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The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs

The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs by Jerry D. Cavin
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Every amateur astronomer has at least heard of the many different catalogs of the deep-sky objects. These catalogs are, in general, readily available. Charles Messier's famous catalog is perhaps the most widely known, along with Sir Patrick Moore's later addition to it, the Caldwell Catalogue. Then there is the Herschel Catalogue...and many others.

However, very few amateur astronomers are in a position to choose the best catalog for their particular deep-sky observing program, and fewer still realize how to use them and even how many there are out there!

The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-sky Catalogs is intended for anyone interested in having a single source of all the major easy and hard-to-find astronomical catalogs, including historical ones. This book compares what's in them, explains how to interpret the data they contain, and even outlines how readers can create suitable 'custom' astronomical catalogs for their own use. All other current books on astronomical catalogs focus on descriptions of the objects contained in a single catalog. The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-sky Catalogs not only provides its readers with the knowledge of how to interpret astronomical catalogs and data, it is a convenient single source for many of the popular catalogs.

The introduction looks at astronomical catalogs from a newcomer's point of view. What is all the data in the tables, and how should it be used? This section also explains how the data was collected, the importance of each item of data, and how it is used as a road map to finding your way around the night sky.

The catalog section of the book starts by showing how Hipparchus and Ptolemy represented the two greatest influences on early astronomy, how the 'Almagest' catalog was carried across Europe by the Islamic invaders, and the heavy influence of the Persian astronomers such as Al Sufi and Ulugh Beg. The sections ends with the entire catalog of the 'Almagest.'

Next, the early and middle ages are spanned, with the catalogs and modifications created by well known figures including Johann Bayer, Henry Draper, Charles Messier, John and Caroline Herschel, and J L E Dryer, who began work on the New General Catalog (NGC). Finally, in this part of the book, the author takes a look at modern catalogs, such as the Caldwell and Halton Arp's "Catalog of Peculiar Galaxies." Other important catalogs are discussed, too - those that have been created by organizations and institutions such as the European Space Agency's Hipparchus and Tycho catalogs, the Washington Double Star, and the Yale Bright Star catalog.

The last section of the book provides a set of astronomical catalogs created by the author. They come in three different versions: for the beginning astronomer, for the intermediate, and for the expert observer. These lists will also be based on the type of equipment the amateur astronomer is likely to own: binoculars, small telescopes, or large telescopes. They provide a wonderful starting point for the amateur to customize his or her own catalogs and can form the basis of a major observing program.

Springer New York; October 2011
381 pages; ISBN 9781461406563
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Title: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs
Author: Jerry D. Cavin
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