Astronomy on the Personal Computer
Thomas Pfleger, Oliver Montenbruck
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Naturwissenschaften, Medizin, Informatik, Technik / Naturwissenschaften allgemein
It is said that a typical astronomer of the 19th century spent seven hours working at a desk for every hour spent at the telescope. That's how long the routine analysis of data took with pencil, paper, and logarithmic tables. Thus when Wilhelm Olbers discovered the minor planet Vesta in 1807 and gathered the necessary observations, his friend Gauss needed almost 10 hours to hand- calculate its orbit. That achievement astonished many less gifted astronomers of the time, who might have labored days to work out the orbit of a newfound comet. How different things are today! Gauss's method of orbit determination, presented in Chap. 11 of this book, runs to completion on a home computer in a few seconds at most. The machine will issue its accurate results in less time than it takes to key in the observations. In this book, a landmark in the youthful literature of astronomical com- puter algorithms, Oliver Montenbruck and Thomas Pfleger cover many topics of keen interest to the practical observer. For me its most remarkable feature is the library of interrelated program modules, all elegantly written in PAS- CAL. Anyone who has tried to create such modules in interpreted BASIC soon runs into trouble: too few letters for variable names, not enough signifi- cant digits, and so on. These PASCAL routines are invoked one after another in coordinate transformations and calendar conversions.