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Customer Review

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Norton's Star Atlas and Reference Handbook, 11 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Norton's Star Atlas (Hardcover)
Its more than 45 years since I bought my first copy of Norton's. Since then three editions I own have fallen to bits with constant use. Then, about 15yrs ago, I swapped to Will Tirion's Cambridge Star Atlas 2000 and Norton's took a back seat.
A recent opportunity to re-look at Norton's lead me to the 20th edition. It's good, very good as a reference handbook that will initially be beyond the needs of most users, hence perhaps the more critical reviews on Amazon by those who still need to learn their astronomy. Norton's has always included technical terms, definitions and sometimes obscure facts that are mostly never needed but are extremely useful nevertheless for a rounded out appreciation of our earth in space and the night sky in general.
Ian Ridpath has done a fine job of bringing the reference handbook up to date. But that's where I stop any praise. The publishers, and I dont blame Ian for this, have asked far more than is necessary from Norton's and it risks losing its appeal as a simple star atlas. Much of the new stuff, astrophotography for instance, should not have been included. Astro-imaging is evolving faster than Norton's ever did and has absolutely no place in this venerable publication. There are other bloated sections that need not be there; who needs yet another comparison of telescope types. Norton's is about the night sky, not the equipment with which to view it.
The 17 star charts are still, without any exception (including Tirion and most of the available planetarium software), the best in the business with which to illustrate the celestial sphere AT THE TELESCOPE. But the new heavyweight format of the book severely limits its use as a star atlas as Arthur Norton originally intended nearly a century ago...the needs of the beginner astronomer have not and never will change...Norton's fulfilled an essential need to find ones's way around the sky but the 20th edition compromise its original unique value. I definatley wont to lug it outside with torch and binoculars, for which Norton's was intended.
Norton's Star Atlas has been done a grave disservice by the publishers in going against its intended use by the amateur. Norton's was always THE star atlas, the reference handbook was always of secondary importance. Now, the 20th Edition is yet another astronomical book on the book store shelves with not much above the rest to merit its purchase...which probably accounts for its severely reduced price compared with earlier editions available on Amazon.
It's a real shame that such a venerable British star atlas should be devalued in the way that it has by Penguin Group (US) Inc, to capture an international readership.

Kevin J Kilburn FRAS
Manchester Astronomical Society
Society for the History of Astronomy
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Initial post: 27 Jan 2013 21:56:44 GMT
As another long-time user of Norton's, I entirely agree with this review, which is right on the button. Ian Ridpath has brilliantly edited the volume, but in its new, over-luxurious format it has lost practicality. Kevin Kilburn is absolutely right in what he says about the redundant telescope comparisons, the sections on astro-imaging and similar topics and the overweight format. The thick, semi-glossy paper on which it's printed makes it a desk book rather than a practical atlas. I never take my copy of this edition outside, for fear of ruining it, whereas in the past I had no such qualms. Like Kevin Kilburn, I should like to have seen a slimmer handbook section, and I should have liked to see that part of the volume printed on thinner, utility paper, so that the money thereby saved could have been spent on the charts and their binding, so that they could be opened flat and used in the field. But I still want to pay tribute to the superb job done by editor Ian Ridpath. For reasons that escape me, the publishers have missed the opportunity to bring out a centenary edition. I very much hope that when (if...?) a new edition appears, the task of editing it will once more be entrusted to Ridpath. It is hard to imagine anyone doing a better job. For what it's worth, this comment, which appears under a pen name, is also the work of a FRAS.
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