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Book Reviews

The Radio Sky and How to Observe It
Author: Jeff Lashley

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-1-4419-0882-7

Price: £31.99 (Pb) 251pp

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Clouds are the perennial problem with astronomy in the UK. Jeff Lashley, a tech support engineer at the National Space Centre, may have the solution with radio astronomy. Starting with the physics of the Sun, he dives straight in at the deep end and holds you there for the remainder of the book, with no respite. This, alongside explanations of Jupiter and its structure, and meteors and how they slice through our atmosphere, lays the groundwork for the rest of this quite excellent book.

Many titles that claim to show you ‘how to observe’ something fritter away entire chapters on the same old basics of astronomy. Lashley, coming at it from a ‘tech support’ angle, gives enough information without spoon feeding the reader. From antenna design and the associated mathematics and physics behind it, through practical examples of how to record, measure and detect phenomena from our nearest star, Jupiter and its interactions with Io, and meteors, this book inspires you to head towards real science.

The book covers the work of the larger radio telescopes in so much as Lashley devotes an entire chapter to objects outside our solar system, which are beyond the scope of most amateurs, before diving right back into the fundamentals of how radio receivers work. By doing this, your baseline knowledge is increased ahead of tackling the multiple projects that start at chapter nine. From VLF solar flare monitors through to microwave radio telescopes via ‘Radio Jove’ (his take on it), all peppered with clearly understandable diagrams, it's a hobbyist’s dream. Simple projects involving a wood and coil radio antenna, coupled to a PC soundcard, could be tackled by primary school children they are so well laid out and explained, and those with a modicum of soldering knowledge and maybe an old Sky satellite dish could really start to do some serious astronomy, such is the breadth of the book’s coverage. I almost leapt with joy when I saw he had a project for the popular Arduino boards for developing a radio telescope data logger and, following his code/instructions, i had it up and running in no time at all.

When you get bored of taking pretty pictures of galaxies and fed up with endless clouds, grab a cup of your favourite beverage, kick back and relish in this book: it may take you to new frontiers.

Nick Howes

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