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The Astronomy Library and Astronomical Literature


(Rev. August 09, 2011)

The Astronomy Library

The Astronomy Library is one of the departmental libraries associated with the Science and Engineering Library. It is located in the Astronomy Building in Room 264. It is accessible via key access only.

The Astronomy Library holds material supporting graduate academic programs as well as advanced research in astronomy and mathematics. It contains more than 13,000 books and 265 journal and serials subscriptions. Astronomy and Mathematics materials are shelved as separate collections. Unbound journal issues are shelved alphabetically by title. Bound journal volumes are shelved by call number.

The Astronomy Library houses the specialized Astronomy books, conference proceedings, observatory reports, periodicals (journals) and reference books. Ph.D., M.A., and undergraduate Senior theses generated by the Astronomy Department are also displayed in the library. Some general astronomy books are kept in the larger Science & Engineering Library in Clark Hall, and some older journals and books are now stored in the Ivy Stacks where the air quality is well controlled.

The most recent volumes of periodicals are kept on a special shelf in the library near the librarian's desk. Reserve books are located on a shelf behind the librarian's desk. The most recent book arrivals are displayed on the bookshelf next to the new periodicals.

Do not re-shelve any materials which you use in the library. Please leave them on the counter in front of the librarian's desk.

${}^{*}$No food or drink are allowed in the Astronomy Library!${}^{*}$ Food attracts pests which then feed on the paper in the library's volumes. Failure to comply with this restriction will result in loss of library privileges.

For more information on the Astronomy Library, check the World Wide Web at and for more details select Collections from the first web page.

Reference and Information Services

The Astronomy Library provides instruction in the use of both electronic and traditional reference tools, in addition to helping you with specific reference questions. You may contact Beth Blanton-Kent for personal assistance: (e-mail:, call 924-6837, or chat on IM to selblanton.

Guide to Astronomical Literature

For astronomers, professional and amateur alike, information is obtained from a variety of sources. Here is a brief introduction to these sources, their use and utility. A list of these sources would include journals, texts, books, catalogs, atlases, almanacs, conference proceedings, observatory reports, emphermides, charts, magazines, databases, etc. The following is a general description of each type of reference, its particular use and lists of the more prominent examples. You will see that astronomers utilize a diverse set of references both to carry out investigations and to keep abreast of current research. A thorough understanding of their use is essential to productive work.

General Guides

Two old but very good guides to astronomical literature are:

Seal, Robert A. 1977, A Guide to the Literature of Astronomy, Littleton, Colo., Libraries Unlimited. (Z 5151.S4)

Kemp, D. A. 1970, Astronomy and Astrophysics; A Bibliographic Guide, London, MacDonald Technical and Scientific; distr. Hamden, Conn., Archon Books, Shoestring Press, Inc. (Z 5151.K45)

The first book in particular contains helpful information for finding your way around an Astronomy Library. Be forewarned: Books dealing with astronomy are assigned Library of Congress numbers by librarians not astronomers.

The Age of the Computer

The advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) has enabled access to many online electronic computer databases. Most libraries now have computerized lists of their holdings (e.g., the UVa Libraries) and provide access to other libraries. Books can even be requested and reserved electronically. Literature searches can now be effectively accomplished sometimes purely by computer. Some journals, like the Astrophysical Journal Letters, are now accepting manuscripts and displaying refereed papers electronically in addition to the usual paper copy. However, it will be a while before we have no need for the reliable hardcopy of our favorite journals.

For lists of astronomical databases you can begin with the following WWW addresses: or


Journals are periodical (weekly to yearly) softback publications designed to give the reader up-to-date knowledge of the astronomical world. One can loosely subdivide journals into three categories: professional journals, popular astronomy magazines, and general science journals. Professional journals contain technical research reports. This is where an astronomer learns of current advances in all fields of astronomy and where a researcher presents his/her work to the scientific community. Articles published in professional journals normally follow strict editing guidelines, are abstracted and heavily references, and have been refereed before publication. General science journals also contain research reports, but cover many scientific fields. Popular astronomy magazines attempt to bring a larger audience the excitement of current astronomy and space research and explain to the educated layman the sometimes exotic objects and processes which populate the universe. Also, popular astronomy magazines present sky charts, updates on visible planets, eclipses, comets, etc., articles of interest to amateur telescope makers, and serve as an advertizing medium for astronomy related items. Following is a list of the more important journals.

Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) - University of Chicago Press
This is the premier professional journal. Published twice monthly it contains research articles on all subfields of astronomy Articles containing large amounts of data are published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series about five times yearly.

Astronomical Journal (AJ) - American Institute of Physics
Equal in stature to the Astrophysical Journal, the Astronomical Journal is published monthly and contains fewer articles. Content is similar to ApJ.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS)
The primary British professional journal, and the oldest continuous astronomical publication. Format and style is similar to ApJ.

Astronomy and Astrophysics (AAp) - Springer-Verlag
This is the primary European research journal and contains articles on all subfields of astronomy by primarily European astronomers. It also has a supplement series.

Science - AAAS
A weekly journal containing articles in all scientific disciplines, but emphasizing biology. This journal also published articles and editorials concerning science policy which are of interest to the astronomer.

Nature - MacMillan Journals
Very similar to Science, published in Great Britain. Weekly.

Science News
A weekly science newsletter geared toward the scientist and science oriented layman; it is not a research journal. Major scientific discoveries and results of space missions reach here long before they appear in professional journals. Science News is the ``Time Magazine'' of the scientific world.

Sky and Telescope - Sky Publishing Company
Sky and Telescope has no peer as a popular astronomy magazine and is read by most professional astronomers as well. No other periodical appeals to so broad a range of interests in astronomy.

A recent (compared to Sky and Telescope) popular astronomy magazine published monthly, Astronomy is designed more for the amateur. Feature articles tend to have a 'gee whiz' style; there are many colorful illustrations. The Astronomy News section is especially useful.

There are dozens of additional professional journals (the astronomy department receives about 25 different journals). Because the time between completion of a paper and publication in a journal can be longer than a year, astronomers rely increasingly on preprints which are sent out when a paper is completed (before or after refereeing). Distribution of preprints occurs informally among researchers and astronomy libraries.

Conference Proceedings

Astronomers frequently attend symposia, conferences, meetings, etc., and deliver research papers. The collected papers of such a meeting are a very important source of information. Their importance lies in the fact that most subfields of astronomy have no text which gives up-to-date knowledge of that subfield. A conference organized on a particular topic provides an excellent summarization. Some of the most significant conference proceedings are the IAU symposia and colloquia (blue, cloth covered volumes).

Observatory Reports

All major and many minor observatories and astronomical research institutes publish research reports describing the activities at that institution. Frequently they are entitled ``Publications of so-and-so Observatory''. In the early days of astronomical research (prior to WWII) observatory publications were the primary method of disseminating research results. They have subsequently been supplanted by the professional journals. Today the publications of many major observatories contain fewer research reports, and deal with staff, instrument upgrades, and computer programs. There are two publications of particular utility:

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society (BAAS)
This publication, available to members of the AAS, contains observatory reports which describe the ongoing research programs of that observatory. Published on an annual basis.

IAU Circulars
Distributed by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, located at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, these cards are designed to call attention to recently discovered and/or transient phenomena so that world observatories can quickly place them under observation. Frequent items are: variable star outbursts, new comets, supernovae in external galaxies, and enhanced activity in active galaxies (QSO's).

Review Literature

In addition to conference proceedings, review articles are the other major source of information which summarizes a topic or subfield of astronomy. Below is a short list of review literature. Frequently an ``invited lecture'' to a conference will be a review and is printed as the first paper in the conference proceedings. Occasional monographs by senior astronomer provide excellent reviews.

Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Published since 1963, this journal contains about 15 essays on various topics selected by an editorial board of leading astronomers. Essentially non- mathematical technical articles of about 30 pages in length. Extensive references given with each article are very useful to the student.

Comments on Astrophysics
This small publication, published about 3 timers per year, contains technical (and mathematical) reviews, normally 3 papers to an issue.

Scientific American
The major popular science review magazine, it is published monthly invariably with at least one astronomy related article. It is geared for the scientist and very educated layman; contains about 8 twenty page papers illustrated with colorful diagrams and photos, often written by an eminent astronomer.


There is one major index to astronomical literature; Astronomy and Astrophysics Abstracts published semi-annually. It contains the abstracts of all articles published in the major journals, exactly as those abstracts appear in the journal. Entries are divided into 108 separate categories by subfield. In addition to research and review articles, conference proceedings, books, texts, atlases, etc. published during the 6 month period covered by the volume are listed. There are two indexes; by author and subject (not by title). The subject index is good but not comprehensive. Since these abstracts are always about a year behind, an offshoot has appeared since 1976, ``Astronomy and Astrophysics Monthly Index''. This contains an author and title index but no subject index.

