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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

4.0 out of 5 stars
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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 Excellent compact resource. May 27 1999
By A Customer
Although I've only had the book two nights, it's making its way into my list of indispensable resources. I already have a better star atlas (actually two), and Burnham's, but this book plays a different role. This volume allows you to conveniently carry useful and well-designed summaries of the particularly relevant information from those volumes, plus a decent quadrant moon map for when the big brighty is swallowing up the faint fuzzies. All in one book. I'm not going to use the charts in Norton's for nailing down the Virgo galaxies, but you can still find (and learn about) tons of deep sky and stellar objects using these maps alone, and I can still whip out Star Atlas 2000 or Millennium for really tough stuff. But I'm not taking either of those camping or on a plane: they're too big and they don't have near the volume of descriptive information included in this book. If you like an occasional quick trip to a dark site, if you want a useful guide for a walk from your hotel room or a gaze out an airplane window when you travel, or you want to know something about what you're looking at without plowing through Burnham's, and you hate carrying a library, this is the work for you. That said, can the publisher/distributors please cut the price in half so more people will buy it?
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1.0 out of 5 stars Turgid and confusing as ever May 2 1999
By A Customer
When I got into amateur astronomy 15 years ago, one of my first purchases, heaven help me, was an older edition of Norton's Star Atlas. As a beginner, I found the maps perplexing, hard to read; it was nearly impossible to orient myself in the sky by squinting at them and they were useless at the telescope. Fifteen years later nothing has changed; the reference section is useful if boring and the maps, though brought up to date, are still useless and hard to read. And why the heck the big price tag? -- the book is less than two hundred pages in length and not impressively printed.
Any beginner would be much better served by spending either a lot less or a little more: less, by purchasing the Golden Field Guide SKYGUIDE at less than 20 bucks (which has it's own problems: it will eventually fall apart -- inexcusable for a "field guide" but the book is still worth every penny); more by going for Will Tirion's SKY ATLAS 2000 Atlas at $50.00, a work of art and a joy to look at, coupled with the SKYGUIDE, and later Burnham's Celestial Handbook, a labor of love.
But not Norton's!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Complete, authoritative but too terse Feb. 3 1999
By A Customer
If one book could cover most topics in general astronomy authoritatively, its Norton. From recommendations on reporting celestial phenomena to specifying telescope characteristics, it seems the author grouped everything that could be of interest to earthbound amateur observers. Very terse in descriptions, Norton's is geared to advanced astronomers who require a reference or a refresher. For example, its star maps are not as clear as a Wil Tirion presentation, but it does not suffer from lack of completeness. For astute beginners, the book is very well indexed and organized, so an unfamiliar concept referred in one section is detailed elsewhere. Readers are rewarded with a book densely packed with information in under two hundred pages.
I was impressed by the care made in the production of the paperbound handbook. Not immediately obvious is that the large page format allow charts and maps to present detail clearly. Tyvec-like bindings allow pages to open flat without distortion. I did not find any typographical errors. The maps, are not ideal for field astronomy use.
Norton's is not light reading, but is encyclopedic in breath and style. For the 20th Edition, its editors should strive for readability, and garner a 5/5 rating.
Marv Gozum, MD
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