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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 07:47 PM

Hi all,

I've been out of visual astronomy for over a decade, busy doing that imaging thing. (My conclusion? Just like for visual, there is no substitute for dark skies.)

When I left visual, the Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner and was being heralded as the guide to get for visual astronomy both for its object descriptions and sketches. Now that the visual bug is biting again, I'm considering picking up this work.

For a non-internet reference, is it still the best compilation of sketches and descriptions of objects? Does it seem dated in any way?

#2 okieav8r

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 08:05 PM

Hi all,

I've been out of visual astronomy for over a decade, busy doing that imaging thing. (My conclusion? Just like for visual, there is no substitute for dark skies.)

When I left visual, the Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner and was being heralded as the guide to get for visual astronomy both for its object descriptions and sketches. Now that the visual bug is biting again, I'm considering picking up this work.

For a non-internet reference, is it still the best compilation of sketches and descriptions of objects? Does it seem dated in any way?


Whether it's the best or not is really kind of subjective. I think that it's the most concise guide of its kind, and I consider it my favorite. Not only is it not dated, but it was updated a few years back, replacing the old photographs with CCD photos, and a third volume, Southern Skies, covering the southern hemisphere, was added. You will get other answers as to what people think is best, but that's my 2-cents worth.

#3 Rick Woods

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 08:49 PM

The NSOG is still the big boy on the block. Of course, there's also Burnham's Celestial Handbook; but it's a completely different animal, and should be in your library regaredless of what your interests are, just because, well, because it's Burnham's.

There's also Luginbuhl and Skiff's "Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects", a single volume that is much the same format as the NSOG, except all the observations are by the authors, who are professionals. The consensus seems to be that it's a more accurate, precise work. The NSOG is a little more oriented toward the amateur. I like them both.

As visual observing guides, these don't get out of date. All that does, is the science, which can change daily anyway. The Webb Society books are also good observing guides, with many sketches by skilled amateurs.

#4 desertstars

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 09:02 PM

Subjective, indeed. I have a small library of such works sitting on the shelf behind me as I write. Each one of them has been exactly the book I needed ("the best") for a particular project over the years. But if I could only keep part of the collection, the two volumes of NSOG I own would be it.

#5 LivingNDixie

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Posted 23 October 2012 - 09:51 PM

I am a pretty big fan of the NSOG. However when doing the Herschel 400 list I used the O'Meara handbook.

NSOG is usually the first book I grab when wanting more information about an object. I also enjoy Deep Sky Wonders by Sue French, but it is more of a indoor use book for me.

#6 Rick Woods

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:20 AM

Tom,
I see your book is in paperback now as well as e-book - congratulations! Now, I'm very likely to get a copy.

Preston,
I've never found the NSOG to be a particularly great source of information on any objects, other than where they are and what they might look like in my scope. Is that what you were referring to?

The "more information" thing is sort of the area where Burnham's pulls out ahead of everyone else, with exhaustive information about lots of stuff. Some a little dated now, but still.
Tom would keep the NSOG; but I'd keep Burnham's over everything else.

#7 rmollise

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 06:47 AM

For a non-internet reference, is it still the best compilation of sketches and descriptions of objects? Does it seem dated in any way?


"Yep" and "nope," respectively... ;)

#8 desertstars

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 10:10 AM

Tom,
I see your book is in paperback now as well as e-book - congratulations! Now, I'm very likely to get a copy.


Thanks. I've tried to make it as widely available as possible. I'd be interested in hearing your reaction to it.



Tom would keep the NSOG; but I'd keep Burnham's over everything else.


It's curious, but I just realized that at some point I've apparently stopped thinking of Burnham's as a nuts'n bolts observing guide. When making my earlier response I had it mentally shelved in another catagory altogether, and so defaulted to NSOG. Seems of late I've gone to Burnham's more for inspiration than information. Not sure when I shaded in that direction. (Not sure I even wanted to go there!)

#9 omahaastro

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 10:45 AM

Yeah wow... I've had my Burnham's for years... and I cherish them (the 'romantic' astronomy as much as anything, Admiral Smyth observations, prose, etc)... but quiet honestly... when comparing it to NSOG... I think it's like comparing the Norton Atlas to Sky Atlas 2000. :)

#10 David Knisely

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 11:12 AM

Hi all,

I've been out of visual astronomy for over a decade, busy doing that imaging thing. (My conclusion? Just like for visual, there is no substitute for dark skies.)

