Book Review: Sky and Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas

Title: Sky and Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas

Author: Roger W. Sinnott

ISBN: 1931559317

Publisher: Sky Publishing Corp.

Price: $19.95

One of the most immediate frustrations for someone only beginning in amateur astronomy involves finding something to look at, or, figuring out exactly what is seen in the eyepiece. Armed with a nice scope and a dark sky, inexperienced amateurs are faced with a thousand possibilities but little information on what a fuzzy actually is or how to look up more information about it. Thankfully, humans have marked the position of stars for centuries, and recently (in about the last 500 years or so) man has carefully plotted the positions and magnitudes of heavenly objects for later reference. These maps of the sky have long been collected into atlases. And while urbanites may forget it, the sky is filled with millions of stars (or at least several thousand easily visible ones), which makes creating a book of them large indeed. For this reason, many of the most complete atlases are large and not conducive to being held at the telescope. Yet the Sky and Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas seeks to remedy this by providing a compact, fully functional Atlas of the stars in an easily readable format.

In the Pocket Sky Atlas, readers find page after page of 5" x 7" sky charts, and little else. The charts are arranged in groups according to Right Ascension. Each group starts with a map at the celestial North Pole, and following maps work south until reaching the celestial South Pole. In all, there are eight groups, and each group contains 10 maps. There is quite a bit of overlap between maps which helps prevent any one area from ever being stuck on an edge of a page. The chart number is displayed prominently on the upper outside edge, and adjoining charts are marked in smaller numbers in the center of each side. This makes it very easy to quickly flip from one to another while at the telescope.

The charts themselves show stars as black dots on a white background, with the Milky Way shaded a variety of blue, depending on density. Constellations are drawn in by light green connecting lines and very light dotted boundaries. One handy feature for reading a map is that the front cover extends past the inside pages by about an inch, and in this inch space a star magnitude legend is printed along with an angular distance rule and telrad finder circle. Most items are labeled with their NGC designation, the items known by a more common name also have those included. The pages are heavier than average stock, and bound together by ringing, which allows flipping of the book in half so they can be held with one hand at the eyepiece.

Additional maps are included for the Pleiades, Orion sword area, Virgo Galaxy cluster, and large Magellanic Cloud.

Having had a chance to use this several times now, it is difficult to really find a drawback. Stars are only printed down to about magnitude 7 (with a symbol used to note fainter stars of interest occasionally) so occasionally I would find an area where I wish I could see the magnitudes of fainter surrounding stars. With this exception, the Pocket Sky Atlas has proved to be an excellent addition to my observing aides. I cannot recommend it enough to amateurs just starting out who have no need for a large, cumbersome, but more comprehensive Star Atlas. This is a good value and should prove useful for years to come.

* Note from Monkeylover: This reviewed rescued from my dying astronomy blog.

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