Saturn And How To Observe It

The story of how one man’s vision shaped America’s race to the Moon
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Julius L Benton Jr
Springer-Verlag UK
£19.50
182 pages, Softback

An in-depth guide for serious observers of the planet Saturn planet, as the most beautiful object in the sky, and it’s a firm favourite among both amateur and professional astronomers. This new book, although primarily written for the really dedicated observer, should also have appeal for newcomers to astronomy.

After the introductory chapter on Saturn and its place in the Solar System, there are sections on telescopes, additional equipment and factors that affect observations, plus some incredibly detailed instructions – including hints on drawing. Saturn is a notoriously difficult object for those who (like myself) are not blessed with artistic skill.

The author, an active member of the American ALPO (Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers) is clearly very experienced: his writing is excellent and the illustrations are well-chosen and lavishly produced. One slight quibble, though, is that some of the text is already in need of updating. For example, thanks to the Cassini mission we know much more about Saturn’s various satellites now than we did in 2005 – admittedly this is not the author’s fault but it does detract somewhat from the book’s usefulness.

Another slight criticism is that the book appears to be geared entirely towards American readers and apart from some of Damian Peach’s superb photographs there is little information about work being undertaken elsewhere. The majority of British observers will probably not have quick access to ALPO publications and will be more likely to turn to the reports of the BAA Saturn section, not listed here.

However, this is a minor point, and the book nevertheless will be of great value to all Saturn enthusiasts.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Patrick Moore is the presenter of The Sky at Night on BBC TV

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