Sky Atlas 2000.0

Sky Atlas 2000.0 CoverThis review of Sky Atlas 2000.0 is the second in a series of atlas reviews to help you decide which star atlas is right for you. My first review covered S&T’s Pocket Sky Atlas. Sky Atlas 2000.0 is a large-scale atlas beautifully printed in a large-page format. It has stars down to magnitude 8.5 and deep sky objects down to around magnitude 13. Sky Atlas 2000.0 comes in three editions: Desk (black stars on white background), Field (white stars on black background), and Deluxe (color-coded deep-sky objects on white background), and each edition comes in a paper version and a laminated version. All versions include close-up charts of crowded areas such as the Virgo cluster, as well as a transparent plastic coordinate-grid overlay for determining positions accurately.

Regardless of the edition, this is clearly a star atlas for serious star-hopping which will help you find objects well beyond the Messier catalog. It is a fantastic atlas, but for observers in urban (and even sub-urban) areas, Sky Atlas 2000.0 is probably overkill: most of the deep-sky objects won’t be visible in washed-out skies, even with relatively large amateur telescopes. Although having more stars plotted compared to Pocket Star Atlas or Norton’s Star Atlas can be an advantage for star hopping if you have a 50mm or better finder scope, I haven’t found the difference significant when star-hopping in light-polluted skies. However, if you regularly go to a dark-sky site in addition to observing from urban areas, Sky Atlas 2000.0 makes sense as an atlas that will serve you well in both locations....

General Description

Sky Atlas 2000.0 Deluxe Edition (unlaminated) is published as a 16” x 12” book that is spiral-bound on the left side. The individual pages fold outward towards the right, for a page size of 16” x 21”. Sky Atlas 2000.0 makes good use of this large page format by providing a generous scale of 0.33” = 1 degree of arc. This provides a display that doesn’t crowd stars and objects. Because the charts are large and there are only 26 of them, you generally don’t have to flip very much from chart-to-chart when you star hop. The exception is near chart boundaries, especially the northern and southern boundaries: Sky Atlas 2000.0 doesn’t provide as generous an overlap between charts as Pocket Sky Atlas does, so some objects near chart boundaries do not show up “well” on any chart and may require a fair amount of chart flipping.

The three editions differ in how they are printed. The Desk Edition is black-and-white with stars and deep-sky objects printed in black against a white background. The Field Edition is also black-and-white, but with stars and deep-sky objects printed in white against a black background. The Deluxe Edition has stars printed in black on a white background and deep sky objects are shown in color, with both color and shapes/icons used to distinguish between the various kinds of deep sky objects (open clusters, globular clusters, galaxies, planetary nebulae, etc.). The Milky Way is shown with three tones of light blue shading. Variable stars and double stars are also indicated directly on the charts. All three editions are available in both laminated and unlaminated versions. The laminated versions are spiral-bound along the top, the Deluxe unlaminated edition is spiral-bound on the left, and the unlaminated Field and Desk editions are unbound, consisting of loose sheets in a box.

I find that the fold out layout of the unlaminated Deluxe edition is often awkward to use in the field for three reasons: (1) slight breezes easily flip the fold-out portion back over, (2) the fold-out part of the page overflows my little work stool and flops down, and (3) the folded pages make for awkward page flipping (and repeated unfolding) to find the right chart. The unlaminated version is also bulky in the field because it doesn’t fold back on itself. The laminated versions are easier to use in the field because the atlas folds back into a more compact form and there is no need to unfold individual pages.

All objects are clearly labeled. Messier objects are marked using both NGC number and M number; the remaining objects are marked using their NGC numbers if they have them, or if not other appropriate catalog designators. All the Caldwell objects appear in the charts (but are not labeled with Caldwell numbers), as do all the Herschel 400 objects. Some common name labels also appear, but only for the most famous objects (e.g., the Pleiades, the Praesepe and the Dumbbell Nebula are so labeled, but not the Saturn Nebula, Kemble’s Cascade, or the Blinking Planetary).

Sky Atlas 2000.0 does not include with any index of objects. Instead, there is a companion volume, Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion, that provides a complete catalog of all the objects that appear in the atlas and corresponding indices and cross-references.

To give you a taste of how the Sky Atlas 2000.0 Deluxe Edition (unlaminated) looks, here is a photograph of a full-page spread from Sky Atlas 2000.0, as well as a close-up of the region around M27 (click on the images to see higher resolution versions). I’ve also included a photograph of the transparent overlay.

