An Astronomical Library


At present the four major English language publishers of astronomical titles are Cambridge University Press, Sky Publishing Corporation, Springer (as Springer-Verlag or Springer Science & Business Media), and Willmann-Bell. Turnover is rapid; many of my books are second or later editions. Even so, several books in my library are out of print volumes snagged through online used booksellers: the older literature often surpasses anything currently available.

Philosophy is written in that most grand book which stands continually open before our eyes (I mean the universe), but it cannot be understood unless one learns to comprehend its language and to know the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures. Without these means it is humanly impossible to understand a word and one is wandering around in a dark labyrinth.

— Galileo Galilei, Il Saggiatore (1623)

I offer this work as the mathematical principles of philosophy, for the whole burden of philosophy seems to consist in this — from the phenomena of motions to investigate the forces of nature, and then from these forces to demonstrate the other phenomena.

— Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica, Preface (1687)


Robert Aitken. Binary Stars. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1935/1964.)

Mark Allison. Star Clusters and How to Observe Them. (London UK: Springer-Verlag, 2006.)

... an informative look at the scientific and amateur study of star clusters, with information on classifications, catalogs and observing instruments; the "comprehensive observing list" contains less than 5% of known galactic star clusters and many globular clusters, but comprises a fine representative sample with full descriptive notes.

Bob Argyle (ed.). Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars (2nd edition). (London UK: Springer-Verlag, 2010.)

... My binary star bible. Conveniently organized into short chapters with expert discussions of equipment and observing techniques.

Keith Ashman & Stephen Zepf. Globular Cluster Systems. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.)

Peter Atkins. Four Laws that Drive the Universe. (New York NY: Oxford University Press, 2007.)

... An expert but not overly technical introduction to the three laws of thermodynamics (plus the "zero law" of temperature and the distribution of quantum energies).

Cesare Barbieri. Fundamentals of Astronomy. (Boca Raton FL: Taylor & Francis Group, 2007.)

... A thorough and rigorous treatment of the mathematics underpinning spatial geometry, coordinate systems, time systems, orbital dynamics, parallax, radial velocities, eclipses, ephemerides and more, with technical chapters on photometry and spectroscopy; the text is clear and authoritative.

Michael Benson. Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle. (New York NY: Abrams, 2009.)

Bart J. Bok & Priscilla F. Bok. The Milky Way (4th ed., revised and enlarged). (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.)

Michael P. Borgia. Human Vision and the Night Sky. (New York NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2006.)

Robert Burham Jr. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System (Revised & Enlarged Edition). Volume 1: Andromeda Through Cetus. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1966/1978.)
Robert Burham Jr. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System (Revised & Enlarged Edition). Volume 2: Chamaeleon Through Orion. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1966/1978.)
Robert Burham Jr. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System (Revised & Enlarged Edition). Volume 3: Pavo Through Vulpecula. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1978.)

... The typewriter printed, three volume, 2100 page long "Burnham" has many devoted fans among amateur astronomers, but I'm not among them. These three volumes have done great service communicating the romance of astronomy and awe of the universe to thousands of newcomers, and are unsurpassed in their ambition to describe the sky with a narrative of many colors. But unrevised for six decades — and quoting data from catalogs published in the first half of the 20th century — the text has aged badly into a compendium of bathetic poetry and pictures of ancient coins, useless double star data, obsolete and incomplete scientific explanations, antiquated astral photographs and a compulsive urge to spin a few facts into many, many words. Once a milestone, now untrustworthy as a reference work, it is a relic of sentimental value to old timers.

Ronald Buta, Harold G. Corwin & Stephen C. Odewahn. The de Vaucouleurs Atlas of Galaxies. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.)

... An expensive but fascinating and lavishly illustrated update on the Hubble classification scheme, with many insights into galaxy formation and dynamics. Don't go to the Galaxy Zoo without it.

Eric Chaisson & Steve McMillan. Astronomy Today (7th ed.). (San Francisco CA: Pearson Education Inc., 2011.)

... A comprehensive, up to date and highly readable survey of modern astronomy. This, or some other book of equal scope and depth, is essential reading for the amateur astronomer.

Donald D. Clayton. Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1983.)

... Somewhat out of date, but extensive and exhaustive, and very thorough on the fundamental physics and observational methods; thanks to a competent index, it's very useful as a reference on specific topics.

Steve Coe. Nebulae and How to Observe Them. (London UK: Springer-Verlag, 2007.)

... Gabby and glib, with too much about Steve and not enough about the nebulae.

Heather Couper & Nigel Henbest. The History of Astronomy. (Buffalo NY: Firefly Books, 2009.)

... More up to date and lavishly produced than Hoyle, it turns a chatty, breezy style on the conceptual underpinnings of astronomy; like most popularizations of science, it is skewed toward very large format photographs and double spaced text. Due credit is given to women astronomers such as Herschel, Leavett and Payne-Gaposchkin, but this reads like the coffee table companion to a television series.

