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The Caldwell Objects and How to Observe Them

Reviewed for the RAS Journal; Observatory, June 2010
1st Edition, by Martin Mobberley (Springer) 2009, Pp 288, 23.1 x 17.5 cm.
Price £24.99 (paperback; ISBN 978-1-4419-0325-9)

This book, as expected, is primarily concerned with the description and details of the Caldwell objects and this is covered to the depth suitable for an amateur astronomer. There is also a section on the compiler of the Caldwell list, Sir Patrick Moore, as well as primers on observing and imaging in general. These additional chapters are not covered in any depth. Whilst they will provide the novice with some guidance, the reader will have to go elsewhere for a comprehensive guide.

The book puzzles me slightly; I’m unsure if I should be using it as a reference book, a book to help plan an observing session or if I should take it to bed and read it from cover to cover. It sets out to be a reference book, with consistent levels of information on all the objects. It has a good index but no summary tables. Used as an observing planning aide it is likely to become tiresome because of the lack of tables, the reader will have to flick through many pages to find what objects are suitable for their equipment and location or use the inside back cover to make their own tables.

The basics for each object are covered on a single page, such as position, brightness, suggestions for finding the object and the best time of year to observe. The author also recommends the best aperture and filters for observing and provides good comprehensive descriptions. A second page for each object is used for charts and images (generally from amateur astronomers). The author’s personality and humour does come through in his writing making the book an easy and enjoyable read (I particularly like Caldwell 8 where the author describes all the great open clusters in Cassiopeia before describing C8 as ‘less than mind blowing’.).

You might be forgiven for thinking that this book is all you need (apart from a telescope!) to begin observing the Caldwell objects. However the charts provided are not suitable for finding the objects and this is pointed out by the author. Despite their low quality and small size, the charts do provide the reader with the general location in the sky and for this they are useful. The charts contain a number of objects and are only printed alongside the first object described and it quickly became irritating having to flick back to previous objects to look at the associated chart, especially when there is ample space for the chart to be repeated for most objects.
For £24.99 I would not buy this book, but if cheaper or given as a gift I would happily add it to my collection.

Reviewed by Simon Dawes

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