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Book Review - Supernova Search Atlas and Guide

Posted: 6 June 2018


Supernova Search Atlas and Guide
by Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
Arkansas Sky Observatories
$30 (with shipping, plus DVD for $5 more)
Copyright ©2018, 155 pages

I have known Dr. Clay Sherrod of Arkansas Sky Observatories, "Dr. Clay" as he is known, since about 2000 when he began submitting a lot of valuable material for "Weasner's Mighty ETX Site". He also contributed material for my book "Using the Meade ETX" published in 2001. When he announced his new book "Supernova Search Atlas and Guide" I knew I wanted to get it. Dr. Clay graciously provided a copy of the book and the DVD (seen at right).

The Book

The book is divided into two Parts.

Part I:
A Brief Discussion of Supernovae and the Supernova Process
Observation Methodology
Software Recommendations / Creating and Using Your Master Comparison File
Comments on Photometry and Use of the "V" Filter
Setting up the Master Galaxy Reference and Galaxies Folders
Catalog of Galaxies Suitable for Supernovae Surveys
The Discovery – Reporting and Confirmation Process
ASO CCD Catalog: 300 NGC Galaxy Supernovae Candidates (sorted by Right Ascension)

Part II:
ASO Photographic Atlas of 300 NGC GALAXIES (sorted by Right Ascension)

APPENDIX I – MESSIER 31 – The Andromeda Galaxy
APPENDIX II – Star Color Index, Differential Photometry

The book is a guide to over 300 galaxies (observable from mostly the Northern Hemisphere) which are likely to present the best opportunities for imaging and yes, discovery of Supernovae with equipment available to many amateur astronomers and schools. Suggestions for equipment and software are made, although if you don't have exactly the suggested you can may still be able to acquire images useful to the discovery of extragalactic supernova. Personally, I plan to image the galaxies listed in the book using my Meade 12" LX600 telescope and a Nikon D850 DSLR. The book mentions the Custom Scientific Bessell-Johnson/Cousins UBVRI filter set available in 1.25" and 2" screw-on mounts. Such filters should be used for the scientifically valuable data they can provide. However, using filters is not required if you just want to capture an image of a supernova.

The section "Setting up the Master Galaxy Reference and Galaxies Folders" is a tutorial on an excellent way to set up a folder structure for your reference (master) and search galaxies images. Although the tutorial is for Windows, Mac users will be able to follow it.

Of course, once that magical moment comes when you realize (think, hope) that you have discovered a supernova, you will want to report it. The information in "The Discovery – Reporting and Confirmation Process" section must be followed to confirm to yourself that you have indeed imaged a supernova in a galaxy (and not a known or unknown asteroid in our solar system or a nova in our galaxy). Once you have confirmed your "discovery" the book tells you exactly how it should be reported and to what organizations.

The majority of the book is the Catalog and Photographic Atlas sections. The table in section "ASO CCD Catalog: 300 NGC Galaxy Supernovae Candidates" (which is sorted by Right Ascension) actually has 346 galaxies listed. As explained in the book, not all the galaxies shown in the table appear in the "ASO Photographic Atlas of 300 NGC GALAXIES" (also sorted by Right Ascension), which has 312 images. Here is an example of the table:


And the corresponding photographs in the atlas:


There are some typographical errors in the book, but they do not detract from the usefulness of the book. The table has sufficient information about each target galaxy to determine whether it can be imaged from your location with your equipment. It would have been handy if the Photographic Atlas page number could have been included in the table. The images can be used as guides to what most of the galaxies look like.


The hardcopy of the book is printed in black-and-white with reduced resolution in the photographs. On the other hand, the PDF version on the DVD is in color (where appropriate) with higher resolution photographs. You can read the PDF on your computer, tablet device, or smartphone. The PDF version may be more useful than the printed copy in some situations. For example, the web site articles mentioned in the book are clickable links in the PDF. I found it useful to print selected pages from the PDF to keep as a markup reference in the observatory.

A catalog of other books from Arkansas Sky Observatories is also on the DVD.


If you have the right equipment, an Extragalactic Supernova Search Project can be a rewarding and worthwhile endeavour. If this is something that might appeal to you, Dr. Clay's "Supernova Search Atlas and Guide" will definitely be your Guide.

You can order the book here: Supernova Search Atlas and Guide (print-on-demand). Other books from Dr. Clay are also available for order at the same web site. If you want to order the Book + DVD, contact Dr. Clay Sherrod directly.

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