Paul Couteau. Observing Visual Double Stars. (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1981.)

... Although badly dated, this is still a useful resource of methods to calculate orbital parameters by one of the great double star discoverers.

Craig Crossen & Wil Tirion. Binocular Astronomy (2nd ed.). (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 2008.)

... As text, this is a lovely book. The well crafted prose celebrates the special art and pleasure of binocular astronomy, and provides a leisurely introduction to the Milky Way galaxy structure; many grand photographs of Milky Way star fields are included. Weirdly, the charts of Tirion's "Bright Star Atlas" are printed so that facing atlas pages are swapped left to right, placing the matching right ascension edges along the outside rather than in the center — an ill designed and needlessly confusing arrangement.

Timothy Ferris. Galaxies. (New York NY: Random House Value, 1988.)

Daniel Fischer & Hilmar Duerbeck. Hubble: A New Window on the Universe. (New York NY: Springer Verlag, 1996.)
Daniel Fischer & Hilmar Duerbeck. Hubble Revisited: New Images from the Discovery Machine. (New York NY: Springer Verlag, 1998.)

Ronald Florence. The Perfect Machine. (New York NY: Harper Collins, 1993.)

... The step by step, blow by blow narrative of the great Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory, one of the modern wonders of the world and the largest amateur telescope maker's project of all time. Damn fun reading.

Galileo Galilei (& Albert van Helden, trans.). Siderius Nuncius. (Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989.)

... Charming for its breathless account of the first four telescopic discoveries: the mountainous topography of the moon, the "unfathomable" number of stars invisible to the naked eye, the stellar composition of the Praesepae "nebula", and the moons of Jupiter — critical to the discovery of universal gravitation, measurement of the speed of light, and 18th century navigation. The editorial materials on the book's background and reception are also fascinating.

Galileo Galilei (& Stillman Drake, trans.). Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. (New York NY: Modern Library, 2001.)

... This was the book that got Galileo in trouble with the Pope, for its mocking portrayal of the Aristotelian adherent as a simpleton; but it is, with his "Dialog Concerning the Two New Sciences", one of the founding documents of modern science. Well worth reading as the dramatic transcript of humanity finally thinking its way out of myth.

J. Richard Gott & Robert Vanderbei. Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective. (Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2010.)

Richard Gray & David Corbally. Stellar Spectral Classification. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.)

... Sound boring? Anything but. This detailed and authoritative explanation of the Morgan Keenan stellar classification process is the framework for lucid descriptions of stellar physics, structure, and the history of stellar classification. Stars emerge as fated personalities, shaped in many ways by temperature and gas pressure (or density and surface gravity), illuminating the basic tenet that for stars, "mass is destiny".

Sissy Haas. Double Stars for Small Telescopes: More Than 2,100 Stellar Gems for Backyard Observers (Stargazing Series). (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing, 2007.)

... Among the best double star field guides: there is an admirable selection of stars, accurate and complete parameter data (including epoch, position angle and spectral type), legible printing, robust binding, and concise introductory text. Haas indulges in whimsical and even nonsensical star color descriptions ("gloss white, vivid gray"), but is candid enough to print the color descriptions of other observers — these alert the observer to the often subjective and illusory nature of star color appearance.

Philip S. Harrington. Star Ware: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide in Choosing, Buying and Using Telescopes and Accessories (4th ed.). (Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007.)

Lawrence Harris. So You Want a Meade LX Telescope! (New York NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2010.)

... Grossly mistitled — this is a book about using a Windows computer to run your Meade telescope.

Wulff Heintz. Double Stars. (Dordrecht NE: Reidel Publishing, 1978.)

... A remarkably concise, yet detailed and comprehensive review of the history, methods and major findings of double star research. Academic in tone and occasionally elliptical in expression, but worth the high price.

Nigel Henbest & Heather Couper. The Guide to the Galaxy. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.)

... A unique and holistic tour of the Galaxy as it was known two decades ago, replete with maps of the disk, spiral arms and major features, illustrated with a judicious selection of photos and an excellent explanations of galactic processes they represent and the research necessary to observe them.

Jeff Hester, Brad Smith, George Blumenthal, Laura Kay & Howard Voss. 21st Century Astronomy (3rd ed.). (New York NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.)

... Similar topical range and depth to Chaisson & McMillan, but with a slightly more elementary flavor and greater reliance on schematic or cartoon illustrations — the spinning earth shown next to a spinning top. Not my first choice for an introductory textbook, but useful to have skimmed for apt details or diagrams.

Harold Hill. A Portfolio of Lunar Drawings. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.)

... Hill has an exquisitely schematic style of lunar sketching that repays careful study and imitation as the basis for developing one's own approach. Diverting just as a browse.

Michael Hoskin. Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.)

... Concise and lucid narrative of the intertwined lives of the four Herschels — William, Caroline, Alexander and John.

