Friday, 27 January 2012

The Hidden Deep by Stephen O'Meara Review

Deep-Sky Companions: The Secret Deep by Stephen O'Meara
Cambridge University Press (August, 2011)
498 pages

So I finally got around to writing a short, simple and silly review of this book. I really don't get the name "The Secret Deep" but then again I'm not the brightest of the bunch am I. Without further insults, let's get it on shall we?

+ O'Meara's writing is something you either love or hate. Most - like me - do like it but after four nearly identical books it is getting a bit old. Most will probably say "don't change anything; keep at it!" but for me it might be a good time for a different/new approach.

+ The objects selected for the book are good ones (apart from NGC 5195). The point is: anything that steers the novice observers / photographers away from the regular Messier/bright NGC fodder is always good. Are ALL of the object choices good? It is, of course, impossible to argue with that since it is one man's list and if YOU don't like it... you can always make your own one! As a note, there's nothing "new" in the selection of objects. Most veteran observers have already observed these objects many times over.

+ The science behind the objects is top notch as good, up-to-date information on the objects always comes handy. The research and digging around in this scale is always honorable.

+ Generally the images of objects are quite good.

+ And how can you really hate something where you're quoted...

- In a book like this, all of the images should be of good quality. O'Meara drops the photography stuff to this some guy - Mario Motta - and after 4 pages we know all about him: world renowned cardiologist, member in this and that astronomy club and his "dreamscope". Don't get me wrong, this guy probably is twice the man (boy) I am but seriously, surprisingly many of the photographs by Motta are sub par. The main problem is that they're poorly tracked and it shows.

- I never though the day would come when I'd have to say something negative about the sketches but that day is here. Despite O'Meara's best efforts to and I quote "hold the detail for reproduction" and "to enhance the beauty of the subtle view" something has gone terribly wrong here. The drawings don't look good anymore. In fact, the sketches now look more like a computer generated image and miss that "smooth" look that is so apparent at the eyepiece and should be so on paper as well. Some drawings show far too much contrast and some far too little. The individual stars also look like they were made in Photoshop. We sketchers know that making, scanning and prepping sketches in a bitch but this isn't the way to go Stephen!

- This (like everything else I write) can be argued but why the upgrade to a bigger scope? For me, that additional inch of aperture makes the telescope that of medium aperture; no longer a small aperture one. And the telescope cost 7000$? Wow, that's about the same amount of money I've made in the last 3 years. Of course, O'Meara got the scope more or less for free - all the advertisement and all.

All and all, the book is still a good read but the new "improvements" have actually made the book worse. As with most sequels the idea and the general concept of the book is starting to get old. It might be time for O'Meara to look in to something else in the writing field. Messiers and Caldwells are now done. With the "Hidden Treasures" and "The Secret Deep" out there let's hope the next book won't be named "The Hidden Pirate Deep".

8/10 for O'Meara fans
7/10 for a regular geezer.