Sky and Telescope’s celestial atlases are the standard by which all other star atlases have been judged for a half century. Now we’ve raised the bar again with our Pocket Sky Atlas – Jumbo Edition. There has never been such a wonderfully detailed atlas so handy to take on trips and use at the telescope, thanks to its user-friendly size, convenient spiral-bound design, and easy-to-read labels. The charts show both constellation boundaries and stick figures to help you find your way.
As the preface points out, the backyard astronomer of today has access to a wide range of star atlases and it is often difficult to choose which one is right for you. Many of those which are currently available are large and unwieldy and are perhaps more suited for reference at home. What the travelling observer needs, in his or her desire to escape light pollution, is a portable and easy-to-use sky guide, and the Pocket Sky Atlas certainly seems to fit the bill.
This atlas is small and portable, measuring around 12 inches (30cm) x 9 inches (22cm), and is probably too big for most pockets. However, it is perfect for the average backpack or car glove box and, because of the spiral binding, is easy to hold while observing, either flat or folded back on itself. Although relatively small and inexpensive, the Pocket Sky Atlas is well thought out and organised. Printed on heavy paper with a smooth, glare-free finish, and containing charts which collectively cover the entire sky, the book opens with a brief but well-written introduction by Roger W. Sinnott which explains the layout of the atlas and the information it contains. From a personal point of view, one of its attributes is the fact that, along with the constellation boundaries being depicted, the main stars within each constellation are joined to form the traditional ‘stick figures’ that make both the identification of each group, and the way it sits against the backdrop of the sky as a whole, that much more straightforward. The generous amount of overlap between adjacent charts makes star hopping across individual chart boundaries easier.
The list of objects contained on the charts is impressive. Showing over 30,000 stars down to visual magnitude 7.6 the atlas also depicts a large number of deep sky objects including many double and multiple stars; variable stars with minimum of magnitude 7.6 or brighter; globular clusters down to magnitude 10.5; galaxies to magnitude 11.5; planetary nebulae to around magnitude 12; and open clusters whose overall brightness exceeds that of an 8th magnitude star. In addition there are many bright and dark nebulae, together with all the objects in both the Herschel 400 observing list and Messier Catalogue. The Messier objects are identified by their M numbers rather than NGC numbers, although those from Patrick Moore’s popular Caldwell catalogue are identified by their NGC numbers rather than their Caldwell numbers. For both the Messier and the Caldwell objects, there are lists in the back of the atlas which cross-reference the Messier or Caldwell numbers with their corresponding NGC numbers, as well as identifying the specific chart(s) on which they can be located.
In addition to the main charts, there are a ten ‘close-up charts’ showing in greater detail the regions around the Pleiades; Orion’s Sword; the Virgo Galaxy Cluster; the Large Magellanic Cloud; the Cone and Rosette nebulae in Monoceros; fields of galaxies in Ursa Major and Leo; the North American Nebula near Deneb in Cygnus; and the rich stars fields in Sagittarius and Scorpius.
The symbols used for different types of deep sky object are clear and are generally to scale and show orientation, which can be a great help. All symbols are depicted on the Chart Legend which is repeated at regular intervals throughout the atlas.
The fact that this atlas was designed by experienced observers is obvious. As a portable, concise and easy-to-use observing guide, this one is hard to beat and fits well into the range of atlases currently available for both the backyard astronomer and the rural star gazer.
You can purchase a copy of Pocket Sky Atlas – Jumbo Edition by CLICKING HERE.