Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
on July 29, 2006
Most people who buy a star atlas are just getting to know the heavens, probably with a telescope and lots of enthusiasm. I would fit this description, so it is appropo that I review the two atlases I have used recently. I compared the "Collins Atlas of the Night Sky, 2005" to Nortons 20th ed, 2004.
After the first few weeks I found myself using the Collins choice more often. Norton's is the granddaddy, of course. But sometimes up-and-coming authors try to raise the bar, and this seems to have happened here. I like the color coding and the superior layout of Collins, And I especially like the section #2, where magnified maps alphabetically listed by constellation are presented. When you see something in the sky you want to identify, you usually think "it's in Orion", and want to flip to that page. Easy. You don't think, "it's at about RA 05h, dec +7 deg.
Norton's, on the other hand, has an introductory text of basic astronomy tagged on. If you don't already have an astronomy text it might add something, but most of us already have one. I liked the descriptions of stellar time, tropical vs siderial vs synodic months.
The biggest knock on Norton's, however, is the star charts aren't as easy to read, especially in the dark. I found a few errors as well. For example, the entire chart #13 has no dots to indicate where the stars are under the overlay of the Milky Way. Evidently the printer forgot to make the shading of the Milky Way transparent on that page, so all stars in that area are erased. The labels are present but there is nothing to show the star's exact location, it's visual magnitude, whethere it's a double or variable, etc. This is a huge gaffe! The binding of the Norton's text is also weak, starting to come apart after only a month. I find it hard to pick out nonstellar objects as easily.
I'll still keep my copy of Norton's, as a reference, but if I had to do it again I would buy only one.