Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers: Using High-Powered Telescopes from Home

bookcoverIt’s been months since I wrote my last blog post. Summer is a busy family time for me, but this year I was also busy with the final stages of writing and producing an astronomy book published by Springer. The book title is Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers: Using High-Powered Telescopes from Home. It is part of the Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series.

Although I’ve been a technical writer for most of my life this is the first book I’ve written that was produced by a major publisher. However, I didn’t do it alone. In the summer of 2013 Jerry Hubbell contacted me to talk about writing a book with him on the topic of remote astronomy. Jerry has been an SSON user for many years. In December 2012 I wrote a review of his book Scientific Astrophotography on this blog, which was also published by Springer. Jerry and the publisher discussed the idea of writing a book on remote astronomy and realized that it would require collaboration with an expert in this field to be successful. That’s why Jerry contacted me. We came up with a proposal and an outline for Springer and during this process we worked with Linda Billard who is an expert editor. We realized that two authors writing different parts of the book would require some help to make the book read well in a single voice. Linda became a full partner in the book writing process as our editor and we signed a contract with Springer.

It took a few months of brainstorming and revising for the three of us to come up with the final outline of the book. We did this all remotely. Jerry and Linda live on the East Coast of the US and I live in California. Then came the hard part of the actual writing! Mostly we worked via email attaching drafts and revisions of Word documents as Linda managed the editing process. Sometimes we needed a more direct, dynamic way to communicate, which we did setting up Skype conference calls. We decided to split the content of the book into three separate parts. Jerry wrote Part 1 of the book, which describes how to design, build and operate a remote observatory. I wrote Part 2, which discusses how to access remote observatories, plan and schedule observing sessions, and points out the many observing projects you can do using remote observatories. Part 3 of the book consists of chapters written by amateur and professional astronomers about astrometry, photometry, education and esthetic imaging astronomy projects they are doing using remote observing facilities. They are excellent case studies about the types of projects you can do using SSON or one of the other great companies providing a similar service.

Writing a book requires hard work and dedication to get to the final production stage. It was rewarding and a great pleasure to work with Jerry and Linda on this project. I’ve yet to meet either of them in person, but we’ve become good friends. I hope that people find the book useful and that it motivates them to try out remote astronomy for their own projects.

The release date for the ebook version of the book is October 28 and the softcover book will be released later in November. The book will be available to purchase through the Springer and Amazon websites.

— Rich Williams

Leave a Reply