Monday, July 2, 2018

21st Century Atlas of the Moon Spiral-bound – December 1, 2012 by Charles A. Wood and , Maurice J. S. Collins (West Virginia University Press)

Briefly, this Atlas should have been edited thoroughly before being printed. In a book of only 111 pages, an entire page is given to listing errors in its text and maps.

The error page lists thirty-seven "typographical errors of lunar nomenclature", most on the charts themselves and in their index entries. There are five "errata", three of which are major and unforgivable: (1) a picture purporting to show crater Plinius in detail actually shows Eratosthenes (2) crater Cassini is printed aligned 180 degrees differently than all other features and (3) an image of the Caucasus Mountains is accompanied by a description of the "Alpes" Mountains, that erroneous name is itself a departure from the nomenclature adopted for mountain ranges in this atlas). The page ends with a list of six "other errors", one of these mentions that two of the three craters commemorating the Apollo 11 astronauts have been mislabeled.

I immediately went through the book with a highlighter to try to salvage it as a reference tool. This is the only time I've ever felt the need to do this with any brand new book. I believe it was a disservice to have released a reference book in this condition.

Speaking as a long-time lunar observer, I found Charles Wood's (the author of this atlas) The Modern Moon the most instructive book on our moon readily available. His descriptions of the processes that shaped the features we see on the lunar surface make that book a treasure. That same approach can be found to an extent in this atlas. It makes lunar observing more than an exercise in crater identification and aesthetics. It makes it an opportunity to learn some planetary geology and recognize the structural clues that reveal how a world was formed.

Also praise-worthy, the quality of the photographic images and the organization of the area charts (twenty-eight large area charts) in this atlas are better than in the competing Cambridge Photographic Moon Atlas. This atlas would be much easier to use scope-side than the Cambridge. So, there are a lot of things to like here and on balance, I'd call it the most useful photographic lunar atlas available.

But as a scope-side atlas, it suffers from the same complaint directed against Rukl's Atlas of the Moon, the standard paper-based lunar atlas for quite a few years. Specifically, there's no overlap between charts. Features along chart borders are often sliced and an observer may find it hard to identify them or fail to notice their structure entirely. Also navigating across charts can be frustrating.

Overall, I find that Sky & Telescope's Field Map of the Moon or, better yet, a computer-based atlas is much more practical for telescopic observing. The scale of the former allows better feature identification while the flexibility of the latter makes all paper-based atlases seem obsolete and best suited for a desk or coffee table.

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