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Book Reviews


The Cambridge Atlas of Herschel Objects

Author: James Mullaney and Wil Tirion

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-0-521-13817-8

Price: £27.99 (Pb, spiral bound) 190pp


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Last year Cambridge published the Atlas of Double Stars and following in the success of that they have released a second atlas in a similar format devoted to the Herschel objects. As most deep sky observers know William and his son John discovered many new nebulae, of the order of 5,000 that were later incorporated into the New General Catalogue (NGC), and indeed the majority of the nearly 8,000 objects in that catalogue were discovered by the two Herschels. As most atlases will record the position of the objects by their NGC number, one could be forgiven for asking why there is a need for an atlas that labels these objects by their original numbers that are no longer used by observers. Well, there has been quite an industry growing up around the Herschels and a number of books have been published in the recent past looking at how the greatest visual observer of all time worked. The popularity of the Herschel 400 list as a follow on from the Messier list has also been growing with books by Stephen O’Meara complimenting the original publications from the Astronomical League in the United States.

The book format is very similar to that of the Cambridge Double Star Atlas, with a set of superbly drawn charts by Wil Tirion marking around 2,500 deep sky objects discovered by the Herschels along with stars down to magnitude +7.5. A nice touch on the charts is the labelling of objects in blue and galaxies in orange so they show up under a red torch. There is also an extensive appendix relating the Herschel numbers to their more common NGC numbers. The brief introduction on the history of the Herschel objects includes a table with descriptions of the authors’ favourite 215 objects.

The production of the atlas is very good and the charts are excellent, however I feel this atlas will be of more interest to the observer interested in the historical side of the subject rather than as a generic deep sky atlas.

Owen Brazell

 

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