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Littleguy80

The Atlas and Sky Guide Comparison Thread

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Posted (edited)

With the unfortunate run of weather in recent weeks, my stargazing time has been limited to my collection of astronomy books. The intention of this thread is to showcase what each of my books shows me  and to help those looking to purchase one in the future. If you have an Atlas or Sky Guide that I haven't covered then please feel to add your own pictures and descriptions in the comments for comparison.

I've chosen M8, The Lagoon Nebula, as a single target to focus on for the comparison. M8 was chosen as it's well known target covered in all my books and is also one of my favourites!

Turn Left At Orion (Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis)

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One of the most recommended books for beginners. For each of the objects described you get a finder/binocular star chart, a view through the eyepiece for a small and large telescope and a detailed written description. For me the sketches depicting what the object should look like in the eyepiece was the most helpful. Knowing what you should be seeing is a real challenge when you start out. I have a great fondness for this book as I associate it with the excitement of those early sessions and seeing sights such as the double cluster for the very first time.

Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders (Robert Bruce Thompson & Barbara Fritchman Thompson)

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This book was a natural follow on to the beginners guide 'Turn Left at Orion'. It has the objects split by constellation which includes a list of double stars for each constellation. Each target has a written description normally based on views through a 10" dob, a Digital Sky Survey image in black and white (red light friendly) and a small star chart. There's also a larger chart for each constellation. 

The Photographic Atlas of the Stars (HJR Arnold P Doherty and P Moore)

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This atlas focuses on wide field views, generally based on constellation. Each of the photographs is accompanied by a star chart. In addition there's also a written description of the constellation and it's highlights. 

Interstellar Deep Sky Atlas Desk Edition (Ronald Stoyan, Stephan Schurig)

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A fantastically detailed atlas. It includes a shading system to indicate whether an object can be seen in a 4", 8" or 12" scope. These aperture guides are based on very dark and transparent skies and hence should be taken with a pinch of salt when observing from the more normal light polluted skies that most of us are used to. Some of the more famous targets, including M8 shown above, and galaxy groups have an additional smaller but more detailed chart. The atlas also provides suggestions on which filters to use on the nebulae shown. It's worth noting the dark nebula in M8 are also marked on the chart. The desk edition of the atlas is shown. There's also a more expensive field addition designed to withstand use in damp conditions. 

Interstellar Deep Sky Guide Desk Edition

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Written as a companion to the Instellarum Deep Sky Atlas. The page numbers of the guide are matched to the page numbers in the atlas. The guide also shows where the targets can be found in the atlas. The guide includes a Deep Sky Surgery composite issue showing a details of the target. For some targets there's also a sketch of the target. The majority of the sketches are taken from scopes in the 14" to 27" range giving the guide a bias towards big scope owners. However, I've still found these sketches interesting and a useful guide when using smaller aperture scopes. There are also observing notes with tips on filters and magnifications to use. These notes are also split using the same 4", 8" and 12" scope guides with an additional big scope challenge section. Like the atlas there is also a field edition of the guide.

A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way (Emerson Barnard)

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E.E. Barnard's famous catalog of dark nebula is derived from a number of deep sky images collected in the 1800's. This atlas use these image, or plates, captured at that time. Each plate has a written description of the targets on that plate, a table of objects, a hand drawn star chart and the plate itself. The focus is mainly on the dark nebula. Despite the age of the images, I've found this a really useful guide and a very interesting read. An online repository of the plates can be found here: http://www.library.gatech.edu/search/digital_collections/barnard/index.html.

21st Century Atlas of the Moon (Charles A Wood & Maurice J S Collins)

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A special mention here for my favourite Moon Atlas. It's particularly good if you're interested in observing the Lunar 100 list. The atlas breaks down the lunar surface into small sections. Each section has a high quality labelled image. Lunar 100 targets are listed for each section as well as some extra targets. Each section has some additional targets shown with images and written descriptions. This is a great atlas to have by the scope when exploring the Moon.

SkySafari Pro 6

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Despite owning all the guides and atlases above, the only one that's with me at the eyepiece every session, is the smartphone/tablet app SkySafari Pro 6. It's contains an extensive amount of information on targets with more detail for the more famous targets. It also has the advantage that you can configure it with your equipment so you can see what the true field of view will be. 

Edited by Littleguy80
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Nice post :thumbsup:  Great personal library you're building up there. 

I'm thinking of getting the Interstellarum Deep Sky Guide as a companion to my copy of the Atlas - which I really like!

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Likewise. I of the many paper sky atlases that I have owned/own, Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas is the clearest. I’m going to he to hunt down the guide. That is a new one on me.

Thanks for posting.

Paul

Edited by Paul73
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That's good of you to take the time to do the write up. Like the others I am also considering the Interstellarum Deep Sky guide. I already have the Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas, which is my favourite for those who already have Turn Left At Orion. But perhaps more useful would be a tablet to run Sky Safari Pro. I don't have a smart phone and I can see that this software would be excellent for use at the eyepiece.

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58 minutes ago, David Levi said:

That's good of you to take the time to do the write up. Like the others I am also considering the Interstellarum Deep Sky guide. I already have the Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas, which is my favourite for those who already have Turn Left At Orion. But perhaps more useful would be a tablet to run Sky Safari Pro. I don't have a smart phone and I can see that this software would be excellent for use at the eyepiece.

Thank you, David. The Deep Sky Guide is excellent. It's the book that I refer to most often at the moment. SkySafari is superb when used at the eyepiece. I have my phone set to low brightness and use a setting to make everything display red. Really useful to be able to set it to display the FOV of the scope/eyepiece combination you're using at that point in time.

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I treated myself to the Interstellarum Deep Sky Guide - it really is a wonderful companion to the great Deep Sky Atlas!  I'm enjoying just browsing it, and it is opening my eyes to tonnes of new targets to shoot for.

It's obvious that these two works are a labour of love for the authors: and I think I'm going to love using them together to plan out a night's observing.

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I've only just caught up with this, a great post. The deep sky guide write up is very helpful, I've been  waiting for some feedback on this to come out and it looks winning. I'm not sure how I would manage to sneak that into the bookshelf though.

If I get time I'll add some more atlases to the post.

 

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Here's a couple of maps to add. I've got rather a lot so I'll start with the older ones. These two maps I have because they are the ones Robert Burnham referred to in his Celestial Handbooks, which are still my favourite astronomy books. 

The first is the 16th edition Norton's Star Atlas (1973). The actual maps are nowhere near as good as modern maps are but the written bits of the book are first class and much of the content is still very useful today especially for visual observers. Both are epoch 1950.0.

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The second one is the Antonin Becvar's Atlas of the Heavens (published in 1962 but I think the map was first drawn long before then). Thus took me quite a while to find, eventually I found one from a seller in the US. This is a big atlas and very pretty to look at, it's not one for taking out in the field!

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