Astronomy book reviews

Deep Sky Observing,
The Astronomical Tourist

By Steven R. Coe
Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series
© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2000
London UK
ISBN 1852336277

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As Steve Coe writes in the first chapter of “Deep Sky Observing, The Astronomical Tourist”, this book is not meant for the beginning amateur astronomer. There are already many other excellent publications for novices on the market. In this book you will not find advice on which telescope to buy, nor will you find an introduction into astronomy. But if you:

  • own a telescope and know how to use it;
  • own some star chart and, with the help of this chart, you know how to find the brightest objects;
  • have reached a point where you start asking yourself, “what else is out there that I can look at”?
  • want to find out more about deepsky-observing with your telescope?

then this book is for you!

The 19 chapters of this 353-page book can roughly be divided into three sections. In the first part, chapters 1 through 8, you will find an introduction on deep sky observing. The chapters 9 through 14 are the core of the book. In these chapters, the observation of various deep sky objects is discussed. In the final chapters, 15 through 19, a variety of subjects are discussed; binocular observing, astronomy books, the use of computers for the deep sky observer etc.

Part 1: chapters 1 through 8, introduction into deep sky observing (82 pages)

A beginning deep sky observer will find a wealth of useful information in the first part of the book. I devoured it in one evening. These well-organized chapters can be used as a reference manual; they can be read separately and in any given order. You will learn about finding a good observing site, the equipment you should get (and how to use it!), taking notes at the telescope, get the most out of your observing time, etc. etc. If you are a beginning deep sky observer, these pages are worth their weight in gold! Steve Coe has been observing the deep sky for more than 20 years. His experience is invaluable. Reading through these first eight chapters will save you a lot of money, by preventing you from buying needless equipment and astronomy gadgets. It will also give you maximum observing time! You will be well prepared on your next deep sky observing session.

Part 2: chapters 9 through 14, the deep sky objects (225 pages)

In the second part of the book, each chapter is dedicated to a different type of deep sky object. You will find separate chapters for galaxies, clusters of galaxies, different types of nebulae, planetary nebulae, open clusters and globular clusters. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction on the particular class of objects, before you move on to the actual deep sky objects and observing reports.

For every object, basic data are given: type, magnitude, Ra and Dec, size, class, constellation, brief description, where to find it in Sky Atlas 2000 and Uranometria 2000 etc. You will find one ore more observing reports for every object. In every report you will find which telescope was used for the observation (aperture and focal length), a seeing and transparency rating, a rating of the observing site, month and year of the observation, magnification used, and finally some note's on the object.

The book contains about 200 of these observing reports for the more than 100 deep sky objects that are discussed. For most objects you will find a sketch or photograph.
Steve used many different telescopes for his deep sky observations. To give you an idea of the aperture of the instruments used in relation to the number of observing reports have a look at this table:

Instrument used:

Number of observing reports:

Naked eye




6 inch telescope


12.5 and 13 inch


16, 17 and 18 inch


25 inch


36 inch


These chapters are the core of the book. They can help you to decide when to observe a particular object, where to find it and what to expect; a great help to prepare your deep sky observations. You can also use it to evaluate your own observations. Compare your notes and sketches with Steve's!

Part 3: chapters 15 through 19 and the Appendix, different subjects (64 pages)

Part three starts with a chapter about binoculars. Why should you use binoculars for astronomy? Advantages and disadvantages are discussed. There is also a set of observation reports on wide-field binocular objects, to give you an idea what to expect from the different types of binoculars. Then there are chapters on how to use a computer helping you enjoy deep sky observing, which books on astronomy you should get, and a chapter about setting up your scope for a public viewing session (including a good list of objects to show to people). The book ends with an appendix, a list with 110 Deepsky-objects by the Deep Sky Group Saguaro Astronomy Club.

The only thing I really miss, is an index on all the deepsky objects discussed in the book.


As I said earlier on I devoured the first 8 chapters in one evening. After that, I used the book regularly, not only for preparing my observations, but also to compare my own reports to Steve's. If you are like me, a beginning deep sky observer, you will find this book a very useful resource in many ways, and a valuable addition to your "observing" library.

I would like to thank Springer-Verlag London for granting me permission to add a few sample-pages to my website.

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