Fred Hoyle. Astronomy. (New York NY: Crescent Books, 1962.)

... A damn fine book, my first tutorial (at age 14) in the history of astronomy and astronomy's place in the Scientific Revolution. Hoyle combines a colorful narrative of the scientists with a precise explanation of the major experiments and instruments, many photographs and charts — even a rigorous geometrical explanation of the Ptolemaic system.

Nick Kanas. Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography. (New York NY: Springer Praxis, 2007.)

William Keel. The Road to Galaxy Formation (2nd ed.). (Chichester UK: Springer Praxis, 2007.)

... A book indispensable not because it is comprehensive or groundbreaking, but because it brings the reader into the center of the science it describes. The narrative begins with "a cosmological cartoon" (cartoon here meaning "sketch") that lays out four key elements — red shift, relativity, large scale structure and microwave background — then builds cumulatively to a theory of how galaxies form from stars and gas, and evolve a variety of forms, clusters and interactions.

George Robert Kepple & Glenn W. Sanner. The Night Sky Observer's Guide, Volume 1: Autumn & Winter. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1998.)
George Robert Kepple & Glenn W. Sanner. The Night Sky Observer's Guide, Volume 2: Spring & Summer. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1998.)
Ian Cooper, Jenni Kay & George Robert Kepple. The Night Sky Observer's Guide, Volume 3: The Southern Skies. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 2008.)

... These three volumes are the current first rank guides to objects outside the solar system (double and variable stars, and deep sky objects): many observer drawings of what objects actually look like in small scopes and explicit distinctions made in what one can see using seven different aperture categories (from 2" to 18"+); organized by constellation within the four seasons, the information in these volumes easily surpasses what one finds in Burnham, and without his whimsical digressions into archaeology, 18th century astronomy and outmoded astrophysics. Essential.

Ruben Kier. The 100 Best Astrophotography Targets. (New York NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2009.)

... Very useful guide to selected deep sky objects, with detailed guidance as to field size, exposures and filters; includes advice on cameras, mounts, optics and methods. Invaluable.

Andrew Liddle. An Introduction to Modern Cosmology. (Chichester UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.)

... My introduction to cosmology; the text is concisely written, and the theory is developed entirely in terms of classical Newtonian dynamics, which loses little in accuracy but gains quite a lot in clarity.

Christian B. Luginbuhl & Brian A. Skiff. Observing Handbook and Catalogue of Deep-Sky Objects (2nd ed.). (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.)

... A disappointment: the observing notes are skimpy, and the book as a whole focuses primarily on the differences in what one can see of deep sky objects through small amateur as opposed to large professional instruments. The "catalog" of deep sky objects is highly selective.

David K. Lynch & William Livingston. Color and Light in Nature (2nd ed.). (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.)

... An updated addition or alternative to Minnaert, somewhat more comprehensive in its coverage of a more selected range of topics, and with many lovely photographs.

Jacqueline Mitton. The Cambridge Illustrated Dictionary of Astronomy. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.)

Rod Mollise. Choosing and Using a New CAT. (New York NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2009.)

... The essential catadioptric owner's manual: informal, informed, unbiased, comprehensive, enlightening; I'm grateful to have found it.

James Mullaney. Double & Multiple Stars and How to Observe Them. (London UK: Springer-Verlag, 2005.)

M.G.J. Minnaert (& Len Seymour, trans.). Light and Color in the Outdoors. (New York NY: Springer-Verlag, 1993.)

... It's astonishing how much beauty and mystifying optical complexity is produced by light within our atmosphere: Minnaert catalogs and explains it all, opening our eyes to the natural wonders around us. A treasure.

Philip Morrison & Phylis Morrison. Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe. (New York NY: Scientific American Library, 1982.)

... Created as the children's book "Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps" by Dutch educator Kees Boeke, the 1957 original zooms out from the playground of the Werkplaats Children's Community Boeke founded and communicates naive wonder at the universe. The Morrison remake, itself based on a film version of Boeke's concept by Charles Eames, zooms out from a Chicago Park with detailed science images and instructive scientific text firmly in the mode educational.

Gerald North. Observing the Moon: The Modern Astronomer's Guide (2nd ed.). (New York NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007.)

... a worthy sequel to Wilkins & Moore, with a welcome emphasis on special lunar features, the varied effects of solar illumination, and the pursuit of lunar photography and lunar drawings.

Gerald North. Observing Variable Stars, Novae and Supernovae. (New York NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004.)

William T. Olcott & Edmund W. Putnam. Field Book of the Skies. (New York NY: Putnam, 1929.)
William T. Olcott (& Margaret Mayall, ed.). Field Book of the Skies (4th ed.). (New York NY: Putnam, 1954.)