Almanacs, Data Books, Handbooks

This category of the literature can loosely be defined as sources of data which the astronomer needs to successfully complete observations.

The Nautical Almanac
An indispensable text for every observatory; the Nautical Almanac is published yearly by the U.S. Naval Observatory. It contains voluminous information on mundane, daily, astronomical phenomena like sunrise, sunset, moonrise, positions of the planets and their satellites as well as formulae for calculating the positions of celestial objects. Tables give current epoch positions of bright stars, galaxies, and radio sources.

Astrophysical Quantities by Allen
This text represents the current (publication date) state of knowledge about celestial objects. Divided into many categories, it gives such data as the masses, sizes, distances, and orbital periods of the planets, lists of the brightest and nearest stars, temperature and luminosities of various stellar types and so on. The quickest way to find a particular value in astronomy is pick up this book. The last edition was published in 1973 and is becoming outdated.

Astrophysical Formulae by Lang
This text contains hundreds of astronomical and physics formulae and complements Allen's work.

Astrophysical Data (1991) by Lang
The latest most up-to-date listing of astrophysical data. In two volumes.

Charts and Atlases

Reference works in this category are an essential tool for observational astronomy for amateurs and professionals alike. An astronomical atlas is a representation of the sky or some object in the sky (esp. the moon) and consists of either photographs, maps or overlays. Many atlases are ``all sky'' maps (e.g., Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, SAO atlas), some map out a particular type of object (AAVSO Variable Star Atlas), others present a compilation of objects (Hubble Atlas of Galaxies, MK Atlas). All of these works aid astronomers in preparing and subsequently reducing observations. The advent of the space age has opened up new areas of the spectrum for observation; here atlases help identify objects found to be emitting in the ultraviolet, infrared, etc. Some major works are:

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Atlas (and Catalog)
This reference contains 152 charts covering the entire sky on which stars to about 10th magnitude and many non-stellar objects are plotted. Designed to be used in conjunction with the SAO Star Catalog (described in the next section).

Similar to the SAO atlas, variable stars brighter than 9.5 mag. (visual), and amplitudes greater than 0.5 mag. are plotted using 1950.0 epoch at 4'/mm.

Norton's 2000.0 Star Atlas
Perhaps the most popular star atlas for amateur astronomers. Formerly Norton's Star Atlas.

The MK Atlas
A photographic atlas depicting the standard stellar spectral classification system.

Uranometria 2000.0
A photographic atlas of the Northern Hemisphere (Vol. I) and Southern Hemisphere (Vol. II), for stellar objects with magnitudes less than 9.5.

Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS I): Photographic atlas of the Northern Hemisphere.

European Southern Observatory (ESO): Photographic atlas of the Southern Hemisphere.

New Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS II): Photographic atlas of the Northern Hemisphere.

SERC-EJ: Equatorial atlas

The major sky surveys are listed in Table 2.8 of Mihalas and Binney's Galactic Astronomy, and some major galaxy atlases are listed in Table 2.7 of that reference.


As atlases are an astronomer's right hand, catalogs are his/her left hand. Almost all work in astronomy prior to this century consisted of creating catalogs. The first astronomers cataloged the positions of stars, then later ``brightness'' (magnitudes). People like Herschel and Messier plotted non- stellar objects. Not until the final decades of the 19th century did physics oriented researchers begin investigating astronomical problems (classical mechanics excluded). Later, after the techniques of spectroscopy and photography were developed, it was possible to pursue the analysis of the properties of celestial objects. A list of some important Astronomical Catalogues is given in Table 2.6 of Galactic Astronomy. A useful recent stellar catalogue is the Sky Catalogue 2000.0 which lists the observed properties of stars down to magnitude 8.0. It is published in two volumes, and the second volume describes classes of objects, e.g., types of binaries.

Publisher's Series

There are two series of books which deserve special mention:

Stars and Stellar Systems
An eight volume set published by the University of Chicago Press which was designed to cover all aspects of astronomy. Now mostly out-of-date. Titles are:
Telescopes (1960)
Astronomical Techniques (1962)
Basic Astronomical Data (1963)
Galactic Structure (1965)
Stellar Atmospheres (1960)
Nebulae and Interstellar Matter (1968)
Stellar Structure (1965)
Galaxies and the Universe (1976)

Astrophysics and Space Science Library
Produced by D. Reidel Publishing Company, this series now contains over 80 volumes covering diverse topics in astronomy. Individual volumes have a variety of formats; many are conference proceedings.

