Pocket Sky Atlas Jumbo Edition - a personal observation (Part 1 of 2)

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by , 04-25-2016 at 05:16 AM (1767 Views)
Now that I’ve returned home and had an opportunity to peruse the new “Jumbo” edition of Sky & Telescope’s venerable Pocket Sky Atlas, I thought I would share a few thoughts on this new addition to the atalaholics library.

I have always liked the PSA for its compactness and ease of use at the telescope, as well as the uncluttered layout. In my view, among printed atlases, the only one superior for the beginner or those using binoculars or a small scope, or observing with medium apertures under severe light pollution would be the Sky Atlas 2000. However, that atlas isn’t exactly compact. But, as one increases aperture and/or observes under less light pollution, the one significant flaw of the PSA becomes very evident - depth of plotting. But then, I would never view the PSA as the be all and end all of anyone’s atlas collection. Rather I view it is a bridge over which to pass as we progress in skill and aperture, much like the Messier objects are used as a learning tool leading one to more challenging DSO observing. But, even us more seasoned observers can find it useful when we want to take a more minimalist approach some evenings. When we choose to leave our larger scope inside and spend an evening with binoculars or our smaller aperture scopes, the PSA is an excellent fit to those fun nights.

So where does this new larger edition fit into the picture? Well, one thing we soon find is that the actual plotting of the “Jumbo” version of the PSA remains exactly the same as the original version, to wit, the 80 main charts contain approximately 30,796 stars to visual magnitude 7.6 including many variables, doubles and carbons, plus 1,500 DSOs. Both versions also contain full object indexes, Messier indexes, Caldwell indexes, and an index of more prominent stars, as well as a constellation index which also includes a list of the Greek alphabet used in stellar designations. The primary layout of the two versions are also the same, using 80 main charts broken into 8 sections of 10 charts each, cutting a swath from the northern polar region to the southern polar region, and encompassing approximately 3 hours of right ascension each. The Chart Key lies in the back in both versions and adequately displays this layout in easy to understand terms. What you ultimately come up with is that all charts ending with the number “1” (1, 11, 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, 71) plot the northern polar regions, while charts ending in “0” (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80) plot the southern polar regions. Charts ending in “2 & 3” (2, 3, 12, 13, 22, 23, 32, 33, 42, 43, 52, 53, 62, 63, 72, 73) plot the mid-northern declinations, with charts ending in “8 & 9” (8,9, 18, 19, 28, 29, 38, 39, 48, 49, 58, 59, 68, 69, 78, 79) plot the mid-southern declinations. And finally the charts ending in 4 & 5 (4, 5, 14, 15, 24, 25, 34, 35, 44, 45, 54, 55, 64, 65, 74, 75) plot the northern equatorial declinations, and charts ending in 6 & 7 (6, 7, 16, 17, 26, 27, 36, 37, 46, 47, 56, 57, 66, 67, 76, 77) plot the southern equatorial declinations.

As one can see there is a great deal of similarity between the two versions, which leads us to their differences. The most prominent of which is of course the sheer physical size of the “Jumbo” atlas. What this does for the observer is to provide larger charts with larger symbols and labeling, and a nice uncluttered feel. Unlike with the original PSA, I find with the “Jumbo” I can read it easier without my reading glasses. That would also translate to being easier to read in the field. The trade-off is that it is larger and perhaps for some not as field friendly, particularly when it comes to handholding at the scope. But, I find when folding the atlas back upon itself, made possible by the binding, it is not significantly heavy and thus not cumbersome to hold in one hand effectively. However, others may disagree. This brings me to another noticeable difference, the cover. Because of the increased size, S&T chose to make this a hardback using a cardboard cover versus the heavy stock paper used in the original version. But the design of the binding allows it to lay flat as well as be folded back upon itself. I think that was a good move on their part. This gives a studier feel to the larger version which keeps the atlas rigid while holding it with a single hand. Had they chosen to use the heavy stock paper cover for the larger version, I feel it would have been a bit “floppy” when held in one hand. I give kudos to S&T for a smart move there.

Another difference that I find noteworthy is the inclusion of additional close-up charts in the back of the atlas, giving a more detailed view of specific notable regions of the sky. In the original version they included the following close-up charts:

A – “Pleiades” in Taurus (stellar depth of mag 12.0)
B – “Orion’s Sword” in the heart of Orion (stellar depth of 11.0)
C – “Virgo Galaxy Cluster”, its central most congested region showing 15 of the 16 Messier galaxies there (it doesn’t plot far enough south to show M61), plus a good number of brighter NGC members of the cluster (stellar depth of 9.0)
D – “Large Magellanic Cloud”, showing some of the objects belonging to this satellite of the Milky Way (stellar depth of 10.0)

The new “Jumbo” edition includes the following additional close-up charts to aid the observer’s forays into some other interesting sections of the sky:

E – “Cone and Rosette” region of Monoceros (stellar depth of 9.0)
F – “Big Dipper Bowl” section of Ursa Major with a small sampling of galaxies in and round the bowl (stellar depth of 9.0)
G – “Lion’s Tail” portion of Leo, showing some of the galaxies in that area, including the Leo Triplet (stellar depth of 10.0)
H – “Sky near Deneb”, with a focus on the North American and Pelican nebulae (stellar depth of 9.0)
I – “Steam from Teapot” of Sagittarius, showing numerous DSOs from the northern part of the teapot asterism up to the southern end of Scutum (stellar depth of 8.0)
J – “Scorpion’s Tail” showing the stellar and DSO rich area around the tail and stinger of Scoprius (stellar depth 8.0)

Another nice little touch that S&T did with the newer edition is that they not only included the constellation index at the front of the atlas, just like the original version, but they also placed a copy of it in the back of the atlas. I like that, as one can turn either to the front or back to get a list of constellations and their charts numbers, as well as the list of Greek letters.

To illustrate the size differences in the two versions, I have included a couple of images below. The first is obviously with both closed showing the covers, while the second is a comparison showing charts 43 and 44 in the region of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and eastward. I think the second one particularly illustrates that the charts will be easier to read.

(Concluded in Part 2)
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Updated 04-28-2016 at 01:04 AM by KT4HX

Book Reviews - a personal observation
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