... One of a handful of "first books" owned by young astronomers up through the 1950's; although the sky charts are almost useless and the observing guidance is sketchy, the text is in many places still rewarding, and the combination of facts and myth, binocular and telescopic astronomy surely influenced Burnham's approach to celestial storytelling.

Steve O'Meara. Deep Sky Companions: The Messier Objects. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.)
Steve O'Meara. Deep Sky Companions: The Caldwell Objects. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.)
Steve O'Meara. Steve O'Meara's Herschel 400 Observing Guide. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.)
Steve O'Meara. Deep Sky Companions: Hidden Treasures. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.)
Steve O'Meara. Deep Sky Companions: The Secret Deep. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.)

... O'Meara has a reputation as one of the most acute visual astronomers of our time, which his colleague Brian Skiff attributes entirely to his extraordinary observational skills; so it's useful to have O'Meara's observational guidance on hand for essentially all the deep sky objects of interest to amateurs. If the commentary becomes at times a bit too autobiographical, cutesy or novelistic, the historical and technical tidbits scattered throughout repay the foggy night and rainy day leisure necessary to find them.

Anton Pannekoek. A History of Astronomy. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1989.)

... A splendid technical and cultural narrative of astronomy, from Babylonia to the (then 1961) modern theory of stellar evolution, with brief geometrical appendices on the Sun's distance (Aristarchus) and universal gravitation (Newton); the writing is vivid and economical, and the book reads like a detective mystery.

Jay M. Pasachoff. A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets (4th ed.). (New York NY: Houghton-Mifflin & Co., 2006.)

... A remarkable little reference, crammed with data, tables, explanatory text, color photographs and star charts, all organized into topical chapters and bound in the compact format of a field guide. The star maps by Wil Tirion present the stars color coded by spectral class, a very useful feature for binocular astronomy.

A.C. Phillips. The Physics of Stars (2nd ed.). (Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.)

... Compact but comprehensive overview of the internal combustion of stars, well organized and emphasizing the basic physics.

Fred W. Price. The Planet Observer's Handbook (2nd ed.). (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.)

Keith Robinson. Starlight: An Introduction to Stellar Physics for Amateurs. (New York NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2009.)

Günter Dietmar Roth (ed.). Compendium of Practical Astronomy, Volume 1: Instrumentation and Reduction Techniques. (Berlin, DR: Springer-Verlag, 1994.)
Günter Dietmar Roth (ed.). Compendium of Practical Astronomy, Volume 2: Earth and Solar System. (Berlin, DR: Springer-Verlag, 1994.)
Günter Dietmar Roth (ed.). Compendium of Practical Astronomy, Volume 3: The Stars and Stellar Systems. (Berlin, DR: Springer-Verlag, 1994.)

... Translated from the German edition, this is a classically oriented discussion of specific astronomical topics in articles by more than a dozen authors. Overall the material is well presented and reliable, though rather dry and somewhat uneven in its coverage of specific topics. It is two decades out of date on many issues treated in volume 3, but the materials in volume 1 on optics and equipment are quite good.

Harrie G.J. Rutten & Martin A.M. van Venrooij. Telescope Optics: A Comprehensive Manual for Amateur Astronomers. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1988.)

... A trustworthy and applied overview of astronomical optics, with a generalist and visual presentation of issues using ray trace schematics and spot diagrams, followed by a more technical and mathematical presentation of optical analysis and design with computer programs. A very useful book.

Peter Schneider. Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology: An Introduction. (Berlin DE: Springer-Verlag, 2010.)

... A superb traversal of the contemporary cosmological picture, the title is in several ways misleading: the book is astonishingly rich with detailed quantitative data in graphical or pictorial format, and the "introduction" is both comprehensive and penetrating across all topics; the discussion also opens with an excellent survey of modern astronomical instruments and the structure of our own galaxy. Truly indispensable.

Daniel J. Schroeder. Astronomical Optics (2nd ed.). (San Diego CA: Academic Press, 2000.)

... Alternately dense and elliptical, and always formal and technical; a useful source for optical principles and their applications to telescope design, but tough going.

I.S. Shklovskii & Carl Sagan. Intelligent Life in the Universe. (San Francisco CA: Holden Day, 1966.)

... Are they out there, and are they watching? This was the book that addressed that question when I was a young adult, decades before the Drake equation. Chockablock with photos and diagrams, with a unique presentation style in which Shklovskii's original manuscript is interwoven with Sagan's clarifying, amplifying and dissenting commentary.

Frank Shu. The Physical Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy. (Sausalito, CA: University Science Books, 1982.)

... Wide, deep and absolutely perspicuous. Everything from the quantum physics of stars to the evolution of life on earth, expertly explained with many illustrations and an admirable (and rare) sense of scientific culture and the progress of knowledge. Superb in every respect.

J.B. Sidgwick. Amateur Astronomer's Handbook (3rd ed.). (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1971/1980.)

... Despite its age, an exceptionally concise and accurate source of fundamental technical information about amateur astronomical instruments and observing techniques, conveniently organized into short topical chapters with useful tables and diagrams. Indispensible.

