There is nothing like being out at night under a dark sky full of stars with the camera slowly gathering photons that have traveled incredible distances across the universe.
On a summer night in a clearing in the middle of the woods the cicadas and whippoorwills keep me company and serenade me. On a cold winter night it is so quiet it can be astonishingly peaceful and calm. At these times I am at one with the rest of the cosmos.
Like most of my books, this one started as a series of notes for myself. I have been collecting a master list of interesting photographic targets for many years, and attempting to shoot them as time permitted. This book is the result of that effort.
The classic books A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way by Edwin Emerson Barnard, An Atlas of Deep-Sky Splendors by Hans Vehrenberg, and Burnham's Celestial Handbook by Robert Burnham Jr. were my inspiration for this book.
Barnard's book, in addition to being valuable scientifically, was also, literally, a work of art consisting of actual hand-made photographic prints instead of mass-produced reproductions. About only 700 copies of the book were thought to have been printed, making it a prized jewel to collectors. Today A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way is available online from the library at Georgia Tech University, as well as in a re-printed version from Cambridge University Press.
Vehrenberg's book, An Atlas of Deep-Sky Splendors, was originally published in 1965 and although it was reprinted in several subsequent editions, it is, unfortunately, no longer in print. It can sometimes be found for sale used on the internet. Vehrenberg photographed all of the Messier objects and many NGC and IC objects, mostly in black and white, and mostly at a uniform plate scale that showed a large field around them.
Burnham's Celestial Handbook was, and is, still a classic work renowned for the amazing amount of information it contained. So much, in fact, that it was published in three volumes, with a total of more than 2,000 pages! Burnham's work was a treasure trove of scientific information, astronomical history, and star lore about the celestial objects in every one of the constellations.
One problem with those three landmark books is that they have only black and white images in them (Vehrenberg has a handful of color images). Burnham's book was printed on inexpensive paper and the reproduction of the images left a lot to be desired. Another problem is that Vehrenberg's is out of print, and Barnard's has only recently become available again.
I wanted to produce an updated book with latest information on the most interesting photographic deep-sky objects with color images. Of the 275 image pages in this book, only 4 are black and white images taken in the narrowband wavelength of hydrogen-alpha to highlight particular areas.
In this book I've tried to emulate the best parts of the Barnard, Vehrenberg, and Burnham books, and also incorporate modern publishing technology. By using HTML, the code for web pages, so that it can be read on a computer, I am able to offer unique features such as image maps and mouse-overs that you can't get in a traditional printed book.
An image map is a photo or chart that allows you to click on a certain section or part that will take you to more information or a larger image. For example, you will find a wide-field image of the constellation of Orion with M42, the Orion Nebula, marked on it. If you hold your mouse cursor over M42 in the wide-field image, the mouse cursor will turn into a pointer that looks like a hand, indicating that you can click on it to be taken to a close-up image of M42 taken with a telescope with a longer focal length.
The all-sky constellation charts are also image maps that will take you to images of the individual constellations that I have shot.
Links in the text are underlined indicating that they can be clicked on to find other pages with more information about that link.
Some images contain "mouse-overs". When you hold your mouse cursor over one of these images an overlay will load with object identifications, constellation lines, and constellation borders. If you move your mouse cursor away from the image, these markings will go away.
The book also offers a comprehensive search engine that will let you search for any word or term or image in the book, and return a set of links that will take you directly to that information with a simple click of the mouse.
I would like to give special thanks to the following people who helped me with this book: