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Book Reviews

A Spectroscopic Atlas of Bright Stars: A pocket Field Guide
Author: Jack Martin

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-1-4419-0704-2

Price: £24.99 (Pb), 205pp

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For many years amateur astronomers have contributed to the science of astronomy by measuring the brightness of stars, photometry. There is now a move afoot for some of the more advanced amateurs to move into the field of astronomical spectroscopy. This book is a tentative step in that direction. The author has spent many years obtaining the spectra of about 70 of the apparently brightest stars in the northern hemisphere. His equipment is modest consisting of a 12” Dobsonian, a Rainbow Optics transmission grating and a photographic camera using black and white film. He describes the techniques he has used and the software required to convert spectra taken on film into intensity tracings.

The bulk of the book consist of double page spreads containing a tracing of each star’s spectrum, the photographic image of the spectrum, a finding chart and details of the star’s spectral type, its magnitude and so on. Each spectrum extends from about the Balmer limit near to 360nm to about 640nm. The spectra are of low resolution but do show some of the spectral features which allow the spectral type, a function of surface temperature, to be determined. There is little coverage of the criteria which allow luminosity class, dwarf, giant or supergiant, to be determined, presumably due to the author’s inability to obtain spectra of all but the brightest stars. This restricts the book’s usefulness to those who wish to do some science but it will be useful to teachers at schools or colleges who would like their students to do some elementary astronomical spectroscopy. The combination of finding charts and spectra for the brightest stars makes it a handy reference for such a purpose.

The text in the book is a different matter. Here the author has been sadly let down by the publisher’s in-house editors. All authors are likely to make mistakes when writing a book but those which have passed in to this book are inexcusable. There are more errors than could be listed here but one paragraph on page 15 contains four errors in seven lines. Springer needs to look carefully at the competence of its editors.

E. Norman Walker

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