Laminated Field version
Wil Tirion & Roger W. Sinnott
Published by Sky Publishing Corp. and Cambridge University Press - ISBN 0-933346-92-1
Shortly after I bought my ETX, it was apparent that I needed a good atlas of the sky. My planisphere (the circular star chart with a sliding "window" showing what stars are visible at any date and time) and the monthy charts in Astronomy and Sky & Telescope weren't cutting it. They're helpful in finding general locations of planets, Messier objects and other bright objects, but looking through the eyepiece of an ETX reveals many, many more stars than are on the above-mentioned charts.
This became a real problem for me as I started to try and find certain Messier objects. I knew roughly where they were, but some of them could be so dim that I'd pass right over them while searching, and never even realize it.
Most amateur astronomers use a technique called "starhopping" to make their way from an object that's easy to find in the sky to one that isn't. I'd purchased the book Star-hopping to help learn more about this, but found the book rather difficult to use. What I needed was a chart of the region I was in that would show all of the stars that I saw in the ETX's eyepiece so I could match what was in the sky with what I saw in the lens.
A trip to the local Borders bookstore was not much help. They had a copy of Norton's Star Atlas, which contains a lot of information, but not very detailed charts. I'd heard that the Cambridge Star Atlas was very good, but I was unable to find a copy of it. When I did, I found it, too, to be less detailed than what I was looking for.
Sky Atlas 2000.0 proved to be exactly what I was looking for. It displays stars down to 8.5 in magnitude, and thousands of deep-sky objects. I bought the laminated field version, which breaks the sky down into 26 separate maps measuring 18-1/2" x 13-1/2", and displays the stars as white dots on a black background. There are also desk and deluxe versions. The desk version shows the stars as black on a white background, while the deluxe version is printed in color, with the stars as black and deep-sky objects color-coded by type, making identification easy. The charts in the deluxe version come in a 12"x16-3/4" boox, and unfold to 21"x16". Both the field and desk versions come either as separate boxed sheets of paper or as spiral-bound laminated pages.
It can get pretty damp here in Rhode Island, so I got the laminated field version. When it arrived, I couldn't wait for the evening to get out and try to find some of the objects I'd been reading about. First on the list was M65/M66 in Leo. This had eluded me in the past, but with the aid of Sky Atlas 2000.0, I easily hopped right to them. A little patience and averted vision, and there they were! I didn't stay long; I excitedly tried to find M104 (the Sombrero galaxy). I found that it should be the third point of a slightly squashed isosceles triangle with the bright stars Spica and Porrima at the other points. It was another easy find! I spent the rest of the night finding object after object with the help of this book.
The book has a number of very well thought-out features. There are 7 extra maps that cover certain areas of the sky in more detail than the regular charts, including the Pleiades, the celestial poles, the Virgo galaxy cluster and the central part of Orion. There's also an overlay sheet included that gives grids and scales to help plot objects, and Telrad circles at scale to help aim your scope.
I recommend this highly!