Observational Astronomy

Observational Astronomy  by D. Scott Birney (1991). Up-to-date. Intended for undergraduate students.
QB 145.B52

Modern Technology and its Influence on Astronomy  edited by J. V. Wall and A. Boksenberg (1990). Selected articles on a variety of telescope designs from optical to radio.
QB 84.5.M63

Data in Astronomy  by C. Jaschek (1989). Discussion of types of data and ways in which they are archived.
QB 51.3.E43J37

Observational Astrophysics  by P. Léna (1988). An up-to-date text. Intended for graduate students. Description of observing techniques, detectors, and data analysis procedures.
QB 461.L46

Astronomical Techniques  by C. R. Kitchin (1988). Good undergraduate text. Description of detectors and a variety of imaging techniques. Recommended reading.

Astronomy: Principles and Practice  by A. E. Roy and D. Clarke (1988). Good undergraduate level text.
QB 43.2

Astronomical Observations  by G. Walker (1987). An up-to-date text. Intended for graduate students.
QB 86.W35 

Astronomical Techniques  ed. by W. A. Hiltner (1962); Vol. II of Stars and Stellar Systems. An extensive text which gives a detailed description of optical observational astronomy (photometry, spectroscopy, photography, measurement and reduction of observations). It is one of the two basic texts in the field, but it was published almost 30 years ago and an updated version is needed.
QB 86.H5 (Ast)

Basic Astronomical Data  ed. by K. A. Strand (1963); Vol. III of Stars and Stellar Systems. This volume gives the definition and calibration of the quantities which are used to characterize celestial objects.
Recommended reading: Chapters 8, 9, 11, 12, 13.
QB 801.S75  (Ast)

The Astronomical Telescope  by B. V. Barlow (1975). An excellent 200 page text.
Recommended reading: Chapters 3, 4, and 7 (read during first week of semester).
QB 88.B37 (Ast)

Observation in Modern Astronomy  by D. S. Evans (1968). A mostly descriptive text; it is an excellent supplement to Norton's Atlas if you feel that the Atlas is too concise.
Recommended reading: Chapters 1, 2, and 3.
QB 64.E86 (Ast)

Tools of the Astronomer  by G. R. Miczaika (1961). Mostly descriptive, but a bit out-of-date. Recommended reading.
QB 86.M5 (Ast)

Methods of Experimental Physics  Volume 12, Part A: Optical and Infrared, ed. by N. Carleton (1974). A comprehensive text. It is 600 pages in length and consists of a set of review articles on topics in observational techniques. Examples: Photomultipliers, Characteristics of Photographic Plates, Television Systems. Intended for graduate students.
QB 465.A8 pt.A (Ast)

Data Analysis

Practical Astronomy With Your Calculator  by P. Duffett-Smith (1979). Topics include time, coordinate system transformations, orbits of planets, orbits of planets, eclipses, and spherical astronomy.
QB 62.5.D83

Mathematical Astronomy With a Pocket Calculator  by A. Jones (1978). Most of the programs described deal with spherical astronomy. This will be useful for computing current epoch coordinates, and reducing radial velocities to heliocentric values.
QB 47.J66 (Ast)

Data Analysis For Scientists and Engineers  by S. Meyer (1975). A guide to scientific data collection, reduction, and analysis. Also contains extensive material on probability.
QA 276.M437

Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences  by P. Bevington (1969). Discussion of errors, probability, curve-fitting, least squares, and simple statistical tests.
QA 278.B48

Specific References Related to Observational Astronomy


The Astronomical Telescope by Barlow, especially Chapters 4, 5, 6.
Tools of the Astronomer by Miczaika, Chapter 3, 4.


Astronomical Photometry by Henden and Kaitchuck, the entire book
Tools of the Astronomer by Miczaika, Chapter 5
Astronomical Techniques by Hiltner, Chapters 6, 7, 8, 9
Methods of Experimental Physics by Carleton, Chapters 1, 2, 9
Basic Astronomical Data by Strand, Chapters 9, 11, 13
Astronomical Papers Dedicated to Bengt Stromgren, a symposium held in May 1978. Mostly technical papers on the application of photometric observations.  QB 1.A88
Introduction to Astronomical Photometry by Golay, Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Vol. 41 (1974). Graduate level text; not easy reading.  QB 135.G64
Problems of Calibration of Multicolor Photometric Systems, Workshop proceedings held in May 1979. Pages 83 - 102 give a review of the DDO photometric system.