J.B. Sidgwick. Observational Astronomy for Amateurs (3rd ed.). (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1971/1980.)

Warren J. Smith. Modern Optical Engineering (4th ed.). (New York NY: McGraw Hill, 2008.)

Admiral William H. Smyth. The Bedford Catalog. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1986.)

... Reprint of the 1844 edition of the first celestial guidebook, the "Cycle of Celestial Objects", compiled by Smyth at his Bedford observatory. Completely useless to modern observers, but interesting as an example of the halting and rudimentary level of astronomy in the early 19th century, and as an obvious influence on the nattering and backward looking Robert Burnham.

Wolfgang Steinicke & Richard Jakiel. Galaxies and How to Observe Them. (London UK: Springer-Verlag, 2007.)

Robert A. Strong & Roger W. Sinnott. Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion (2nd ed.). (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 2008.)

Harold Richard Suiter. Star Testing Astronomical Telescopes (2nd ed.). (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 2008.)

... The book that popularized the star testing of astronomical optics, Suiter also provides an excellent discussion of aperture and apodizing masks, secondary obstructions, collimation and many other issues that affect a telescope's optics.

Roger J. Tayler. Galaxies: Structure and Evolution (Rev. ed.). (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.)

Fred W. Taylor. The Cambridge Photographic Guide to the Planets. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.)

Dirk Terrell, J.D. Mukherjee & R.E. Wilson. Binary Stars: A Pictorial Atlas. (Malabar FL: Krieger Publishing, 1992.)

... Computer generated rotational views of close and contact binary star systems presented with their light curves, grouped according to the size of the orbital semimajor axis. Although excellent as a guide to binary morphology, the coverage is bizarre — category defining variable stars such as Algol, RS CVn or W UMa are not included.

Jean Texereau. How to Make a Telescope (2nd ed.). (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 2003.)

... An extremely interesting and well documented look at telescope making by a skilled professional optician and amateur telescope maker; the incidental chapters on the atmosphere and eyepieces are very useful.

Allyn J. Thompson. Making Your Own Telescope. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 1947.)

... The book my dad and I used when we built a 6" telescope back in 1959. A classic in the ATM literature, both in its technical discussions and its reliance on hardware store materials. A treasured memento.

Robert Bruce Thompson & Barbara Frichman Thompson. Astronomy Hacks: Tips & Tools for Observing the Night Sky. (Sebastopol CA: O'Reilly Media Inc., 2005.)

... While I quibble with the obvious Tele Vue and Celestron bias, which the authors flaunt without qualm, there are many useful tips and observations here; and whatever I deemed not trustworthy was still a good test of my common sense.

Hans Vehrenberg & Dieter Blank. Handbook of the Constellations (4th ed.). (Dusseldorf, DE: Treugesell-Verlag, 1981.)

... A star guide for novice and intermediate astronomers, with single page charts of each constellation (in red light friendly white stars on black background) facing a tabulation of interesting objects. The tabulations are minimal, the charts basic, the format with marginal tabs modernistic, but the perspective traditional.

T.W. Webb (& Margaret Mayall, ed.). Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, Volume 1: The Solar System. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1917/1962.)
T.W. Webb (& Margaret Mayall, ed.). Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, Volume 2: The Stars. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1917/1962.)

... The most popular and influential celestial guidebooks of the late 19th and early 20th century, the books that got Sherburne Burnham started on his double star observing career. Antique and twee by modern standards, they are still fascinating as an illustration of how little we knew about the universe a century ago, and how far tools and techniques have advanced since then.

Ewen Whittaker. Mapping and Naming the Moon: A Short History of Lunar Cartography and Nomenclature. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.)

... Too short to be authoritative, and too selective to be genuinely historical (especially considering that the work of Krieger is omitted), but important for its overview of our evolving knowledge and varied representations of the Moon.

H. Percy Wilkins & Patrick Moore. The Moon: A Complete Description of the Surface of the Moon, Containing the 300-Inch Wilkins Lunar Map. (London UK: Faber & Faber, 1955.)

... The ultimate compendium of visual lore in the decade prior to the first lunar landers and photographic orbiters. The touted Wilkins map is reproduced in 16 sections at only 10% actual size (30" diameter), rendering it largely illegible, but the text is an encyclopedic commentary on every named feature of the era. Descriptions are based on terrestrial visual and photographic evidence, and highlight both selenographic features and specific observing difficulties. Out of print.

Ray N. Wilson. Reflecting Telescope Optics I: Basic Design Theory and its Development (2nd ed.). (Berlin DR: Springer Verlag, 2004.)
Ray N. Wilson. Reflecting Telescope Optics II: Manufacture, Testing, Alignment, Modern Techniques. (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2004.)

... Stupendous, exhaustive, exhausting.

—. The Complete Sky & Telescope. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 2010.)

