Links to useful on-line resources
Spectroscopic Atlas for Amateur Astronomers, Richard Walker. – In my opinion, this is one of the most valuable books you can have (and it’s free!). Click this link to download from his site. (Or right-click and save it to your Desktop.) I encourage you to take this pdf file to a local copy center and have them print it in color, double-sided. Have them bind it with one of those plastic or spiral combs. It will be a bit expensive, but Walker’s book is such a valuable learning and reference document that, in my opinion, you’ll be glad to have a hard-copy…. but then maybe I’m just an old-school, dead-tree kind of reader? (Link to Mr. Walker’s home page. It’s in German. Scroll down to the English Spectroscopic Atlas pdf link.)
Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs, Ken Harrison. – This is a great book. Ken is a leader in the amateur community with a great deal of experience is all aspects of the field. His book contains a lot of valuable information for the beginner as well as the more experienced amateur spectrographer. For a complete review of both of Ken’s valuable books: click this link.
Using Commercial Amateur Astronomical Spectrographs (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series), Jeffrey L. Hopkins. – This book is a welcome addition to the literature available to amateur astronomers. Mr. Hopkins has packed this book with background science as well as discussions and practical hints about using a variety of spectrographs you can use with a telescope or DSLR, including the Star Analyzer, the Alpy, a DIY device, and the LHires III. The book also contains extensive screen shots and usage recommendations for the RSpec software. Recommended. Amazon link.
Spectroscopy: The Key to the Stars: Reading the Lines in Stellar Spectra (Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series), Keith Robinson. – Great book! Very little math. Explains the physics behind stellar spectra. Amazon link.
Astrophysics is Easy! An Introduction for the Amateur Astronomer (Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy Series) –Mike Inglis, A bit more technical, but still very accessible reading, in spite of the lame title! I re-read this book every so often, always learning something new. A good addition to your library! Amazon link.
Measuring the Universe: The Cosmological Distance Ladder (Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration), Stephen Webb – This is a great book! It’s a bit technical and a decade old, but don’t let that get in the way! It’s a wonderful overview of how we calculate very large distances. It starts out with parallax that is used on nearby objects. And it concludes with how we measure the most distant objects in the universe. I keep coming back to this book because it incorporates so many different disciplines in astronomy. And, of course, spectroscopy plays a big part! Amazon link.
Stellar Spectral Classification, Gray and Corbally – This is a detailed, 600-page book that may be more than you need. But, it’s comprehensive. I’ve learned a lot from it and I’m glad I have it in my collection. You may want to check it out at the library or bookstore before purchasing it. James Kaler (author of Stars and Their Spectra) says on the book’s back cover: “… fills a huge need by providing a spectacularly good discussion of stellar spectra. With a highly detailed and digital view of the modern art of classification… there is not much on the subject that one cannot find in this well-written and richly illustrated volume.” Amazon link.
A Spectroscopic Atlas of Bright Stars: A Pocket Field Guide (Astronomer’s Pocket Field Guide), Martin. – Two pages for each of 54 stars. For each star, there is a spectrum and profile graph with key features called out. Richard Walker’s Atlas (see listing above), in my opinion, is a better resource. Amazon link.
The Sky is Your Laboratory, Robert Buchheim. – This book touches on spectroscopy, but also has a wide range of other interesting projects. I’ve included it here because it is aimed at amateurs who, like you, are interested in data. You’ll find it has a very readable discussion in the how-to’s in a variety of projects, including chapters on astrometry, photometry, variable star observing, occultations, meteors. When necessary, the author includes very accessible math that may be necessary for understanding the projects and approaches. There should be more books like this! Amazon link.
Stars and their Spectra: An Introduction to the Spectral Sequence, Kaler. This is one of the “standards” — and rightly so. As Amazon itself says, “[This book] begins by introducing the reader to the fundamental properties of stars and the formation of spectra, before proceeding to the concept and history of stellar classification. The following chapters each look at a different star type: starting with cool M, the discussion extends to cover new stellar classes L and T, before advancing through type O to finish with extraordinary classes.The book concludes with a skillful integration of all the data, tracing the evolution of stars and their place in the Universe. With modern digital spectra and updates from two decades of astronomical discoveries, this accessible text is invaluable for both amateur astronomers and students.” Amazon link.
Novae & Spectroscopy by François Teyssier’s article on is a good resource on, well, … you guessed it: novae and spectroscopy! This is a computer-generated translation from the French, so it’s a bit unpolished, but readable. Thanks, François for this valuable article!
Scientific Astrophotography by Gerald R. Hubbell. The subtitle of this book says it all: “How Amateurs Can Generate And Use Professional Imaging Data.” Although this book only has a short section on spectroscopy, we highly recommend it for anyone doing any kind of astronomical imaging. Hubbel has pulled together in 330 pages a comprehensive and valuable discussion of all aspects of imaging. To quote Scott Robert’s forward: “The structure and methods described in Scientific Astrophotography provide you with the opportunity to take a fresh approach to this discipline of study and put what you have learned to use in a a real-world activity…. Hubbell lays down a road map to penetrate and methodically correct the root causes of problems often encountered when acquiring images that will allow you to obtain high-quality data that can be used in research… The book also has detailed descriptions of how to complete each step along the way, full descriptions of how and why things work they way they do, and forms to record your notes, which are so critical to research.”
Resolution limitations by Doug West. At a certain point, increasing the lines/mm in a grating in a slit-less system produce no increase in resolution. If you’re thinking of trying a 300 or 600 line/mm grating, West’s paper may dissuade you from the effort.