When I left visual, the Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner and was being heralded as the guide to get for visual astronomy both for its object descriptions and sketches. Now that the visual bug is biting again, I'm considering picking up this work.

For a non-internet reference, is it still the best compilation of sketches and descriptions of objects? Does it seem dated in any way?


Well, it depends. It is certainly the most comprehensive collection of sketches and descriptions found in a single work. It isn't exactly "dated", as it is intended as more of an observing manual rather than something with a lot of scientific information. Some of NSOG's double star information can be somewhat dated, as close doubles tend to change separation and position angles notably over a decade or so. However, the deep-sky descriptions don't change much. Their quality varies from good to not all that good, and a few of the drawings might be a little misleading. For accurate descriptive information, I tend to rely more on the OBSERVING HANDBOOK AND CATALOGUE OF DEEP-SKY OBJECTS by Luginbuhl & Skiff, as they tend to be somewhat better overall. However, there aren't nearly as many drawings or photographs in that work as their are in NSOG, and the NSOG covers considerably more objects (especially with Volume 3 for the southern hemisphere). NSOG is a good work to have, although again, one has to take some of the descriptive information with a grain of salt sometimes. Clear skies to you.

#11 Michael Rapp

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:31 PM

Thanks all. I didn't catch that I used the word "best" there lol. I'm glad to hear that it has been updated in the past decade and has stood the test of time.

Using David's words, what I am hoping it is is "the most comprehensive collection of sketches and descriptions found in a single work."

I remember first learning of it at TSP 1999. They may have only had the first volume out at that time. I remember agonizing over whether to get a signed copy from the authors or that cool observing chair and as I didn't want to go the entire week at TSP without a chair by the scope, the chair won.

It will be nice to finally have a copy.

#12 LivingNDixie

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 04:11 PM

Tom,
I see your book is in paperback now as well as e-book - congratulations! Now, I'm very likely to get a copy.

Preston,
I've never found the NSOG to be a particularly great source of information on any objects, other than where they are and what they might look like in my scope. Is that what you were referring to?

The "more information" thing is sort of the area where Burnham's pulls out ahead of everyone else, with exhaustive information about lots of stuff. Some a little dated now, but still.
Tom would keep the NSOG; but I'd keep Burnham's over everything else.


Rick,
Finding out how the object should look is mostly what I mean. But it is also good for having the history of some objects (mainly the Messier Catalog). I used it a lot to see what the class a globular cluster was when I was completely that observing pin recently.

However for doing the Herschel 400, I tend to go to the O'Meara book, mainly because it is written well and lays out the observing of the objects.

But if I didn't have the O'Meara book I would be happy with the NSOG. To me if I had only one set of books the NSOG would be the books I would choose. To me they are the closest to perfect... that is not the same as saying they are perfect.

#13 Rick Woods

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 06:57 PM

Gotcha.

#14 CounterWeight

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 09:49 AM

IMO - all depends in ways in how you go about it, if you are familiar and comfortable using the NSOG and it works for you, can't think of 'better', just different. The L&S guide very good and in one volume, large pages - concise and above all very useful. I've always really liked the way Burnhams was ordered and organized as far as content. NSOG I like a lot too, no way do I consider them 'dated', but then I don't consider Burnhams dated either... (I purchased the NSOG 'Southern sky' volume just to complete the set ). For a particular observation I usually go NSOG -> L&S -> Burnhams... or I might go Burnams -> L&S ->NSOG. Also enjoy O'Meara's books and have 3 I use intermittantly, along with maybe Karkoschka' little book (I find myself referring to this last more and more lately) ... What's my point?

There are a lot of very useful guides/references out there to spend your money on, and you own a very good one - I can't see a compelling reason to rush out and buy something else. There have been other useful publications also very good, worth a look? You might appreciate the L&S reference for different reasons, and Karkoschka for yet others, S. O'Meara ($$) for even others / more, and S. French books as well. We're really lucky to have these great folks contributing to our hobby - all offer a resource and insight IMO worthy of the time it takes. I consider all my 'observing buddy'.

[Whoops! yikes - just realized you don't own these (NSOG I and II, III if you want the complete set) - yes! get them while you can!]

#15 Rick Woods

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 02:25 AM

You might appreciate the L&S reference for different reasons, and Karkoschka for yet others, S. O'Meara ($$) for even others / more, and S. French books as well.


I think that a big part of what O'Meara brings to the table is the personal perspective of one of the greatest observers of modern, if not all, time. That could be worth the price of admission.
Not to detract in any way from the others mentioned; but I've seen that which makes me personally convinced of O'Meara's superlative skill as an observer.

#16 Tony Flanders

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 06:04 AM

I think that a big part of what O'Meara brings to the table is the personal perspective of one of the greatest observers of modern, if not all, time.


Steve O'Meara is a great observer. So is Brian Skiff. And Sue French. And several others I could name.

#17 jrbarnett

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 10:03 AM

Yeah, and that Flanders guy ain't too shabby either. :grin:

- Jim

#18 Rick Woods

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 01:55 PM

I think that a big part of what O'Meara brings to the table is the personal perspective of one of the greatest observers of modern, if not all, time.


Steve O'Meara is a great observer. So is Brian Skiff. And Sue French. And several others I could name.


I just knew someone was going to quote me out of context! :D

Tony, you didn't include this part:

Not to detract in any way from the others mentioned; but I've seen that which makes me personally convinced of O'Meara's superlative skill as an observer.


I've seen astounding observations made by O'Meara; but not by Skiff, French, et al. I don't doubt that they exist! My statement was in reference to O'Meara's books and a quality they have. Somewhere, I also said that I don't buy his books.

So don't go misinterpreting my statement. There are millions of excellent observers. My comment was strictly meant to highlight O'Meara's skills in response to a comment about his books. It would have been sort of meaningless to comment on his book with a long list of great observers.

#19 turtle86

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:32 PM

To me if I had only one set of books the NSOG would be the books I would choose. To me they are the closest to perfect... that is not the same as saying they are perfect.



I agree. When I pack up for an observing session at my dark site, space is tight but I always make room for my set of NSOG. It might have some errors here and there but its plusses far outweigh its minuses. Hands down it remains the most comprehensive observing reference going and the best overall IMHO.

#20 stevecoe

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 03:15 AM

Rob, et al;

If you are willing to post your errors in NSOG here, I will pass them on to Bob Kepple and Glen Sanner so that they can be provided to other users.

Clear skies;
Steve Coe

#21 okieav8r

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 05:36 AM

Rob, et al;

If you are willing to post your errors in NSOG here, I will pass them on to Bob Kepple and Glen Sanner so that they can be provided to other users.

Clear skies;
Steve Coe


Steve, do they have a website or something where such errata is collected and shared?

#22 faackanders2

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 08:38 PM

I have the NSOG and have read the entire Leo chapter, but the truth is I don't or haven't used them for observing; perhaps because they are to large and heavy.

I do carry and use the O'Meade Deep Sky Companion series. I really like his hand drawn images in the first 3 of the series (secret deep used computer images), and these look so much more like the views in my 10" and 17.5" dob than photos ever did. His writing about the objects is interesting, descriptive, and memorable. Can't wait to get his Southern Gems version which I pre-ordered.

#23 Tom Polakis

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 09:55 AM

I have the NSOG and have read the entire Leo chapter, but the truth is I don't or haven't used them for observing; perhaps because they are to large and heavy.

I do carry and use the O'Meade Deep Sky Companion series...



I know, an easy astronomical slip to make, but...

:lol:

#24 blb

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:05 AM

I have the NSOG and have read the entire Leo chapter, but the truth is I don't or haven't used them for observing; perhaps because they are to large and heavy.


I too do not carry these books outside, but I do use them regularly when planning my observing session. They are a great resource that is hard to beat.

#25 omahaastro

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 01:24 PM

I can't imagine there are too many folks who use these in the field... they are indeed, great for planning, comparing observations, setting expectations, etc.

I'm a little curious why Mr. Knisely seems so down on the descriptions. Of COURSE, they're submitted by many different observers, and they're going to vary from individual to individual... but isn't that what observing is all about?

The ridiculous comprehensiveness of these books, makes them second to none, in my opinion.






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