Observing, imaging and studying the planets
Ever since the end of the 1980s, when digital cameras first became widely available, modern amateur astronomers have been able to make their own invaluable contribution to the study of the planets of our solar system. Today, it can be argued and with good reason, that the best planetary images obtained by amateurs are equally as good as those obtained just a few short years ago by large professional telescopes. The common factor limiting the resolution of both amateur and professional telescopes alike is atmospheric turbulence, yet the amateurs’ optimal use of acquisition methods and processing techniques, have enabled them to obtain the best results possible with telescopes of all sizes, despite the detrimental effect it imposes on their observing site.
More than ever before, amateur astronomers contribute to professional research programmes in the area of planetary science. Although, equipment designed specifically for high resolution work is now common place, it is the amateurs’ strength in numbers which has made it possible for them to contribute effectively to the ever constant monitoring of the surfaces and atmospheres of the planets, by establishing collaborative networks distributed across the world. Professional astronomers have found it easier to work with a network of amateur astronomers, rather than try persuading a committee to allocate valuable telescope time, to monitor potentially hypothetical changes in the planets. This type of collaboration is likely to increase in the coming years and even more so because of the ever growing need for observations made by amateurs in support of current and future robotic space exploration, or during the preparation for such missions; which could never be done without their invaluable contribution.
Given such a scientific context, there was an urgent need for a book, which not only describes the enormous strides made in recent years in the imaging of the planets, but one which also provides the modern amateur with all the detailed knowledge necessary for them to learn and master the new techniques, and by doing so, continue this great work. This is now achieved by this book written by France’s best planetary observers and astrophotographers. This collective work is the fruit of long years of experience acquired in planetary observation, acquisition and image processing, as well as its interpretation. It brings together in a comprehensive manner all the information necessary for the inexperienced (and experienced) amateur astronomer to begin and develop the skills necessary to obtain high resolution planetary images. The authors should be congratulated for having written a book as exciting as this, and which describes in so easy a manner, all the methods used in the practice of planetary astronomy. There is no doubt that this work will quickly become the standard source of reference for years to come, for anyone wishing to observe and photograph the planets of our solar system.
Professor of Astrophysics, University of Marseille
Member of the ‘Institut Universitaire de France’