Book Review:

By Clay Kessler

Deep-Sky Wonders

Author: Walter Scott Houston

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Publish Date: 1999

Pages: 320

Cost: $29.95 (hardcover)

This is a compilation of the monthly Sky and Telescope columns written by the late Walter Scott Houston. "Scotty’s" first column appeared in the September 1946 Sky and Telescope. They continued until his death in 1993 (his last column was in 1994). Stephen James O’Meara has compiled and combined these wonderful stories into a master observing report for each month of the year.

I must admit that I was not involved in the hobby in a serious way while "Scotty" was writing his column so I have no "nostalgic" attachment to these. I fully expected to enjoy this book but I also expected to pick at it a little at a time. When I opened the cover and started reading I was hooked! "Scotty’s" stories and descriptions of his observing experiences are wonderful and my interest was held to the point that I was reluctant to put the book down. Mr. O’Meara has combined these hundreds of columns into a "mega-column" for each month. Each of these reads as if it were written on purpose for this book. This is a very difficult thing to do well but Mr. O’Meara is equal to the task.

One of the very nice things about the observing stories is that "Scotty" is meticulous about qualifying his observations with the observing instrument and the sky conditions. I am left with the feeling that using this work as a guide I could make these same expert observations. Most of the observations are made with fairly modest equipment (of course, his 4" refractor is a Clark).

"Scotty" also includes observing reports from his readers and the variety adds to the choices of objects and equipment. Reading this work has been a wonderful experience and I am left wishing I had been able to read and enjoy these columns as they were originally published over the years. Those of you that have read some or all of these in the pages of Sky and Telescope will appreciate this compilation, those, like me, who have not read any of the original columns are in for a feast of knowledge! A real winner!