a bargain price. In my club, people are always selling off their old gear as they upgrade to more expensive stuff. And the older stuff is usually still in perfect condition. I myself just recently sold to another clubmember a very expensive, like new eyepiece for half the retail price.

My own setup (seen on page 11 or on my Google profile) cost $4000 for the telescope, $400 for the tripod, $350 for the mount, $600 for the diagonal, and maybe $3000 for all my eyepieces! (plus $200 for my observing chair, $150 for my star atlases, $50 for my eyepiece case, $300 for various filters, etc., etc.)

Crude said...

You should really check out the astrology-related apps for iOS and Android devices. My understanding is (I have not used them) they have devices that you can aim at the sky, and it will give an overlay showing various constellations, etc.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...


Despite my telescope hardware, I really am a confirmed Luddite. You'll note I didn't list any software in my set-up. I use a totally hand-driven, unpowered mount.

Besides, I don't have a smart phone, I own a "dumb phone". It doesn't even have a camera! (I had to actually talk the salesperson into letting me buy it. He kept trying to interest me in something more complicated.)

But thanks for your suggestion! By the way, I once had great fun with a person who was enthusing over his phone app, which sounds like the very one you are describing. It was mid-afternoon, and we were indoors on an overcast day. I thought for a bit, pointed to a spot on the far wall, and said "Aim your phone there. I'll bet you that the constellation Ophiuchus is right there!" He wisely refused to bet, since I was dead on!