Jason J Nassau: A Textbook of Practical Astronomy

In 1932 Jason J Nassau's A Textbook of Practical Astronomy was published by the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The following is a review of the book:

This text will doubtless be welcomed by many who teach astronomy to engineering students. It furnishes a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of practical astronomy without presenting a bewildering variety of methods. Opinions of teachers may differ as to the wisdom of some omissions, but the methods included are those most common in practice and those which illustrate best the fundamentals of the subject.

There are fourteen chapters, of which the first seven furnish the groundwork of general astronomical facts, co-ordinate systems, time and its conversion, the use of the American Ephemeris, corrections to observations, and the adjustment and use of instruments. The remainder of the book is devoted to methods of determining time, latitude, azimuth, and longitude. Chapters on the astronomical transit and the zenith telescope are included.

A critical reader will find in the introductory material an occasional inconsistency, such as that between Figure i and the text as to dates of perihelion and aphelion, or a place where accuracy has been sacrificed for brevity, as in the statement concerning the distances and nature of nebulae on page 1.

The chapter on instruments is to be especially commended. All the important adjustments are clearly and concisely explained, and methods of using the instruments are described. For each method of determining latitude, time, or azimuth, a schedule of procedure is given. Illustrative examples are numerous, and forms for the recording of observations and for computation are given at the end of the book. Not much excuse is left for slipshod methods of observing, recording, or computing. The chapters on the astronomical transit and the zenith telescope are not long, but treat their subjects with all necessary thoroughness.

Derivations of formulae are not overemphasized, although none is taken for granted except the three fundamental equations of spherical trigonometry. The figures with which the book is illustrated deserve special mention. The most complex of them are remarkably clear as a result of the simple device of heavy-lining the principal parts so that they stand out from the background of reference circles. They form a welcome contrast to the bewildering mazes of intersecting lines to be found in some earlier texts. The relative position of pole and equator in Figure 22 does some violence to perspective, but the meaning of the figure is clear.


JOC/EFR November 2007

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