Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mini-Review: Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas

I love good star charts. Real detailed, colorful maps that plot every single speck, blob and fuzzball in the night sky. Problem is, while they're great to look at while at home and planning your observing session, throughout the whole range of available star maps out there none seem to be "just right" for taking out into the field. I often find myself taking two types of maps; the pull out map in the middle of Astronomy or Sky and Telescope magazines as well as the more detailed SkyAtlas 2000.0. the former I tend to lose or tear during the course of the evening, the latter (while a lovely example of a star atlas) is a bit too big and cumbersome, taking up most of my observing table should I need to reference it.

Enter the "Pocket Sky Atlas", the small star atlas that packs a nice little punch. Produced by the popular "Sly and Telescope" magazine folks, this small, paperback, spiral-bound atlas has everything you need for a decent tour of the heavens without bulk and without expense!

Around US$14.00 plus shipping, this atlas is a steal. The atlas is a bit bigger than your usual paperback, making it easy to to keep in your eyepiece case or in your car. It contains 80 detailed star charts with supplementary charts at the end of the atlas that contains more detailed information of larger DSOs like the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades. The charts cover stars to magnitude 7.5, and contain Messier, NGC and other catalogue items of interest. The organization of the charts is clever, with each set of charts covering several sections of the sky (or "gores") from the North Celestial Pole to the South Celestial Pole. Another snazzy feature is that around the edges of the charts are references to adjoining charts, making it easy to navigate from one part of the sky to another. On top of this, there is overlap between the charts so that you don't get completely lost when using starhopping methods of stellar navigation.

I like this atlas a lot. While it's very good for seasoned starhoppers, it's also a good find for beginners wanting that extra level of detail while not sacrificing portability. Highly recommended!


ragundo said...

Nowadays, i think it's better to use a laptop. For the magnitudes that this guide covers (about 7,5) I use Stellarium: simple and very efective.

Greetings from Spain

Phil said...

Hi there! I agree, laptops are good fun and Stellarium is a really good program, and it's free! Actually last time I went out a mate of mine used Stellarium to acquaint himself with the skies and quite enjoyed using it.

Thanks for visiting!