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Atlas Improvement.

Uranometria 2000.0, Vols. 1 and 2: Deep Sky Atlas Wil Tirion, Barry Rappaport, and Will Remaklus (Willmann-Bell, 2001). 336 pages each. ISBNs 0943396-71-9 and 0-943396-72-7. $49.95 each. *

Uranometria 2000.0, Vol. 3: Deep Sky Field Guide Murray Cragin and Emil Bonanno (Willmann-Bell, 2001). 544 pages. ISBN 0-943396-73-5. $49.95. *

Review by Richard Jakiel

I FONDLY REMEMBER WHEN MY FIRST edition of Uranometria 2000.0 arrived on my doorstep back in 1987. At the time this two-volume atlas was revolutionary in size and concept, far beyond the "standard" star atlases available for the average observer. As groundbreaking as Uranometria was, it nevertheless had some plotting errors and other problems (many were corrected in later printings). Also, its page layout made it a bit awkward to move from chart to chart. Nevertheless, it greatly enhanced my viewing sessions and quickly became a standard observing accessory. By the mid-1990s, however, this atlas was becoming overshadowed by the introduction of sophisticated sky-charting software.

I had a major shock when I opened the first volume of the new edition of Uranometria--this wasn't a simple upgrade and correction of data but rather a full-scale renovation! So much has been altered and added that only the shell remains. Both northern- and southern-hemisphere volumes have the same detailed introduction that describes the stellar and numerous nonstellar databases

--many of which have been dramatically updated and expanded. The database of nonstellar objects (NSOs) is now nearly three times as large--more than 30,000 objects. The galaxy database is by far the largest, with more than 25,000 objects plotted. These are drawn from not only the New General and Index catalogs (NGC and IC) but also more obscure sources such as the Uppsala General Catalogue (UGC), European Southern Observatory (ESO), and Morphological Catalogue of Galaxies (MCG).

Completely new is the inclusion of almost 700 galaxy clusters and more than a dozen "starclouds" akin to M24. The datasets for dark nebulae and globular and open star clusters have also been heavily updated and modified. The old "PK" designation and associated catalog of planetary nebulae has been abandoned in favor of the more modern "P" of the Strasbourg-ESO Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae.

The stellar database consists of 280,035 stars (to magnitude 9.75) from the European Space Agency's Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogues. Although this is a bit smaller than the older edition's total, it represents a dramatic improvement in the accuracy of stars' positions and apparent brightnesses.

The massive Deep Sky Field Guide is the least-changed tome of this set. Although it's even thicker than before, it has essentially the same organization as its 1993 predecessor. All the plotted NSOs on each chart are grouped by type, and each object has its own line of data. The dense, often paragraph-long, nearby-object listings that plagued galaxy-rich regions have been eliminated. Finding a particular NSO--regardless of catalog --is as easy as looking it up in the extensive index.

An updated database is nice, but the real heart of Uranometria is the star atlas itself. I found the general layout of the atlas to be far more user friendly and field oriented than the older version. As in the first edition, each volume leads off with a large-scale general index of charts for the covered hemisphere. But now the index is followed by a more detailed, 6.5-magnitude "Uranometria Star Map" that overviews the atlas's 220 charts. It's a wonderful arrangement, as it eliminates the need to bring a second atlas out to the field. Far too often in the past, I needed my Sky Atlas 2000.0 simply to determine the location of Uranometria's charts in tough, star-poor fields such as Antlia and Camelopardalis.

The star charts are now arranged in a much more sensible manner, logically progressing from east to west. A single map now covers both pages and forms a continuous sheet. The open-sheet format, combined with a smaller chart overlap, now effectively reduces that total number of charts from 472 to 220. The maps themselves have a more natural look due to the finer binning of stellar dots.

As expected with a threefold increase in NSOs, quite a few charts are excessively cluttered. However, the star atlas effectively deals with this apparent problem by including 26 close-up maps of selected regions. These charts are two to three times finer in scale and include stars down to at least magnitude 11.5. Many of the best object-rich areas are featured, including the Virgo Cluster, Abell galaxy clusters (Coma, Hercules, and Perseus, to name a few), dense Milky Way fields (around the North America Nebula, M8, and M20), and the Magellanic Clouds (including a close-up chart of the Tarantula Nebula). The general selection of these charts was very good, though I could think of one region--the area surrounding Eta Carinae --that was overlooked.

The back of each volume includes comprehensive indexes of star names, Messier and "common" named objects, and NGC and IC entries. Although the NGC/IC index proved very useful, my personal favorite is the Common Named objects listing. It does not simply contain "big and bright" targets or those imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope; it's a very good selection of challenging and unusual objects for the telescope enthusiast. Einstein's Cross, Frosty Leo, the Red Rectangle, Kemble's Cascade, and the Fish on the Platter are just a few of the items that have been added to the new edition.

I had several good opportunities to "field test" this atlas under the damp, buggy skies of northern Georgia. I chose a couple of galaxy-rich fields in Virgo and Hercules, as well as some very dense summer Milky Way fields. The charts were easy to read and interpret under dim red lights and they were hardly affected by extremely heavy dew. The close-up charts made navigation a breeze, and the plastic overlays (tucked within volume 2's back cover) helped determine object positions and approximate fields of view of my eyepieces.

In many respects, I found the second edition of the Uranometria 2000.0 an outstanding value, far superior to its then-groundbreaking predecessor. Although greatly enhanced, it does have some limitations, some pesky errors in plotting, and the inclusion of a few nonexistent objects (such as NGC 6526, a "nebula" located between M8 and M20). A few popular targets for more advanced observers are also missing: Sharpless 2-216 (the closest and largest planetary nebula), supernova remnant CTB1, and Gyulbudaghian's Nebula.

Overall, the Field Guide was very well done, but the chart-by-chart tallies do not include the close-up maps. Instead, the data for some of these may be spread over two or three regular charts (for example, the Small Magellanic Cloud), which can be a hassle on cold and windy nights. Many deep-sky observers would also welcome a separate index of Hickson galaxy groups and Arp galaxies. My only other significant disappointment was the elimination of the brief history of star charts from the first edition. I will miss this section, but perhaps it will be resurrected in later versions.

Certainly this atlas isn't perfect, but it does an admirable job of bridging the gap between the typical 6th- to 8th-magnitude star atlas and advanced star-charting software. And unlike a laptop computer, dew and harsh ranges in temperature --let alone power-supply problems --won't affect it. Its user-friendly layout, massive number of NSOs, well-referenced database, and detailed close-up charts will make it a welcome addition to any astronomer's reference and observing library. Its going to be tough to retire my old, bug-ridden, grass-stained first edition, but I will be glad to use this new Uranometria 2000.0 well into the 21st century.

RICHARD JAKIEL often tells his tales of observing in this magazine's Deep-Sky Notebook column.

* Available from Sky Publishing.
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Title Annotation:Uranometria 2000.0, Vols. 1 and 2: Deep Sky Atlas; Uranometria 2000.0, Vol. 3: Deep Sky Field Guide
Author:Jakiel, Richard
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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