The following sky charts include all Messier and Caldwell objects. There are currently two different layouts. One is for letter size paper and one for legal size paper. Both are six pages and are intended to be printed back-to-back on 3 sheets of paper. The charts represent the evening sky during each of the Northern Hemisphere seasons.
Seasons Letter (PDF ~ 15 MB)
Seasons Legal (PDF ~ 18 MB)
My thought process and design considerations were as follows…
- Show large areas of the sky on a small number of pages. These charts are intended to be better than a planisphere, but are not a replacement for detailed sky charts.
- Minimize margins for printing on paper sizes available in North America. I like ISO 216 paper sizes (A4, A3, etc). They are just not readily available where I live. I am still considering making an A series version of these charts.
- Include an index for all Messier and Caldwell objects. Show the optimal chart page in bold text within the index.
- Avoid abbreviations that beginners might not know (constellation names, object types, star designations, etc)
- Maps should be usable under red light. Using different typefaces or styling is just as important as any color differences.
- The color used for the Milky Way disappears under red light. This is on purpose and helps keep the object labels readable.
- Use vector graphics (not images) within a PDF format. This allows the charts to be neatly scaled to different paper sizes.
- The legal version is laid out from north pole to south pole on four pages and also includes charts of the poles. The letter version has four season pages covering from the north pole to about -40°, and the south pole has it’s own page. All Messier objects are depicted on the first 4 pages.
Here is a list of similar charts created by other people. I drew inspiration from many of these.
- Taki’s Star Atlas — These are great! I might create a version of my charts using his 12 page layout. I prefer the version of his charts prefixed with c_.
- Mag-7 Star Atlas — These charts use the same PP3 software I am using for my charts.
- Cosmic River — This is a nice 8 page layout. I used his lines.dat file as a starting point for my constellations.
- Beginners Star Atlas — Wonderful set of charts.
- Jim’s Cosmos Charts — Jim has some interesting single page, full sky charts for Messier and Caldwell objects.
- AstroPixels — Fred has a version of Jim’s Messier chart broken into 4 season pages.
- Night Sky — This is a different kind of resource, but I want to list it here. Jon has shared some ideas and PP3 knowledge with me. I also looked at his lines.dat file while working on mine.