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"The Next Step - Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects" by Ken Graun

Hardcover - 352 pages, First Edition 15 March 2005
Ken Press; ISBN: 1928771122
Dimensions (in inches): 8-¾ x 7-¼ x 1

The Messier Objects Click on image at left to view enlargement (225,158 bytes)

A convenient astronomy guide book written for the rest of us - those who may be newer to the hobby, or who appreciate a more fun approach to reading. "The Next Step, Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects" is a delightfully illustrated handy book with some beautiful color pictures, color illustrations and charts, and with black and white photo plates of the Messier Objects.

"The Next Step" is an interesting read for those who appreciate the historical insights to the life of Charles Messier (b. 26 June 1730 in Lorraine France, d. 12 April 1817 in Paris), the French astronomer who gave us the Messier Objects catalog of celestial wonders. The author performed extensive research in the USA and overseas to accumulate the knowledge that he conveys in a very readable format.

The "Messier Catalog" is a list of Galaxies, emission and planetary Nebulae, and Star Clusters which were identified and cataloged by Messier between 1757 and 1784. A skilled observer employed at an observatory in Paris, in August 1758 Messier was searching for Comets when he came across a fuzzy spot in the night sky; he began to write a catalog with this object "M 1" (later known as the "Crab Nebulae"), he would add many more to his list over the remainder of his observing lifetime.

What has become known as the "Messier Catalog" is a selection representing some variety of the popular types of objects many of which may be found by amateur astronomers either naked eye, with binoculars, and with relatively simple telescopes. This is the most important aspect of the "Messier Catalog" - it is the first, readily attainable challenge for the amateur astronomer.

In terms of learning about the Messier Catalog, this is an informative, easy read - a pleasant diversion from the mundane approaches and descriptions of traditional astronomy guide books about deep sky objects. The book includes color start charts to help the reader find the Messier Objects, this is easily read under red light flashlight to preserve one's night vision. The chapter about the Messier Marathon will help those who seek to participate in the annual event of trying to find all M objects in one evening to early morning observing marathon. More than half this book, some 224 pages is the section devoted to the explanations about the Messier Objects. Each object has two pages devoted to it which include the M and NGC (The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars), when and how it was first noted by Charles Messier, and a brief summary of each object by John Louis Emil Dreyer (b. 12 February 1852 in Copenhagen Denmark, d. 14 September 1926 Oxford, England). J.L.E. Dreyer compiled new catalogs from older observations of more than 13,226 objects (15 of which he discovered) which remain referred to today. After amateurs finish finding the Messier Objects, then they may proceed on Dreyer's NGC and IC (Index Catalogues). "The Next Step" also provides information about how the find each Messier Object in the sky, including a clearly printed, scale black and white photo (6-1/2 x 3-9/16) of the Messier Object and its surrounds. However, it has been one thing to find a faint smudge and know what it is, and another matter entirely to be able to see enough structure in an object in order to understand better what one is seeing. For a number of reasons, the photographs do not tend to represent what one may actually see with a small telescope and so Ken Graun adds text explaining what one may expect to see when looking through a four inch refracting telescope. There is also a brief appraisal of the author describing how each pleasing the object may be to the observer. The book features photographs with visual descriptions mostly taken by the author using a TeleVue 101 4 Inch f/5.4 (image below right) and TeleVue 102 4 inch f/8.6 apochromat refracting telescopes.

This book would be very handily used alongside a telescope since while it is a hardback edition, the book is hinged so that it can lay reasonably flat opening to 7-5/16 x 18-1/8 inches. Although to keep dew off the pages and to keep then laying flat we encourage the use of a polycarbonate window or some other transparent cover.

For those with an appetite to learn more about how the Messier Catalog objects may appear in the eyepiece of a telescope, then Company Seven also recommends the book Deep-Sky Companions: The Messier Objects. This title includes hand drawings which accurately represent what may be seen in many of the telescopes of the quality that Company Seven sells.

"The Next Step" would make a good gift for someone interested in astronomy, and who has binoculars and or a reasonable first telescope at their disposal. Company Seven recommends this to those who wish to read an introduction to amateur telescopes and how to use them to star hop or navigate into these first hundred or so deep sky objects. It is well illustrated, good and entertaining reading suitable for most children from the Junior High/Middle School levels up to the adult.

Table of Contents:

Charles Messier: The Man, His Friends, and the Times
The Mystery of the Missing Double Cluster
J.L.E. Dreyer and the NGC/IC Catalogues
The Compilation of This Book
Messier Marathons
Discussion on Finding & Viewing Deep Sky Objects
Messier Catalog

List of Constellations & Latin Genitives
Expanded Glossary
List of Messier Objects
Messier Object Observing List
Greek Alphabet & Abbreviations
  Price $29.95 (U.S.D.); please add $4.00 for domestic postage, or $6.00 for international postage.

The Author:

author Ken Graun (98,489 bytes) Originally from Milwaukee, Ken has lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1988. He lectures, observes, writes and tries to have as much fun with the hobby of astronomy as is possible. He is the author of numerous astronomy books and star charts including the popular "21st Century Astronomy Series" of books for children. He is also a coauthor with Emmy award-winning writer and astronomer David H. Levy, of the best-selling star charts "Guide to the Stars". Ken is an award-winning telescope maker, and an asteroid has been named after him in recognition of his contributions to promoting astronomy.

Right: author Ken Graun with his TeleVue 101 4 inch Apo telescope one of his two TeleVue Apos used to gather images for this book. The telescope is shown with optional FeatherTouch focuser upgrade, TeleVueStarbeam Sight, all installed onto a Astro-Physics 400 QMD German Equatorial Mount (image is 98,489 bytes).
Click on image at left to view enlargement (191,126 bytes).

Ken is also known for his other books about astronomy including:

  • Touring The Universe; Ken Press, 2003.

  • What's Out Tonight; Ken Press, Revised 2005.



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