Annals of the Deep Sky - Review of Volume 1 (Part 1 of 2)

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by , 04-25-2016 at 05:24 AM (928 Views)
Annals of the Deep Sky: A Survey of Galactic and Extragalactic Objects
Authors: Jeff Kanipe and Dennis Webb, who previously collaborated on “The Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, A Chronicle and Observer’s Guide” (Willmman-Bell, 2006)
Publisher: Willmann-Bell, Inc. in 2015
Volume 1 – Andromeda, Antlia, Apus, Aquarius

The first thing we notice with any book are of course the covers. The front cover of Volume 1 is adorned with a beautiful image of Messier 31 taken in ultraviolet light by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (or GALEX). The back cover has a pair of “About” sections, one pertaining to the book’s contents, while the other describes the authors, along with a photo of the pair. What I find interesting is the book’s spine. This is because each volume will be slightly different. Each issue will feature a different strip of sky giving a view of the Milky Way as seen from the site of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. When the series is complete, and all books are sitting side-by-side on the shelf, you will have a complete 360° panoramic view of the sky as seen from the aforementioned location.

This is the first book in a series that will survey the entire sky by constellation in alphabetical order. As the introductory volume, it has a fair amount of lead-in information before it delves into a closer look at the four constellations covered in this volume, namely Andromeda, Antlia, Apus and Aquarius. The section on Andromeda does not begin until page 123, and everything prior to that point is of the introductory or educational nature presented to the reader in preparation for the narrative presentations for the constellations to follow. As one can surmise, this is a work in progress, and to this point in time only the first three volumes have been published.

Opening Volume 1 the reader is first greeted by a Table of Contents quickly followed by the Forward written by noted observer Richard Berry. This is followed on by a brief introduction of the authors, with a detailed acknowledgement section coming next, where they cite the numerous individuals and resources that were invaluable to their herculean effort of putting this series together. Next is a detailed explanation of how the books will be organized within each constellational section.
Starting at page 7 and running through page 30, is “An Introduction to Basic Astronomy”. Here the authors discuss the following topics: “The Celestial Sphere”, “Directions in the Sky”, “Right Ascension and Declination”, “Angular Measurement”, “Precession”, “The Stellar Visual Magnitude System”, “Absolute Magnitude” and “Distances”. This is to give the new observer or even non-observers a basic understanding of astronomy.

We then come to the section on “Descriptive Astrophysics”, which begins at page 31 and ends on page 121. The authors give a basic education on the current (as of 2015) state of astrophysics. They cover the following topics: “Astrophysical Milestones”, “Stars” (with multiple sub-sections), “Double-Star Systems” and “Deep-Sky Objects: Classification Schemes and Astrophysical Essentials” with multiple sub-sections pertaining to specific types of DSOs. Granted, those of us more deeply immersed in astrophysics side of the house may not need to read this section. However, for those that have typically had little interest and/or only passive knowledge of the subject matter, reading this section should be quite beneficial. Since the authors do delve into some of the astrophysical aspects of the stars and objects within each constellation section, I feel it would behoove the observer to read this section to gain more solid footing in the subject matter. In subsequent volumes, after the acknowledgements section, the authors delve directly into the constellational narratives, having dispensed with the necessary in-brief given the reader in the first volume.

After the reader has either completed all the lead-in sections, or quickly skipped forward, you will arrive at the first of the constellation centric chapters (Andromeda in this volume). Here the authors focus their discussions on the prominent stars and objects within the constellation. Starting on page 122 in Volume 1 you will find an excerpt (page 447) from the book Popular Astronomy (1878) by astronomer Simon Newcomb describing the “Andromeda Nebula” (M31), and his speculation about its nature. That is one of the things I really like about this book (which will carry on throughout the series), that the authors bring into the fold historical perspectives about the stars and objects that it highlights. I think it is invaluable to us as observers to have an understanding of where we’ve been in our collective knowledge, where we are today, and the ability to speculate on where we may be in the future. Opposite of this little historical treat, we find page 123, the start of the Andromeda section which continues through page 214. Obviously the coverage of some constellations will be more extensive, while some will have lighter coverage since they don’t contain much in the way of prominent stars or DSOs. For example, Antlia is covered in pages 215-232, Apus in pages 233-258, with the Aquarius section being a bit larger (pages 259-314).

Each constellation narrative provides the reader with an information box listing what it specifically depicts, its abbreviation and genitive case, pronounciation(s), midnight culmination date, size on the sky in square degrees, bright stars and non-stellar objects (if any), popular asterisms (if any) and other notes of interest. The constellation articles also contain a number of charts, tables and illustrations to help the reader along as the authors go into more depth about each star and object they highlight. One neat little map they include depicts at what latitude range the specific constellation can be viewed from wholly, partially or not at all. In some cases they provide side-bar articles of a historical context to further inform the reader. For example, in the Andromeda section they discuss the double star Groombridge 34, and in that sub-section they have a side-bar about Stephen Groombridge and his star catalog. Another very interesting article is about Williamina Flemming, who was not only a pioneer in stellar classification, but also discovered the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, having spotted it on a Harvard plate in 1888. Additionally, she played a key role in the discovery of white dwarf stars. The book’s coverage of M31 alone consists of 19 pages of text, tables and graphics, plus nine additional pages pertaining to M31’s satellite galaxies. Not only that, there are another four pages talking about M31’s largest and brightest globular cluster, Mayall II (G1).

(Concluded in Part 2)
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