... A real wayback machine, the monthly progress of amateur astronomy documented in articles, advertisements and announcements over the past 7 decades.

—. The Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2011. (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2010.)

... Although most of the information is available online or as recycled through any good planetarium software, this is for me a nostalgic essential, the principal text resource for ephemeris data and a testament to the human ambition to accurately understand the solar system.

—. RASC Observer's Handbook 2011. Patrick Kelly, ed. (Toronto CA: Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 2010.)

... Compact, authoritative, comprehensive, educational, this is perhaps the best single volume resource for amateur astronomers, a hybrid of Sidgwick, Norton's, the Astronomical Almanac and about fifty copies of Sky & Telescope magazine.


Dinsmore Alter (ed.). Lunar Atlas. (New York NY: Dover Publications, 1964/1968.)

... Alter follows the Shemus Rule from "Finnegans Wake": "Putting truth and untruth together, a shot may be made at what this hybrid actually was like to look at." An idiosyncratic survey of photographic evidence and selenologic theory at the end of the visual era, a hodgepodge of nomenclature and commentary, gazetteer and conjecture, quirky and unsystematic in its coverage and emphasis. Important for its era, but — apart from the excellent sequence of photos of the lunar phases — now outmoded (and out of print).

H.J.R. Arnold, Paul Doherty & Patrick Moore. The Photographic Atlas of the Stars. (London UK: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1997.)

An attractive but peculiar attempt to reproduce the naked eye appearance of the night sky, using standard photographic equipment and color film, and labeling a facing negative print of each image as a key. Most deep sky objects are invisible in the full page, 5.6° per inch images, and limiting magnitudes vary significantly across plates. The lists of interesting objects are too skimpy, and the binding and paper are too high quality, for use in the field.

D.W.G. Arthur, Alice P. Agnieray, Ruth A. Horvath, C.A. Wood & C.R. Chapman. The System of Lunar Craters, Quadrant I. (Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, 1963.)
D.W.G. Arthur, Alice P. Agnieray, Ruth A. Horvath, C.A. Wood & C.R. Chapman. The System of Lunar Craters, Quadrant II. (Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, 1964.)
D.W.G. Arthur, Alice P. Agnieray, Ruth H. Pellicori, C.A. Wood & T. Weller. The System of Lunar Craters, Quadrant III. (Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, 1965.)
D.W.G. Arthur, Ruth H. Pellicori & C.A. Wood. The System of Lunar Craters, Quadrant IV. (Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, 1966.)

... Available on the web as 4 .pdf files, the SLC summarizes the state of lunar nomenclature at the end of the visual (earth based photographic) era of lunar observing. As a whole the documents include a useful history of nomenclature, a complete lunar gazetteer, and 44 crisp, clear outline maps of all named features on the moon's near side. Printed on stiff paper and spiral bound by a local print shop, I find these charts more comprehensive and easier to use in the field than any other lunar reference.

Antonín Bečvář. Atlas Coeli Skalnate Pleso / Atlas of the Heavens. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corp., 1956/1962.)

... Antonín Bečvář (pronounced Betch-varzh) and a group of graduate students at the Skalnaté Pleso Observatory in (then) Czechoslovakia created by hand the most elegant star atlas of modern times — without precedent, without peer, and parent of several literal imitations. Originally drafted in 1947-48 and published in a color version by the Czechoslovakia Academy of Sciences (1956) and "Sky & Telescope" magazine in the United States (1962), the Atlas presents stars to visual magnitude 7.75 and all deep sky objects visible in a 200mm (8") telescope in 16 large format (16" x 22", 3.3° to the inch) chart pages. A work of art in many ways, the Atlas is simultaneously a rigorous and legible presentation of voluminous astronomical knowledge and a visually exhilarating paean to the skies.

Antonín Bečvář. Atlas Borealis. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corp., 1962.)
Antonín Bečvář. Atlas Eclipticalis. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corp., 1962.)
Antonín Bečvář. Atlas Australis. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corp., 1962.)

... A remarkable conception: all stars in the Yale Zone Catalogues and Boss General Catalogue to at least magnitude 13, plus all variable stars attaining magnitude 10.0 or with a Bonner Durchmusterung number, plus all binary stars closer than 60" with combined magnitude greater than 10.0 (including all spectroscopic binaries then known), all binned by magnitude and charted at 1.25° to the inch in six colors designating the general spectral types O/B, A, F, G, K and M/N/R/S — all this achieved by hand and eye, before the era of computer generated database driven astronomical charts! The charts are stripped of every deep sky object and superfluous nomenclature, and constellation boundaries are defined only at corners and coordinate junctions. The result is a spare, profound visual analysis of populations, associations, clusters and galactic structure — one of the most ambitious and remarkable stellar atlases ever conceived.

Edward Emerson Barnard & Gerald Orin Dobek (ed.). A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.)