Sky Atlas 2000.0 Sample PageSky Atlas 2000.0 close up of M27Sky Atlas 2000.0 Overlay

By the Numbers

Basic information about the Sky Atlas 2000.0 Deluxe Edition (unlaminated) appears in the following table.

Number of charts 26
Dec. scale at equator 1d = 0.33” = 8.2mm
RA scale at equator 1h = 4.7” = 12mm
Size (Deluxe, Unlaminated) 16” x 21” unfolded page
16” x 12” book
Limiting Mag. (Stars) 8.5
Limiting Mag. (open clusters) 8.5
Limiting Mag. (globular clusters) 11.0
Limiting Mag. (galaxies) 13.0
Limiting Mag. (planetaries) 14.0
Stars 81,312
DSOs 2,700+
Messier All
Caldwell All
Herschel 400 All
Index No, catalog sold separately



Overall this is a very useful atlas. The following features are particularly worth highlighting:

  • The deep limits on both stars and deep sky objects allow you to have one atlas that is useful for both urban and dark-sky observing sites.
  • The scale is very well chosen to avoid crowding and yet keep the charts a reasonable size.
  • The star limit of magnitude 8.5 shows most of the stars visible from urban areas using finder scopes or general purpose binoculars and will also be sufficient in most cases for star hopping from dark-sky locations.
  • The deep sky objects plotted include just about all the objects you can hope to see under dark skies with a modest telescope, however most of these won’t be visible under washed-out skies, even with larger telescopes.
  • Size and orientation are shown for the larger galaxies, nebulae, and clusters.
  • A transparent overlay provides convenient scale markings, telrad circles, and a star magnitude scale (no more guessing if that star is 7th or 8th magnitude).
  • The fonts are easy to read, and show up well under red-light.
  • The separate catalog volume provides detailed information for all the objects and includes a full set of indices and cross-references.


No atlas is perfect. Sky Atlas 2000.0 falls short in the following ways:

  • The charts lack any markers along the edges indicating the corresponding adjacent chart numbers. This is a major omission, forcing you to flip through the atlas (unfolding pages as you go for the unlaminated Deluxe version), or going to the last page that shows the chart layout to figure out which chart is the “next” one.
  • In the spiral bound versions, the chart pages are arranged in declination bands, and within declination band in order of increasing RA. This means charts of similar RA (and therefore visible during the same season) are not near each other. It also means that within a declination band that charts that graphically appear to the “right” (meaning “west”) of the current chart actually appear before (instead of after) it. This counter-intuitive behavior is common to many atlases and I wish they would order star charts in order of decreasing RA to make page flipping more natural. (The unlaminated Field and Desk editions are unbound, so you can arrange them in any order you like.)
  • The use of red for galaxies in the Deluxe edition can make them hard to see when using a red-light (not a problem with the Desk and Field editions).
  • The Deluxe unlaminated version is printed on relatively light paper (probably to allow for folding), which I fear won’t stand up well to use in the field. I use mine in the field sparingly because of this concern. Get a laminated version if you intend to use it in the field regularly.
  • It does not include detailed charts for Magellanic Clouds. This is not a problem for northern observers, but may be a significant shortcoming for southern observers.
  • Carbon stars are not marked.
  • The transparent overlay is very convenient, but if the wind blows it away in the dark, it can be pretty hard to find :)


Sky Atlas 2000.0 is a fantastic atlas that will meet your needs not only in washed-out skies but also in truly dark skies. So, if you regularly travel out to dark-sky sites, then Sky Atlas 2000.0 will meet all your needs. Sky Atlas 2000.0, however, provides much more than you need for star-hopping in urban/sub-urban locations. If you rarely venture out to a dark-site, the more conveniently size (and priced) Pocket Star Atlas may be a better match. If you plan to take Sky Atlas 2000.0 out in the field regularly, I recommend getting one of the laminated versions.


Sky Atlas 2000.0, 2nd Edition
By Will Tirion and Roger W. Sinnott
Publisher: Sky Publishing & Cambridge University Press
Number Of Pages: 30

Edition Unlaminated Laminated
Deluxe ISBN-10: 0521627621
ISBN-13: 978-0521627627
ISBN-10: 0933346905
ISBN-13: 978-0933346901
Field ISBN-10: 0521654319
ISBN-13: 978-0521654319
ISBN 10: 0933346921
ISBN 13: 978-0933346925
Desk ISBN-10: 0521654335
ISBN-13: 978-0521654333
ISBN-10: 0521654327
ISBN-13: 978-0521654326


Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion, 2nd Edition
Publisher: Sky Publishing & Cambridge University Press
Number Of Pages: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0521008824
ISBN-13: 978-0521008822