As I have stated many times, I like looking over printed charts of the sky and maps of the worlds of our Solar System. However, not all maps can be used at the telescope. Moisture from dew, which can damage a chart, a windy night, or just plain cold weather can make their use cumbersome at the telescope. Laminated charts are great at keep dew from destroying charts.
Some of you may recall my slide show program review of three downloadable PDF charts. There a number of free star atlas available online for download. Printing selected PDF charts or from software such as Guide or AstroPlanner has some advantages. The paper charts fits easily on a clipboard; one can mark it up with notes, and if dewdrops do fall and make a mess of the chart one can simple print another. I prefer to use a tape or digital recorder for making notes at the eyepiece. Another handy item I use in the field are the 3 x 5 inch AstroCards. They can be stored in a small index card box, or as I have done with my sets, insert them into a 4 x 6 inch photo books.
If you enjoy browsing through a hardcopy atlas, then there are many to choose from. The Sky Atlas 2000 is a very popular and oversized set of charts. It also comes in a laminated version for use at the scope. When I am in need of a closer view of an object of interest then I use Uranometria or one of my software charting programs.
Most of the time a printout from software works fine for my purpose at the eyepiece in the field when used with my Sky Atlas 2000. On occasion I do use one of the 571 Type C Tri Atlas PDF charts instead of a software-generated charts. These are 8.5 x 11 portrait orientated charts of the sky that can be downloaded for free from www.uv.es/jrtorres/triatlas.html website. Check out the other Type A and Type B charts also available at no cost.
A new Atlas in print has just come to market. The Great Atlas of the Sky by Piotr Brych is larger and more detailed than The Sky Atlas 2000. There are 296 pages; each is 24 x 17 inches in size. It’s big. To see how big this atlas is see
www.astro-forum.org/Forum/index.php?showtopic=30784. This is not something to carry around in the field. So that is why each one of the pages can be removed from the Atlas and placed in a protective sleeve. In a price range of some planetarium software packages this atlas is billed as “the world’s largest printed atlas of the entire sky, available on the market”. Less than the price of the no longer available DeskTop Universe software. If this sound like a must have for your library then direct your web browser at www.greatskyatlas.com.
To identify lunar features I use my copy of Rulk’s Atlas of the Moon. The book is not laminated so I prefer not to use it in the field on nights of high humidity. The book is out of print at this time, new observers do have other sources to use when observing the Moon. One that I have just become aware of is the Lunar Field Atlas CI. A large and free PDF file, on the same layout order as Rukl’s Atlas of the Moon, the Lunar Field Atlas CI is by Frederick C. Dase. Lunar Field Atlas covers the lunar surface with 38 separate charts, each from the digitized photographs of the Consolidated Lunar Atlas. Get yourself a copy from the website www.astronomylogs.com/index.html.
The website on the moon by Charles Wood, lpod.wikispaces.com, is a rich source of detail information on many of the well known and lesser known lunar terrain.
These are some of the many fine charts and atlas available now.
John D Sabia