... Essentially a simulated facsimile reprint of the original two volume publication, recollated to bring plates, charts and tables together in sequence as a single volume. All the text type was reset, and the photographs scanned from the best available exemplars of the original prints. A labor of love, selective in its coverage of the galactic plane but still highly informative, and a great resource for intensive visual study.

Ben Bussey & Paul Spudis. The Clementine Atlas of the Moon. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.)

... Overpriced and disappointing: essentially an up to date, full globe gazetteer of every named and lettered crater or landmark, keyed to many pages of rectified orbiter photographs; the washed out Clementine photos (at ~34 km or 0.9° to the inch) are ineffective topographical charts, and the decision to accompany them with facing page, reduced scale reproductions of the USAF airbrush maps does not mend the insufficiency.

Jeremy Cook. The Hatfield SCT Lunar Atlas: Photographic Atlas for Meade, Celestron and other SCT Telescopes. (New York NY: Springer, 2005.)

... A photographic atlas of the moon, with images flipped to match the lunar orientation as it appears in a Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with a mirror diagonal. More systematic than Alter's Atlas, the book divides the Moon's near side into 16 sections, each presented with a nomenclature key, three or more overall images under oblique and direct illumination, and detail images of many features. Useful to learn topography and to select features for close visual or photographic study.

John Cox & Richard Monkhouse. Philip's Color Star Atlas: Epoch 2000. (London UK: George Philip Ltd., 1991.)

... The "Becvar lite" edition of star spectral atlases; includes very useful front material on star spectroscopy, spectral types and stellar evolution, 20 sky charts (at 6.5° to the inch) and many illustrations. The hand lettered symbols for stars and deep sky objects make the charts more cluttered than necessary, and it's quite expensive in the hardbound version, but well worth having. Currently out of print.

Ronald Greeley & Raymond Bateson. The NASA Atlas of the Solar System. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.)

... Enormous (12.5" x 18"), authoritative and colorful, incorporating all the planetary orbiter and flyby data up to the end of the 20th century.

E. Karkoschka. The Observer's Sky Atlas (2nd ed.). (London UK: Springer-Verlag, 1999.)

... A handy and interesting volume, although actually a field guide with finder charts rather than an atlas, and not really successful in the way information is presented as little icons within tables.

Axel Mellinger & Ronald Stoyan. The Cambridge Photographic Star Atlas. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.)

James Mullaney & Wil Tirion. The Cambridge Double Star Atlas. (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.)

... My favorite large format field atlas: perhaps the best of Tirion's many efforts, clearly printed in a generous format (3° to the inch), easily legible under dim red light, spiral bound and reasonably dew resistant.

Arthur P. Norton & J. Gall Inglis. Norton's Star Atlas (14th ed.). (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 1959.)
Arthur P. Norton & J. Gall Inglis. Norton's Star Atlas (15th ed.). (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 1963.)

... These were the principal star atlases of my youth. Continuously in print since 1910 and revised every 5 years on average, this is perhaps the single most successful and reliable astronomical resource ever created.

Ian Ridpath (ed.). Norton's Star Atlas (19th ed.). (Essex UK: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.)
Ian Ridpath (ed.). Norton's Star Atlas (20th ed.). (New York NY: Penguin Group, 2003.)

... Ridpath has done an overall excellent job of reorganizing and updating the handbook contents, and the newly computer formatted star charts manage to retain the hand drawn design esthetic of the originals while adding database precision and accuracy. Essential and user friendly resource.

Antonín Rükl (& Gary Seronik, ed.). Atlas of the Moon (Revised and updated edition). (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corp, 2004.)

... The single best atlas of the near side of the moon — for topography, nomenclature, coordinate positions and visual aspect — beautifully captured in Rukl's Photoshop rendered charts. Periodically out of print, but irreplaceable once you own it.

Antonín Rükl. Sky & Telescope's Field Map of the Moon. (Cambridge MA: Sky&Telescope Media, 2008.)

... My preferred field guide to the moon: plastic laminated moon chart on one side with gazetteer and technical information on the other; very easy to fold up so that only one quadrant of interest is visible.

Motomaro Shirao & Charles A. Wood. The Kaguya Lunar Atlas: The Moon in High Resolution. (New York NY: Springer, 2011.)

... Not really an atlas, but rather a gallery of 100 famous, familiar or unique lunar features, displayed in the same angles of view and illumination, each portrait pieced together from high definition video images from the Japanese Kaguya lunar orbiter. The images are crisp and detailed, the accompanying text informative and enlightening, and the geological examples are intelligently selected. An exemplary book of its kind.

Roger W. Sinnott & Michael A.C. Perryman. Millennium Star Atlas, I: 0-8 Hours. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 1997.)
Roger W. Sinnott & Michael A.C. Perryman. Millennium Star Atlas, II: 8-16 Hours. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 1997.)
Roger W. Sinnott & Michael A.C. Perryman. Millennium Star Atlas, III: 16-24 Hours. (Cambridge MA: Sky Publishing Corporation, 1997.)