Tools of the Astronomer by Miczaika, Chapter 6
Basic Astronomical Data by Strand, Chapter 8
Methods of Experimental Physics by Carleton, Chapter 10
Astronomical Techniques by Hiltner, Chapters 2, 3, 4, 12

Spectral Classification

``Fundamental Stellar Photometry for Standards of Spectral Type on the Revised System of Yerkes Spectral Atlas,'' Ap. J, 117, 313 (1953), H. L. Johnson, W. W. Morgan.

``Classification of Stellar Spectra,'' Volume 3, in Stars and Stellar Systems: Basic Astronomical Data, 1963, Philip C. Keenan

Henry Draper Catalogue, Harvard Annals, Volumes 91-99.

``The Spectroscopic Absolute Magnitudes and Parallaxes of 4179 Stars,'' Ap. J., 81, 187 (1935), W. S. Adams and A. H. Joy, M. L. Humanson, A. M. Brayton.

An Atlas of Stellar Spectra, Morgan, Keenan, Kellerman (1943).

An Atlas of Low Dispersion Grating Stellar Spectra, Abt, Meinel, Morgan, Tapscott (1968).

Atlas for Objective Prism Spectra Bonner Spectral Atlas I, W. C. Seitter (1969).

An Atlas of Spectra of the Cooler Stars Types G, K, M. S, and C, P. C. Keenan, R. C. McNeil (1976).

A Multiplet Table of Astrophysical Interest C. E. Moore, 1945, Revised Edition, Princeton Contributions No. 20. see also: Atomic Energy Levels, Vol. I, 1949; Vol. II, 1952; Vol. III, 1958; National Bureau of Standards, Circular 467.

Lines of Chemical Elements in Astronomical Spectra P. W. Merrill, 1958, Carnegie Inst. of Washington Publ. 610.

The Solar Spectrum 2035Å to 8770Å C. E. Moore, G. H. Minnaert, J. Houtgast, National Bureau of Standards Monograph 61.

The Ultraviolet Spectra of A- and B-Stars, O. Struve 1939, Ap. J., 90, 699.

Revised MK Atlas for Stars Earlier than the Sun Abt, Morgan and Tapscott, 1977 (referenced in the 1976 "Atlas of Spectra of the Cooler Stars").

Bonner Spectral Atlas Part 2.

Revised MK System, P. C. Keenan and R. E. Pitts 1980, Ap. J. Suppl., 42, 541.


Miczaika, Chapter 2
Carleton, Chapter 5
Hiltner, Chapters 15, 16
Modern Techniques in Astronomical Photography, in the proceedings of an ESO workshop held in May 1978.
AAS Photo-Bulletin, an irregular publication devoted to photographic procedures. The latest cumulative index is on reserve.
Kodak publications on photographic plate characteristics and plate cutting.


Miczaika, Chapter 1
Barlow, Chapter 3
Fundamentals of Optics by Jenkins and White.  QC 355.2.J46
Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday and Resnick, Chapters 35 to 39
Physics by Tipler, Chapters 25, 26, 27.

Spherical Astronomy

Spherical Astronomy by Smart (1949).  QB 145.S6 
The Nautical Almanac

General Astrophysics

Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics by Smith and Jacobs.   QB 47.B47
Outline of Astronomy by Voigt, 2 volumes. Several sections of this text deal with techniques as well.  QB 62.V6413

Advanced Techniques

Instrumentation in Astronomy, Volumes I, II, III.  QB 86.I58*
Scientific Research with the Space Telescope (an IAU Symposium).   QB 88.S35
Auxillary Instrumentation for Large Telescopes, ESO/CERN conference (1972).
QB 86.E18

Radio Astronomy

The Invisible Universe by G.L. Verschuur (1974).  QB 475.V47
Radio Astronomy by J.D. Kraus (1986), Cygnus-Quasar Books
Galactic and Extragalactic radio Astronomy by G.L. Verschuur and K.I. Kellermann (1988), 2nd edition, Springer-Verlag
An Introduction to Radio Astronomy by B. F. Burke and F. Graham-Smith (1997), Cambridge University Press

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