Books, Charts and Software/Apps
SIGMA President Bill Leslie has provided this guide to useful astrononmy books, charts and software. His opinions are for the book editions and software versions he had at time of writing - ISBNs and software links are correct for latest versions as at November 2016. Amazon have Kindle versions of some of these books.
This is not a definitive list, it just shows some of the books and software which I have found useful as I tried to find out more about astronomy.
No prices have been shown for the items below as most of these books can be purchased from a variety of sources. Everyone knows about Amazon and E-Bay but another good source of books is Tesco Direct, search in Science and Nature/Astronomy.
Turn Left at Orion
Guy Consolmagna and Dan Davis
This is one of the first books recommended when a beginner asks on an astronomy newsgroup. It contains hints and tips on how to use a telescope and clear instructions on how to find about 100 night-sky objects. You can request this book from Moray Council Libraries.
Cambridge University Press
Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars
Sir Patrick Moore
Many objects visible in binoculars are listed by constellation in this book. Strange as it may seem, it gives excellent guidance for finding objects for the first time with a small telescope. If you can see an object in binoculars, you should get a much better view through a telescope and with this book you can find the object through your binoculars first. Some telescope retailers give this book away free when you buy a pair of binoculars.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Philip’s Astronomy Dictionary: An Illustrated A-Z Guide to the Universe
John Woodruff, Neil Bone, Storm Dunlop
This is a very handy book for finding the difference between your aphelions and your periastrons. It is also handy for finding out how to spell the names of astronomical objects, essential if you plan to stand in front of 30 critical SIGMA members.
Stars (Collins Gem)
At tiny little book which fits easily into the pocket. It contains star charts for all the constellations with information on many interesting objects. More than just charts, so I put it in this section.
Celestial Sampler: 60 Small-Scope Tours for Starlit Nights (Stargazing)
Sue French is a regular contributor to the US magazine, Sky and Telescope. This book is a compilation of 60 articles called “Small Scope Samplers” which she wrote for the magazine. Each article gives an in-depth guide to a small part of the sky, describing objects which can be seen with a 4” telescope. I haven’t seen this book, but I have filed all of the “samplers” from the magazine and find them invaluable for use at the telescope.
Sky Publishing Corporation
Guide to the Constellations
Neil Bone & Mark McLellan & Nik Szymanek
This Astronomy Now publication has a chapter for each constellation visible from the UK. Each chapter includes a detailed description and map of each constellation, with a list of the most interesting objects.
Pole Star Publications
Philip’s Moon Observer’s Guide
This book covers everything on the Moon from the equipment you need, to lunar geology, to occultations and making drawings of the Moon. The main part of the book is a detailed description of what can be seen on each day of the Lunar cycle, 62 pages to cover 28 days!
Solar System Observer Pack (Astronomy)
Philip’s Astronomy Encyclopedia
Sir Patrick Moore
Philip’s (25 Jun. 2002)
Binocular Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users (Sky & Telescope Stargazing)
Stars (Collins Gem)
Don't forget this tiny little book which fits easily into the pocket. It contains star charts for all the constellations with information on many interesting objects. There are many small star chart books like this but some contain far more information than you need when you are out using a telescope. Its size makes this one a winner.
The Observer's Sky Atlas: With 50 Star Charts Covering the Entire Sky
Another really useful little book, this one has charts covering the whole sky with almost 100 smaller charts showing the view through a finder scope for all 110 Messier objects and another 140 deep sky objects not in the Messier catalogue. On the page opposite each chart, the author has listed information on each deep sky object and shows the instruments and observing conditions needed to see each on. It also lists information on hundreds of variable and double stars.
The Cambridge Star Atlas
The main part of this book consists of 20 charts of the whole sky showing stars to magnitude 6.5 and hundreds of deep sky objects. There are several other similar books of charts, including The Bright Star Atlas by Tirion and Skiff and Norton's Star Atlas edited by Ridpath.
Cambridge University Press
Collins Atlas of the Night Sky
This is a fairly new book with 20 charts similar to those mentioned above. In addition, it has a larger scale chart for each constellation, showing stars to magnitude 8.5 with detailed descriptions of interesting double stars, variable stars and deep sky objects. The star charts are by Wil Tirion, but the most striking part of this book is in the incredibly detailed charts of the Moon which were drawn by Antonin Rukl, the leading lunar cartographer of the day.
Star charts for the expert deep sky enthusiast
If you are a deep sky expert, you will know about these, I have only seen pictures of them in catalogues. You may need a bank loan to buy some of them:
Millennium Star Atlas
Sinnott and Perryman
Sky Atlas 2000
Tirion and Sinnott
Uranometria 2000 Deep Sky Atlas and Field Guide
Tirion, Rappaport and Remaklus
The Night Sky Observer's Guide
Kepple and Sanner
A huge variety of astronomy software is available to buy and also as freeware and shareware on the internet. Make sure that you are downloading the correct version for your computer's operating system.
Before downloading any software from the internet, please be sure that you know what you are doing and that your computer is properly protected from any attacks. SIGMA cannot be held responsible for any damage done to your computer while downloading or using any of the following software. I have had more computer crashes while running astronomy software than any other kind so it is best to close all other applications when running these.
The following two websites give lists of astronomy software available to download or buy:
Cartes du Ciel
Operating System: Windows, Mac OS X, Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mageia
One of the best programs, we used it at Going Nova to show people where our target objects were and it worked very well. It has direct internet links to huge databases of astronomical images which can be accessed with a couple of clicks. The basic version is pretty comprehensive and the Help section does what it says. You can print out your own sky charts showing any patch of the sky you want to with as much detail in the stars as you need. There are many add-ons which make it very powerful but it functions very well without these.
Operating System: Linux/Unix; Windows 7 and above; OS X 10.8.5 and above
This will be familiar to you as it is used at SIGMA to show the sky during meetings. It is not as detailed as Cartes du Ciel but is more picturesque. It has few deep sky objects beyond the Messier list and you need to learn the keyboard shortcuts as it is not menu-driven.
Operating System: Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X
A "tour of the universe" type of program, allowing you to fly around in space. Severely addictive I believe, haven't used it myself.
In the commercial sector, there are some extremely expensive programs but three stand out in the reasonably priced range. These three were demonstrated at a SIGMA meeting a few years ago.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 98, ME, NT4, 2000, XP, Vista, or Windows 7
Aa very extensive program which experienced astronomers use to produce charts (so I have been told). It is frequently updated to a newer version and the superseded version is often available as a free download but without the printing or saving option. This is a diagrammatic, non-pictorial program.
Operating System: WinXP (SP 2)/Vista/Win 7/Win 8/Win 10, iOS, Android
I have used Redshift 5 - a very popular program and fairly reasonably priced. It has a vast deep sky library and can print off charts. It also has an extensive set of tutorial movies. It is not the easiest program to get working the way you want it.
Operating System: Windows 7 or higher, Macintosh OS X 10.7 or higher
Comes in many different versions to suit many pockets. It is printable, diagrammatic as well as showing illustrations and easy to configure with the number and brightness of stars and labels you want on the screen. Its greatest feature is that its publishers very generously make it available free on magazine covers when they upgrade to a new version. The simplest and easiest to run version, Starry Night Backyard has appeared free on the covers of Sky at Night magazine as well as some computer magazines. In the SIGMA review a couple of years ago, this program won hands down over the other two.
There a numerous apps available, some free, some paid - please visit your devices app store.
If you have anything you would like added, please contact me, Bill Leslie.