Book Review

By Bill Dellinges

The Great Atlas of the Stars

By Serge Brunier (photos by Akira Fujii)

Firefly Books $49.95

Iíve always thought a great idea would be for Akira Fujii to come out with a book featuring an all-sky catalog of his fine photographs as seen and used in Sky and Telescope magazine articles. It would be akin to a poor manís Palomar Survey-though not quite as deep. I enjoy examining fine detail in such large sky photographs in order to discover heretofore unnoticed star chains, clouds, colors, doubles, etc., which I can track down later for a closer look with a telescope or binocular. Thus I was excited to see this book published. The book makes a great first impression, being large (11"x14") and heavy (about 2 pounds). Fujiiís full page color photographs (on the right- hand pages) are a joy to behold; a plastic overlay with star names, constellation lines, and deep-sky objects can be laid over them-a unique touch. The left- hand page discusses three objects found on the facing page; for example, in the case of the large photo of Canis Major on p.83, p.82 highlights Sirius, Mirzam, and M41, with photos and a paragraph discussing their nature and vital statistics.

I think though, "The Great Atlas of the Stars" is maybe not so "great". I have a few complaints.

1) I agree with Jeff Kanipeís review in S&T (May 2002, p.61) that itís silly to circle the location of an obscure object on the overlay which canít be seen on the photographís star field! Example: p.19, Ursa Major, circled item #6 is "Galaxy HDF4-473.0". Thereís nothing there!

2) Many of the left-hand page featured objects are only single or double stars-thatís O.K. I guess, unless you were hoping for an emphasis on deep-sky objects. Also, one has to question how interesting photos of single stars are-to say nothing about a photo of an unresolved double star! (For better deep-sky object photos/text, try Hans Vehrenbergís "Atlas of Deep-Sky Splendors", though Fujiiís large area sky shots are more aesthetically pleasing).

3) I think the average amateur astronomer will not find anything in the text he or she doesnít already know or can find in one of the many star guide books we typically keep by our side.

4) Only 30 constellations are featured. If a second page of a given constellation is featured, it will not have a plastic overlay. I counted 8 full page photos without overlays.

5) Several references to M51 or the Milky Way having "more than a thousand billion stars". Thatís a trillion, isnít it? Maybe someday weíll find thatís true, but most books Iíve seen say itís more like 100-400 billion stars.

Nevertheless, I like this book for the full page photographs of star fields. Iím not sure itís worth $50, but if you can get it for a discount, Iíd recommend it (I got it with a Borderís 20% coupon).

Now what Iíd REALLY like to see is a book with all 88 constellations featured with Fujiiís photographs-each one with a plastic overlay. It might require two volumes (a north and south hemisphere version?). That would truly be a "Great Atlas of the Stars"!