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Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook (19th Edition) [Paperback]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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All astronomical objects can be considered as lying on an imaginary sphere surrounding the Earth, called the celestial sphere (Figure 1). Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great charts. Good guide. For advanced beginner April 13 2010
By Ron
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The 20th edition of this book is an excellent companion to other beginner guides. However, it is not to be used as a starting point, because, without many colour pictures, it's very difficult to know what to look for. This book is for someone who has already started learning astronomy and wants to become more technical. I find the charts pretty intuitive and the included guide is very technically informative. This should be your second astronomy book.
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The Norton's Star Atlas is one of the great traditions of amateur astronomy. Unfortunately, the early printings of the 20th edition are marred by a serious typographic error that makes them useless: in many of the star charts the Milky Way is shown as a green band that blots out all the stars in the plane of our galaxy. This new edition is a wonderful update of the classic, but before you buy make sure that this error in the charts has been corrected. (These errors have been corrected in the second printing. Please see my revised review. RS)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Room for improvement, but excellent nonetheless Sept. 4 2003
Norton's has weaknesses which other reviewers have pointed out, to be sure, but a tremendous advantage is its layout of the star charts. Unlike most other charts out there, it shows huge swaths of the sky (60 degrees north to 60 degrees south, and well over 4 hours in RA) just as you see them when you're out in the dark trying to get oriented in Deep Heaven. Other charts show little chunks of sky--Norton's shows just what you see in a great wide band from well behind the zenith to further south than most of us will ever see.
And as someone else pointed out, the reference material interleaved between the sky charts, though not exhaustive, is very useful. I use Norton's constantly along with the Sky Atlas 2000 and Burnham's Celestial Handbook (and websites to update Burnham's data), and the combination of the three is perfect for most of my own observing. I have dozens of other books on my shelves but these are the ones I rely on.
For teaching astronomy I substitute the Audubon Field Guide to the Night Sky for the Sky Atlas and Burnham's, and my students love it because Norton's helps them find their way around the sky and the Field Guide description of the constellations tells them about what they see. If I were stranded on a desert island (hope, hope) and couldn't take my beloved and well-annotated Sky Atlas 2000 and Burnham's, I'd take Norton's and the Audubon Field Guide as a very good substitute. I always recommend Norton's, the Audubon Field Guide, and binoculars to beginners--the Sky Atlas 2000, Burnham's, and a telescope can come later (or sooner, for the passionate).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore 1 Star reviews June 28 2003
Just because this book isn't "pretty" is a lame reason not to buy it. The star charts are not meant so much for telescopic work as to give you a naked-eye reference. Sometimes, not having a million stars crammed onto two pages is nice. No self-respecting astronomer (apparently the 1 stars aren't) would be without this book. Heck, even the editor of Sky & Telescope uses it...
As another point, the star charts only comprise about 15% of this book. The "Reference Handbook" is where this is a gem. The lists of objects to view interspersed between the star charts are invaluable as are the 100+ pages of astronomical information. If you skip this book because two reviewers gave it one star (while the others gave it a 4 or 5) you don't deserve it. Sure, the information concise, but when you're out at night, reading through fluff isn't what you want to do...
This is probably a book to buy after you've stuck to the hobby for a year and know yo're hooked :)
Clear skies!
PS Never trust people who only buy things based on how "pretty" they look...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Aged like a fine wine. July 19 2000
By A Customer
Norton's simply keeps getting better. Earlier editions nurtured multiple generations of amateur (and not so amateur) stargazers. This latest edition is a concise, complete atlas AND reference. The Sky Atlas 2000 or Cambridge Star Atlas are also fine road maps to the skies. An even better bargain is the Bright Star Atlas 2000 (Wil Tirion did all three and is tops as a celestial cartographer), but all lack the wealth of other reference information that is contained in Norton's.
The style is definitly in the Sgt. Friday mode: "Just the facts". But there are so many of them! Page after page of succinctly written information on practical astronomy, the solar system, moon, deep-sky objects, etc.
For an evening looking at the heavens, if you don't want to carry around the local library, this one volume easily suffices.
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