... The ultimate star atlas, at least to my taste. Desktop rather than field reference (the volumes are quite heavy), superbly printed on thick matte paper in a capacious format (0.67° to the inch), with stars down to v.mag. 11.0 from the Hipparcos/Tycho databases, binary orientation and large proper motions symbolized and near parallax distances notated; and with all major catalogs of deep sky objects. For several years out of print, it has recently been rereleased in paperback binding. An essential reference.

Roger W. Sinnott. Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas. (Cambridge MA: Sky&Telescope Media LLC, 2010.)

... My favorite small format field atlas: stars down to v.mag. 7.6 in reasonably scaled (~5.3° to the inch) and very serviceable charts; the organization into widely overlapping gores makes star hopping across charts very easy, and all the major catalogs are conveniently printed as a comprehensive index of deep sky objects and named stars.

Wil Tirion. The Cambridge Star Atlas (3rd ed.). (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.)

... It's a pity that this robustly bound, beautifully printed and elegantly organized beginner's atlas (stars to v.mag. 6.5 with many deep sky objects) is spoiled by star charts that are too cramped (8° to the inch) and by tables of interesting objects in an illegibly tiny font. Why?

Wil Tirion, Barry Rappaport & Will Remaklus. Uranometria 2000.0, Volume 1: Deep Sky Atlas - The Northern Hemisphere to -6°. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1987.)
Wil Tirion, Barry Rappaport & Will Remaklus. Uranometria 2000.0, Volume 2: Deep Sky Atlas - The Southern Hemisphere to +6°. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1987.)
Murray Craigin & Emil Bonanno. Uranometria 2000.0, Volume 3: Deep Sky Field Guide. (Richmond VA: Willmann-Bell, 1987.)

... I have never liked Uranometria: the star charts are clear enough (~1.4° to the inch), the deep sky coverage and labeling is comprehensive enough, and the coordinate grid is closely ruled enough to make any object easy to find; the volumes are robustly bound and well printed. But the overall visual effect is peculiarly lifeless and actuarial.

Wil Tirion & Roger Sinnott. Sky Atlas 2000.0 (2nd ed., Deluxe Version). (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.)

... This properly should be titled "Antonin Becvar's Atlas of the Heavens, recreated for Epoch 2000.0 using computer data formatted by Wil Tirion, who copies all of Becvar's cartographic symbols, fonts and conventions without credit." A handsome, generously formatted (3° to the inch) and serviceable atlas, if perhaps too big for use in the field.

H.A.G. Lewis (ed.). The Times Atlas of the Moon. (London UK: Times Newspapers Limited, 1969.)

... A convenient compendium of all the 1960's USAF Aeronautical Chart and Information Center maps of the moon, in huge scale (10 miles to the inch) and large format (12" x 14"); many charts also have stereoscopically estimated elevation contours, and seasoned lunar observers can amuse themselves identifying the many misplaced or baldly fictitious topographical details. Now out of print.

Harold B. Webb. Webbs Atlas of the Stars (2nd ed.). (Lynbrook NY: H.B. Webb, 1945.)

... Capaciously formatted (2.5° to the inch) and robustly bound, but with star icons binned in sizes so similar that magnitude differences are difficult to read; lacking constellation boundaries and deep sky objects, Webbs is primarily geared to the needs of the variable star observer to make local and visual star magnitude comparisons. Based on the hand drawn Beyer-Graff charts published in 1928.


AstroPlanner V1.6.1 from ilanga software. For Windows and Mac OS.

Digital Universe from Hayden Planetarium, Division of Physical Sciences. For Windows, Mac OS, Linux and IRIX.

SkyVoyager 4.5 from Carina Software. For Mac iPhone.

Stellarium. Free open source software, plus data additions. For Windows, Mac OS and Linux ... My favorite desktop planetarium software — intuitive, data dense, sleekly designed and splendid to look at.

Virtual Moon Atlas. Free software for Moon observation or survey (for Windows/Vista, Mac OS and Linux) ... Still rather buggy, but continuously improving. Merci, Patrick!

Voyager 4.5 from Carina Software. For Mac OS ... What you say? Take Bill Gates's House o' Pain under the stars? Nej tak!


Last revised 11/26/13 • ©2013 Bruce MacEvoy


"Signor Sarsi, la cosa non istà così. La filosofia è scritta in questo grandissimo libro che continuamente ci sta aperto innanzi agli occhi (io dico l'universo), ma non si può intendere, se prima non s'impara a intender la lingua, e conoscer i caratteri nei quali è scritto. Egli è scritto in lingua matematica, e i caratteri son triangoli, cerchi ed altre figure geometriche, senza i quali mezzi è impossibile intenderne umanamente parola; senza questi è un aggirarsi vanamente per un oscuro laberinto."