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Atlas of the Constellations by Paolo Candy

Posted by Paul Walsh   01/05/2005 00:00:AM

Atlas of the Constellations by Paolo Candy
[ARTICLEIMGR="1"]Atlas of the Constellations
Atlante delle Costellazioni

by Paolo Candy

Published by Travelfactory

Here is the jacket blurb:

This atlas, unique of its kind for its completeness and accuracy, refers to 69 constellations out of 88, in 43 colored plates with stars up to 13th magnitude in their position, apparent luminosity and coloring, showing us the stars as if our eyes were bigger and were able to distinguish the colors even in the dark.

The star fields of the Milky Way as dense clouds of stars, the names of the stars, their meanings, the lines that join them together, the mythological characters, tales of the ancient myths of the sky, the history of the constellations, the sky season by season, the map of the sky in detail.

Other Reviews

“In order to realize an atlas of the starry sky using traditional photographic techniques years of work are necessary. Paolo Candy succeeded in finishing this ambitious project in less than two years by using a wide-range digital camera. This is a unique book of its kind not only for the Italian panorama with the insertion of the text in the English language. The beautiful graphic laying out and the superimposition of mythological plates over the digital shots, make this volume a very good instrument both for people at their first approach to astronomy and for the more expert observers who will find this atlas a very good reference book for consultation thanks to the detail and depth of the pictures”.
[Giovanni Dal Lago – Le Stelle]

“The pictures printed in this Atlas of the Constellations are really marvelous”.
[Dave Eicher – Astronomy magazine-Editor]

“Congratulations for this atlas which contains so many beautiful pictures of the sky”.
[Imelda Joson – Sky & Telescope magazine – Photo Editor]

“In my opinion the pictures in the Atlas of the Constellations are extraordinary”.
[Michael E. Bakich – Planetarium of Kansas City Museum Director]

A quick look at the basics

The 192 page, soft cover book is by 11-5/8" high by 8-1/4"wide and the heavy cover material appears to be fairly durable.

After a brief preface, author's notes, introduction and history of the constellations, we arrive at the meat and potatoes of the book starting on page 28. This main section is composed of 4 divisions:

A: Eight double page layouts of the entire sky with boxes drawn and numbered to indicate how the main constellation pages will be framed

B: Seasonal celestial half-spheres showing:

1. Constellations
2. Asterisms (common names, like "little dipper")
3. Rays (lines connecting the stars)
4. Myths (and symbols from antiquity)

C: Main constellation division with 43 double-page layouts, each containing a small box indicating sky position and basic data, another small image with the classic, mythological symbol superimposed and then 2 large plates, one with names, lines and DSOs (Deep Sky Objects) and one without.

D: Fish-eye lens, whole-sky images of the Summer and Winter Milky Ways, each with and without names and lines imposed.

Following the "atlas" pages, there are chapters on the Myths associated with many of the constellations, and an article on how the stars are designated along with an explanation of apparent magnitude. There's even an amusing comparison of the para-psychological Zodiac with the Astronomical version. No, they don't match up :-)

Following these, the book's appendix contains some useful tables including:

129 major stars and what their names mean.
120 of the brightest stars and their associated data.
A full Messier catalog and constellation cross-reference.
596 named stars, including designation and visual magnitude.

The book is written in both Italian and English and one might wonder at the notion of paying for two versions when you only need one but there is actually surprisingly little duplication of space. I suspect a lot of thought went into the layout of the 2 languages and, far from finding it annoying in any way, I found myself enjoying the occasional Italian lessons.

My thoughts on the book

I have 2 other "constellation" books in my library. Rukl's little "Constellation Guidebook" and John Sanford's incomparable "Observing the Constellations". If you are really into astro books and can find a copy of Sanford's book, look into it. Until now, I have thought it the best constellation book by far but Paolo's book compares very favorably to it and has some handy lists and points of view the Sanford book lacks and the image quality and scale is much better in Paolo's book. Paolo is a very accomplished astro-imager and it really pays off in the main section, making it easy to pick out the constellations from the starry background.

I do have a couple of minor quibbles. The boxes delineating the areas projected and the projections or images themselves don't always match up right - a compromise, I'm sure, involving the discrepancies in curvature between map projections and CCD images. The other minor preference would have been to see DSO's other than the Messier objects listed on the main section images. This is something the Sanford book handled nicely by listing several telescopic targets in each constellation but this would perhaps be of more interest to intermediate sky hunters. Beginners, or those interested in just eyeballing the sky, lose nothing by this omission.

The author, Paolo Candy, is the designer and director of the Cimini Astronomical Observatory and Planetarium, situated at the 2600 foot level of the Cimini Mountains.

In addition to a working observatory, Paolo also runs the adjoining planetarium for the public. His public visitors who have always shown a deep interest in the stars and constellations and that curiosity is what drove Paolo to write this book. My own experience mirrors Paolo's. A majority of the non astronomers I meet say something along the lines of, "I've always wanted to learn the constellations". To them and to my amateur astronomer friends interested in a fresh, naked-eye approach to the sky, I could hand them this book and confidently say, "Here's your chance." Paolo's joy and skills are evident throughout the book, making him the perfect teacher to "learn the stars" with.