Researching a Reference Book

It was a warm September morn’. I, a student at Catholic University, was on assignment. My teacher, Dr. Chancellor, had given me the task of doing research on research material. Following my literary nose, I trecked downward to the local Barnes and Noble where I fittingly hailed an attendant; I inquired about the layout of his domain and if he could point me down the right path.

Under his guidance, I wound my way through the aisles, crossing many paths, to get to my destination. Upon arrival, I took a quick survey of my surroundings and decided upon one book that was above all others in scope: Norton’s Star Atlas and Reference Handbook 20th Edition.

This reference book, published by Penguin Group, was the 20th edition of Norton’s Star Atlas and Reference Handbook. The book says that it was first published in 1910 by a Mr. Arthur Philip Norton, schoolmaster and amateur astronomer. Norton’s Star Atlas is “the longest established star atlas in the world” in the words of it’s current editor, a Mr. Ian Ridpath. Mr. Ridpath has been writing, editing, and broadcasting astronomy since 1972. Ian Ridpath is also the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy.

Since Mr. Norton ascended to the heavens, his Atlas has gone through many revisions and has lost, according to the historical component in the introduction to the resource, all contributions from it’s original compiler, but, such is to be when one deals with the passage of time and space.

There is one issue as it pertains to the authoritativeness of this particular reference book that I would like to address; this edition was published in 2003, and remains the current edition to this day; there has been a decade of advancement and research in the field since then. It would be my assumption that a new edition is being worked on. On that last criteria alone I would recommend holding off for purchase until seeing when a new version is likely to appear.

I would like to highlight this as an advancement to Norton’s credit here: from everything I can tell while skimming over the pages, the book is easy to comprehend and has a vast amount of detail that is covered. One of the additions that was added to this edition was the section on computer-controlled telescopes and CCD imaging. The scope of this work is quite universal, pun intended, in that it covers the stars. The scope of this book is to provide an overall introduction to astronomy by examining the celestial bodies and to be a resource for amateur and scholar alike. It serves as a wonderful tool in that it fulfills that scope.

One of the benefits I would argue for in adding this to a reference collection would be of it’s visual appeal, simple to understand components that the novice can utilize for their inquiry, and the manner through which the material explores more in-depth topics for those taking a more avid interest in the field.



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