How This Book Is Organized

How This Book Is Organized

You can read this book from cover to cover if you like, but each hack stands on its own, so feel free to browse and jump to the different sections that interest you most. If there's a prerequisite you need to know about, a cross-reference will guide you to the right hack.

The book is divided into four chapters, organized by subject:

Chapter 1, Getting Started

Use the hacks in this chapter to move quickly from a standing start to full speed ahead. This chapter answers the most common newbie questions, including choosing the best telescopes and binoculars, and it helps you avoid the most common newbie mistakes. If you're just getting started, read this chapter through a couple of times before you do (or buy) anything. Even if you are a moderately experienced amateur astronomer, it's worth taking the time to study this chapter in detail. You'll probably pick up at least a few tips and tricks that are new to you.

Chapter 2, Observing Hacks

This chapter covers observing activities, the heart of amateur astronomy. The hacks in this chapter explain everything from fundamental concepts, like stellar magnitude, to tips and tricks for seeing the most possible detail in very dim objects to organizing your records to sketching objects. Even very experienced astronomers are likely to pick up some tips and tricks from this chapter. We know, because some of the hacks we wrote about were new to us, suggested by our contributors and other experts.

Chapter 3, Scope Hacks

Use the hacks in this chapter to tweak, modify, upgrade, and maintain your telescope. This chapter focuses largely (although not exclusively) on the incredibly popular Dobsonian telescopes, which are not just amenable to hacking, but purely beg to be hacked. You'll learn how to improve your scope's motions (finally, a use for all those AOL CDs...), improve its optical performance, and otherwise tweak and tune it for maximum performance.

Chapter 4, Accessory Hacks

Accessorizing is half the fun in most hobbies, and amateur astronomy is no exception. This chapter explains what you need to know to choose, use, and maintain accessories properly. It's easy to go overboard when choosing astronomy accessories. If you follow our advice, you'll end up with only the accessories you need, at a price you can afford to pay.


The following is a list of the typographical conventions used in this book:


Used to indicate URLs, filenames, filename extensions, and directory/ folder names.


The second color is used to indicate a cross-reference within the text.

You should pay special attention to notes set apart from the text with the following icons:

This is a tip, suggestion, or general note. It contains useful supplementary information about the topic at hand.

This is a warning or note of caution, often indicating that you or your equipment might be at risk.

The thermometer icons, found next to each hack, indicate the relative complexity of the hack:

beginner moderate expert

    How to Contact Us

    We have tested and verified the information in this book to the best of our ability, but you may find that features have changed (or even that we have made mistakes!). As a reader of this book, you can help us to improve future editions by sending us your feedback. Please let us know about any errors, inaccuracies, bugs, misleading or confusing statements, and typos that you find anywhere in this book.

    Please also let us know what we can do to make this book more useful to you. We take your comments seriously and will try to incorporate reasonable suggestions into future editions. You can write to us at:

    O'Reilly Media, Inc.
    1005 Gravenstein Highway North
    Sebastopol, CA 95472
    (800) 998-9938 (in the U.S. or Canada)
    (707) 829-0515 (international/local)
    (707) 829-0104 (fax)

    To comment on the book, send email to:

    The web site for Astronomy Hacks lists examples, errata, and plans for future editions. You can find this page at:

    For more information about this book and others, see the O'Reilly web site:

    To contact one of the authors directly, send mail to:

    We read all mail we receive from readers, but we cannot respond individually. If we did, we'd have no time to do anything else. But we do like to hear from readers.

    We also maintain a messageboard, where you can read and post messages about astronomy topics. You can read messages as a guest, but if you want to post messages, you must register as a member of the messageboard. We keep registration information confidential, and you can choose to have your mail address hidden on any messages you post.

    We each maintain personal journal pages, updated frequently, which often includes references to astronomy gear, our own observing sessions, upcoming astronomical events, and other things we think are interesting. You can view these journal pages at: