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.
Well, Jeff, I *do* use them in the field, as do a lot of people. NSOG contains a lot of objects that are worth at least a passing look at, so for a list of potential targets, the books are definitely worth having around. I keep them in my "portable library" (a wheeled carry-on luggage container) and pull them out in the van as I need them. As an aside, here is what my Portable Library contained when I went to NSP this year (and *all* of these books get field use)
1. Deluxe 2nd Edition of SKY ATLAS 2000.0
2. Sky and Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas.
3. URANOMETRIA Vols. 1, 2, and 3.
4. NIGHT SKY OBSERVERS GUIDE, Vols. 1 and 2
5. The ARP ATLAS OF PECULIAR GALAXIES.
6. OBSERVING HANDBOOK AND CATALOGUE OF DEEP-SKY OBJECTS
7. Webb Society's DEEP-SKY OBSERVER'S HANDBOOK Vol. 5 (Clusters of Galaxies)
8. DOUBLE STARS FOR SMALL TELESCOPES by Sissy Haas
9. The current volume of my formal Observing Logbook
As for the NSOG books themselves, I might suggest reading the review I did of Volumes 1 and 2 carefully: CN REPORTS: The Night Sky Observers Guide
The descriptions are far from useless, as they do give you quite a bit to go by. However, with the extensive observing I do, I have run into a few unfortunate foul-ups with the descriptions in NSOG, along with what I like to call a "large scope bias" to their tone. I noted the most prominent problems with some of the descriptions in the review I did of the work, but mainly, some of them just aren't quite as accurate as those in works like Luginbuhl & Skiff's OBSERVING HANDBOOK AND CATALOGUE OF DEEP-SKY OBJECTS
(c. 1989, Cambridge Univ. Press). In particular, one that really got my goat early on was the suggestion of using an OIII filter on the Horsehead! That one stuck out like a sort thumb (along with the one suggesting that an H-alpha
filter would be good for visual use on nebulae).
NSOG is a quite useful work, as long as you take some of the descriptions with a grain of salt. It is best to observe the objects yourself anyway to get your own descriptions down on paper or on the computer for best reference. Clear skies to you.