Star Atlas Reviews
This review covers four advanced atlases that are currently published. The four different atlases this review covers are: Sky Atlas 2000.0 Second Edition Deluxe Version Laminated, Millennium Star Atlas, Uranometria 2000.0 Second Edition and the Herald- Bobroff Astroatlas. Each of these atlases reviewed cover both hemispheres. I use star atlases to complete many different tasks. I plan observing sessions and plot objects that I plan to observe. I've marked all 400 Herschel objects in my laminated Sky Atlas 2000.0 with a grease pencil and erased them one by one throughout the years as I located each one. I also confirm objects in the eyepiece, star hop through the sky, plot comet movement from night to night in advance of an observing session. Some atlases even contain detailed information about each object or star.
Electronic versions of star atlases do many of these functions; however, my paper atlas never runs low on power. Printing a custom star chart from software is nice but it lacks the versatility of observing without limits. A star atlas creates bulk to bring to the field and some may be heavy. I find that like eyepieces, I prefer a low power wide view and a high power detailed view in my star atlas. So on with the review.
Sky Atlas 2000.0 Second Edition Deluxe Version Laminated: This atlas has 26 charts 13.5"x 19", and 7 detailed charts of crowded areas. Sky Atlas 2000.0 contains 43,000 stars and 2,500 objects. The stars are plotted down to an 8.5 magnitude. A transparent overlay with a grid for plotting objects and a Telrad circle is included. This review is on the Deluxe Version although the Field Version, a black background with white stars, and a Desk Version, white background with black stars, are offered.
There are many different opinions on which one is better for field use. My opinion is that the Deluxe or Desk version is preferable because you can see the object numbers and markings better. You can also mark or plot objects with a black grease pencil or sharpie marker to see them over the white background. An argument against these versions is that the white affects your night vision yet I've never found it to be a factor for me. Also, all the other major chart publishers use a white background with black stars for there atlases. Sky Atlas 2000.0 isn't well suited for vary faint or obscure objects; this is where an atlas with more detail is needed. The lamination works well for dew prevention and for writing on, but with use, it has started to peel at the edges. Also the pages started to come loose at the binding, but I do put it through some rough use. I find that the Sky Atlas 2000 is user friendly and gives me that wide field view that I like for finding objects and scanning the sky.
Millennium Star Atlas: This is my favorite atlas for detailed deep sky observing. This is a three volume set. Stellar magnitude goes down to 11.0. The chart grid layout is large (1degree = 1 3/8 inch grid squares) which makes reading the chart vary easy. This is the main reason I purchased this atlas. With such a large grid size per degree, even the Virgo galaxy cluster is easy to navigate. Turning the pages from front to back moves west decreasing right ascension. 1,548 charts makes this 3 volume set very heavy to take into the field. When I go deep sky observing I lug this set along. You don't really need to take all three volumes out because a chart in the book tells you which volume is most useful for the month of the year. Some observers make copies of desired charts to take into the field. I feel that this method would limit the amount of objects I would be able to observe. The atlas contains over a million stars and 10,000 deep sky objects (DSO's). I think with such a large atlas, the authors should have included more objects similar to the new Uranometria Atlas which contains 30,000 DSO's. The Millennium charts are made of paper so you need to try to keep dew to a limit. The binding seems to be holding up well. Transparent overlays are sold separately. There are six sheets containing grids, telrad circles, eyepiece circles, moon circles for occultations and other markings for plotting your observing sessions. No field guide is available.
Uranometria 2000.0 Second Edition: I don't own this atlas but I can say that this second edition is much better than the first one which I owned. It contains a bright star atlas with 22 charts and a stellar magnitude of 6.5. The main atlas contains 220 charts and a stellar magnitude of 9.5, and 26 detailed charts with a limiting magnitude of 11.0. Grid size is 3/4 inch per degree, not as large as the Millennium. The two volume set contains 280,000 stars and over 30,000 objects. The charts are paper so keep dew to a minimum. Three transparent overlays are included in volume two. A field guide can be purchased separately.
Herald- Bobroff Astroatlas: This is my newest addition to my atlas collection. It is also a remake of the first addition with some improvements. The atlas was originally published in Australia, and then went out of print; it is now published in USA. If I had only one word to describe this atlas it would be "Unique". It has six sets of charts in one volume. Each set of charts plot the sky at different scales and different limiting magnitudes. It also encompasses a field guide by using a set of symbols for each object that relays a large amount of data to the observer. The atlas is fairly compact at 16"x11.5" and 1" thick. It has a large metal ring binding and the pages fold open flat. A synthetic paper is used for dew resistance and durability. I've used this atlas several times and it seems like it will hold up well although I like to use an atlas for at least a year for a good durability test. This atlas is easy to navigate, with a short learning curve. The amount of stars and DSO's listed in the atlas gives the total amount in all six series so many objects are counted several times. I haven't had time to count each one myself. I've seen reports of over 200,000 stars and over 6,000 DSO's.
I will give a brief description of the six series of charts: A-Series, 12 charts that each cover the whole sky and show the distribution of objects such as galaxies, bright nebulae, dark nebulae, planetary nebulae, globular clusters, Messier objects, etc. B-Series, three sets of charts, the whole sky with stars down to mag. 6.5, and a whole sky star magnitude chart. C-Series, This is the main series of charts with stars to mag. 9.0. D-Series, 42 detailed charts with stars down to 10-11.5 mag. E and F Series, these charts are special interest areas such as Virgo Cluster and the Magellanic clouds with stars down to mag. 14.0-15.0. One more thing worth mentioning is the visibility of the object. The lines that are drawn to show the object are thick and bold for easily seen objects and thin and faint for hard to see objects. While using this atlas I've noticed that there are some objects not labeled with an NGC or other catalog numbers, you would have to look at another source for identification. This is as close to an all in one atlas that I've seen.
In conclusion I would recommend any one of these atlases for advanced observing. Each atlas has its strong and weak points that I have tried to include in this review. If anyone would like to look at one of these atlases, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will bring it to a meeting so you can see it in person.