Review by Bill Travis
I first saw this atlas at the Sterling Star Party. David Dunn had it in his collection, along with Sky Atlas 2000.0 and the old Skalnate-Pleso Atlas of the Heavens (which was fun to look at and brought back memories of the 1960s when it was the best an amateur could get). Needing to purchase an atlas, I tested all three on a group of obscure galaxies that Bill Possel showed me one night at Pawnee, and the Herald-Bobroff was the only one of the three atlases that had them all.
This is an unusual star atlas for several reasons. It is Australian, and went out of print in 2002. Then Robert Haler, owner of Lymax, an astronomy store near Kansas City, decided to buy the rights to reprint it. Lymax was apparently forced to trim the sheet size to suit U.S. printing presses, which reduced the size (and scale) of the maps slightly. Also, in comparing my new copy with David Dunn’s original at Fox Park in July, I noticed that the print was less distinct, that is, the ink saturation was lower and some of the lines and symbols less readable, especially under dim red light. The atlas comes ring bound, and only in black objects on white paper. It is thick: 214 charts, arrayed in six series at increasing scales (that is, covering a smaller and smaller part of the sky, in increasing detail and limiting magnitude).
If you want to find pretty much everything there is to see (without benefit of the HST that is) in, say, Puppis, you start with the all-sky chart A-02, which points you to chart B-12 (or to BS-12, which is the same map with south at the top for southern observers — the atlas is Australian, after all; there is also a BM-12 which is the same as B-12 except that all star magnitudes are plotted); then you are referred to the C-series chart that suits you (several of which touch on Puppis). So you try C-69, which adds stars to 10 or 11.5 mag (depending on the chart) and gets really busy. Finally you’re at D-22, with the same stars but larger scale, so it is less crowded (the last two offering more deep sky objects than you could have imagined). Four parts of the sky (the Virgo galaxy cloud, the Magellanic Clouds, and Carina) have an even more detailed E Chart (Virgo goes to 13 mag stars and 15 mag objects).
In addition to variable-scale maps, the other unusual aspect of the HB Atlas is its symbology for deep sky objects. An amazing amount of information about each object is encoded in the symbol. Galaxy symbols (the well known ellipse) are angled, notched, dotted and spiked to tell you PA, inclination, morphology, and size. The simple square for bright nebula is notched or spiked in no less than 37 ways, to tell you everything from brightness to color, to shape, to source of its light (emission, reflection, or both). These examples only scratch the surface of this celestial cartography run amok, and even the authors recognize that they have so left Norton’s in the dust that some users may be overwhelmed. Though, as they suggest, I’ve found that even without deciphering all their deep sky Morse code, the atlas can still be used effectively. It served me well for navigating areas rich in galaxies, though I haven’t memorized all the symbols, and didn’t wish to further loose night vision by staring at the legend (a full-size, laminated, loose version of the legend is included).
One weakness is that the atlas does not outline nebula even on the more detailed charts; the squares or diamonds just get bigger. And navigating the H-B atlas can be as difficult as navigating the actual sky. Trying to balance the atlas on my lap, perched on a stool at my 9.25 SCT, resulted in it impaled on a few cacti at Pawnee. It weighs in at 3.4 pounds. In fact, though some of you may think it unconscionable to perform surgery on a book, I believe that a strong dose of exigesis is in order. Though the binding does not encourage it, I plan to cut out the entire BS (southern perspective) and maybe BM (magnitude-listing) series to lighten the load.
My copy arrived with a small blemish on one of the plastic pages and the back cover not properly attached to the ring, but otherwise I’m happy with the atlas. Still, the slightly reduced chart size, scale, and print quality might recommend searching for a used copy of the original.
The Herald-Bobroff Astroatlas
by D. Herald and P. Bobroff
Canberra, Australia (1994)
Now licensed to Lymax’s Earth, Sky and Astronomy Inc.
Independence, MO (2003)
$79.95 plus $5.00 shipping;