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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 11 September 2012
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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on 3 February 1999
If one book could cover most topics in general astronomy authoritatively, its Norton. From recommendations on reporting celestial phenomena to specifying telescope characteristics, it seems the author grouped everything that could be of interest to earthbound amateur observers. Very terse in descriptions, Norton's is geared to advanced astronomers who require a reference or a refresher. For example, its star maps are not as clear as a Wil Tirion presentation, but it does not suffer from lack of completeness. For astute beginners, the book is very well indexed and organized, so an unfamiliar concept referred in one section is detailed elsewhere. Readers are rewarded with a book densely packed with information in under two hundred pages.
I was impressed by the care made in the production of the paperbound handbook. Not immediately obvious is that the large page format allow charts and maps to present detail clearly. Tyvec-like bindings allow pages to open flat without distortion. I did not find any typographical errors. The maps, are not ideal for field astronomy use.
Norton's is not light reading, but is encyclopedic in breath and style. For the 20th Edition, its editors should strive for readability, and garner a 5/5 rating.
Marv Gozum, MD
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on 18 January 2013
Excellent - well described basis for celestial times and co-ordinates helps to make sense of Right Ascension, declination, sidereal times and the like. Most of the book is reference material and there is little else to touch it - that it has survived to its 20th edition speaks loudly of its value. Unlike many text books these days it is not expensive in my opinion
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on 9 December 2014
No where near as detailed start maps as I was expecting, I had an earlier copy back in the 70's and remember it being better, not money well spent in my opionon for me but would be very good for a beginner
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on 27 May 1999
Although I've only had the book two nights, it's making its way into my list of indispensable resources. I already have a better star atlas (actually two), and Burnham's, but this book plays a different role. This volume allows you to conveniently carry useful and well-designed summaries of the particularly relevant information from those volumes, plus a decent quadrant moon map for when the big brighty is swallowing up the faint fuzzies. All in one book. I'm not going to use the charts in Norton's for nailing down the Virgo galaxies, but you can still find (and learn about) tons of deep sky and stellar objects using these maps alone, and I can still whip out Star Atlas 2000 or Millennium for really tough stuff. But I'm not taking either of those camping or on a plane: they're too big and they don't have near the volume of descriptive information included in this book. If you like an occasional quick trip to a dark site, if you want a useful guide for a walk from your hotel room or a gaze out an airplane window when you travel, or you want to know something about what you're looking at without plowing through Burnham's, and you hate carrying a library, this is the work for you. That said, can the publisher/distributors please cut the price in half so more people will buy it?
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on 17 September 2011
This is a 'must-have' for anyone with an interest in astronomy. It is by far the best that I have found and includes essential information for caring for and setting up your telescope.
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on 27 May 2014
Similar quality but of course more information in this 20th edition (195 pages) compared to my old 16th edition (153 pages) of 1973 -shame I can't live for another 40 years before I'll need to buy my next Norton's!!!
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on 2 May 1999
When I got into amateur astronomy 15 years ago, one of my first purchases, heaven help me, was an older edition of Norton's Star Atlas. As a beginner, I found the maps perplexing, hard to read; it was nearly impossible to orient myself in the sky by squinting at them and they were useless at the telescope. Fifteen years later nothing has changed; the reference section is useful if boring and the maps, though brought up to date, are still useless and hard to read. And why the heck the big price tag? -- the book is less than two hundred pages in length and not impressively printed.
Any beginner would be much better served by spending either a lot less or a little more: less, by purchasing the Golden Field Guide SKYGUIDE at less than 20 bucks (which has it's own problems: it will eventually fall apart -- inexcusable for a "field guide" but the book is still worth every penny); more by going for Will Tirion's SKY ATLAS 2000 Atlas at $50.00, a work of art and a joy to look at, coupled with the SKYGUIDE, and later Burnham's Celestial Handbook, a labor of love.
But not Norton's!
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on 5 April 2010
One of the best reference astronomical books around. Having used this book for the past 40 years its still one of the most useful around.
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on 11 April 2012
This is the de facto standard in star atlases,and it dosent disapoint ,my only minor caviat , once you have a reasonable set up,you may be looking for guide stars with lower mag than 8.5 for possible guide scope candidates, (idea for the publishers , for areas of interest give us small area maps keyed to the the area of interest {nebula ,clusters etc}heald in an index!}).. top product ,recomended
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