I greatly enjoyed Doug Scobel’s fine article on Uranometria in the Sept. issue of Reflections [see Doug Scobel, September 2001, “Why You Need Uranometria 2000”]. So, I thought I might offer an article or two on other star atlases that I find very useful.
First to set the stage and put my thoughts in perspective is a short recap of my astro-hobby history. Although I have had an interest in astronomy since I was quite young, I never obtained a real telescope as I always thought they were too expensive. Instead, I got into sailing for a number of years which makes amateur astronomy seem like a real bargain. Hale-Bopp was in the heavens about the time I retired from 39+ years at Ford’s, it was the Holidays and my birthday was coming up shortly. I mentioned to my dear wife Anna that I would really like a decent telescope to see the comet and perhaps pursue amateur astronomy. She responded with, “We are going to buy you one.” (What a Great Lady!)
Telescopes did not seem to be readily available at that time, locally at least. I made the classic mistake of buying the first reasonably priced one (to my totally astro-ignorant judgment), I could locate, a Celestron 8” Celestar SCT, but maybe more on that experience some other time. I was recommended to also buy Wil Tirion’s Sky Atlas 2000 and another, simpler star atlas, the subject of this review. Both were excellent recommendations. The basic star atlas is named (and please do not snicker or smirk, at least yet) Seasonal Star Atlas and Glow in the Dark Star Finder published by Hubbard Scientific Co. product no. 433, editor/compiler not named. This book has proven to be one of the handiest astro references I own. I use it almost ever viewing session even though I have and use Sky Atlas 2000, the Herald-Bobroff AstroAtlas [for a review of this atlas, see Harry Juday, November 2001, “The Herald-Bobroff Astro Atlas”], Millennium Star Atlas and The Sky. (I still do not have a laptop and our computer is on the lower level so I do not use The Sky as much as I should/could for viewing reference. Probably planning my viewing sessions a little better would help in that regard).
This Atlas is an 11 1/2” x 14”, 11 page, fully laminated book containing a simple but adequate Planisphere incorporated into the front cover and eight, 8”x10” star charts (2 for each of the 4 seasons covering the North Polar region to about +20d on the first chart and +20d to about -45d on the second). One of the major pluses of this atlas are the descriptions given for each Constellation. This takes up 1 1/2 of each of the 2 pages devoted to each season. The descriptions give a short paragraph description followed by a list of wide separation double stars with designations (Struve nos. if applicable), magnitudes, separations and rough locations, Messier objects for each constellation and other objects of interest for naked eye, binocular and small scope viewers.
The charts are gridded for each RA. hour and 10d of latitude. Constellation figures are outlined and boundaries shown. Major stars are shown and identified, with their magnitudes shown to the nearest whole no. Many mag. 5 stars are also shown. Messier objects are located and major double stars identified . NGC objects, viewable with binos &/or small scopes are shown and identified. The Milky Way is shaded in and the Ecliptic shown. An added minor item is the inclusion of the Asterisms “The Bull of Poniatowski” and “Gloria Fredrica”. Oh, and as for the “Glow in the Dark” part, I’ve never noticed it.
There is also some basic introductory material at the front and back of the atlas describing use of the atlas and Planisphere, Venus, Mars Jupiter and Saturn Constellation locations thru 2004, some basic observing and telescope tips, a seasonal list of stars to use to adjust manual setting circles, a list of the Constellations also indicating those only partially shown and not shown, the brightest and nearest stars, and a description of star and galaxy types.
The book concludes with a brief explanation of star characteristics including size, color, magnitude, mag. scale spectral classes with major class characteristics, velocity and proper motion. And all of this can be had for the grand price of around $20.00 at most Astronomy stores (I got mine at Riders). As the atlas is fully laminated, it can stand up the dewings we often get. I have used mine, mainly outside, since early 1997 and the chart pages show no degradation from the weather. The Atlas does have one major fault, in my opinion, and that is the binding method. The charts are held together with a plastic strip containing 24 integral rings that fit thru 24 slots in each chart. These have a strong tendency to come loose from the charts and it is a pain in the lower regions to put them back in. After a couple of years of use, the ring on mine broke and I punched a couple of holes in each chart and fastened them with a key ring. These eventually broke thru so I recently reinforced each page edge with reinforced packing tape, repunched 3 holes in each chart and fastened them with loose binder hooks (available at office supply stores) that are hinged and fasten together by friction-hooking. This appears that it will last for a while.
I very highly recommend this Star Atlas for all beginners and any other amateur astronomer who may need a quick refresher on where to find some of the major items when they go out viewing. I also find this volume very useful for teaching/showing non-astronomy people what to look for, where to look at or where the object I am showing them is located, in relation to the rest of the sky. When asked “How do I get started in amateur astronomy? What telescope should I buy/” I always answer “Don’t buy any telescope yet, get a pair of binoculars, this Star Atlas, go look at the sky, and if you are still interested, visit your local Astronomy Club, preferably Lowbrows. Go out to Peach Mt. or come to my place on a good viewing night and try looking thru different scopes before you even think of buying one, or you will probably soon decide that you bought the wrong telescope, as many others have, including myself.