The previous post, “Red vs Blue”, suggests that published star color may be of interest to astronomers, and there should be a footnote on where to look them up. Spectral classes and color indices are now collected by satellite, and computer-accessible catalogs from the Tycos and Hipparchos catalogs provide professionals with this data. My own planetarium program, Earth Centered Universe, gives detailed spectral classes along with positions, proper motions, parallaxes, radial velocities, visual and absolute magnitudes and other data for stars down to magnitude 16.
But what about non-astronomers, or amateurs? Here are a few sources they might have on their own bookshelves, or at their local university library. This information predates the satellite era, having been compiled by the methods I described below) but is still quite useful and complete.
The Atlas of the Heavens Catalog (A. Becvar)contains good data for stars in the Boss Catalog down to magnitude 6.5 (visible to the naked eye).
More up-to-date and reliable data is available in the Sky Catalogue 2000.0 Vol I, 2nd Ed. (A. Hirschfeld, R.W. Sinnott), down to magnitude 8.0. This is an excellent companion to the ubiquitous first edition of Sky Atlas 2000.0, practically ever star plotted there has data listed. Many stars have radial velocities listed as well. Vol II has data on variables, multiples and non-stellar objects. This is a treasure, every amateur should get both volumes of Sky Catalogue before they go out of print.
Out of print, but still available through dealers and private sales on the internet are the great Antonin Becvar atlases, Atlas Borealis, Australis, and Eclipticalis. Over a quarter of a million stars are plotted, in color, correponding to their spectral class. These atlases are complete down to about 9th magnitude, but contain many additional stars as well, sometimes as far down as 13th. It is a colossal work, and will never again be duplicated, this type of publishing is simply too cost-prohibitive today. There aren’t enough potential buyers today to cover the printing costs. If you find this one at an estate or library sale, snatch it up. Mine cost me $75 a piece new, I’ve seen them for several hundred dollars each on the net, and prices are rising. Not only are these atlases a convenient compilation of data which is now scattered all over the net, they are, from an esthetic point of view, absolutely gorgeous. They make great coffee table books.
THe popular import Herald-Bobroff AstroAtlas from down under is also out of print, but still readily available on the used book and collectors markets, also at ever-increasing prices. It gives stars and their spectral class down to about 9the magnitude, but it is in black and white, and the spectral class is denoted by notches in the stellar symbols. Unfortunately, these don’t show up very well, even with a powerful loupe, below about magnitude 8.
The other great paper atlases of the modern era, Uranometria, Millennium and the Great Atlas of the Stars (already out of print!) contain no color data.
The data is out there, on the net, but no longer in book form.