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SkyScout front view.jpg

Have you ever gazed up at the starry night sky and wished you could remember more from high school astronomy than just the Big Dipper? With the Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium, you just point, shoot, and learn. The SkyScout uses GPS technology, calculation positioning software, and gravity and directional sensors to identify celestial objects and tell you all about them.

You just look through the camcorder-like lens, point at a star, planet, cluster, or constellation that interests you, and click the “target” button — the SkyScout then provides textual descriptions of the object, including history, mythology, and trivia.  It can also deliver the descriptions via audio, but reviewers say it drains the batteries.

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According to the SkyScout website, the device offers a number of cool features:

    1. Locates over 6,000 stars, planets, and constellations from built-in celestial database and provides scientific information for each object
    2. Provides comprehensive text and audio descriptions providing history, mythology, and other entertaining information for the most popular objects
    3. Tonight’s Highlights: A customized list of the 20 best objects to view for your exact date, time, and location anywhere in the world
    4. Constellation Lessons: if the star you identify or locate is part of a constellation or an asterism like the Big Dipper, you can actually take a guided tour through all the stars in that constellation and even see an onscreen map of the constellation

With the SkyScout’s USB port you can update its database, using the downloadable Skylink interface, as new objects (such as comets) are discovered. An SD card slot takes expansion cards containing more audio information, and a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and earbuds are included.

The SkyScout measures 7.4 by 4 inches and weighs 15.2 ounces sans AA batteries — light and compact enough to carry around your favorite dark site.  Street pricing starts at $300 but can run as high as $400, depending on where you shop. This gadget looks like it may well be worth it — especially for backyard astronomers, campers, or kids learning about constellations.

Street Pricing [Google Products]
SkyScout [Official Site]

 

4 Responses to Bye-Bye, Kaleidescope! Hello, Personal Planetarium!

  1. Stuart Deutsch says:

    Beginners are MUCH better off spending the $300-$400 that this costs on a small tube refractor or Dobsonian mounted reflector telescope. A star map will tell you what you can see, jotting down a sketch and coordinates will help you identify the object later and look it up on Wikipedia.

    Heck, even a good pair of Binoculars will offer a better beginner’s experience to stargazing and astronomy. That said, this is a great device for intermediate to advanced hobbyists, but then again it’s not really actively advertised for beginners.

    Besides, many toolmongerers pride themselves in their DIY ways. Well, if you’re interested in astronomy, pick up a field guide, a pair or binoculars, and go at it.

  2. Jim K. says:

    @Stuart

    Agreed about the DIY spirit of a lot of toolmongers and that a decent dobsonian reflector will provide a great entry point into stargazing that might suit them more.

    That said, I’ve had a few of these at our science center for awhile now and absolutely LOVE them. They’re easy to carry, easy to use, and much less intimidating for a lot of first timers. If you’re looking to learn about the constellations and basic night sky viewing these are awesome.

  3. rick says:

    I have used one, it is simply AMAZING!!! this thing is wonderful. For someone like me, its great to know what you are looking at or find where something is. I cant justify the money though, so i dont have one… but man, if you are reasonably well on, this is sweet!

    note: it doesnt have any magnification to it, just used to identify what it is pointed at. and it works darn well!

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