Sunday, November 26, 2006

What's That In The Night Sky?

The night sky is a lovely thing. So many points of light, each with its own story. And many other objects, less conspicuous but interesting in their own right. But if you don't know your way around, it's just a jumble.

If you ever saw wished you had someone to show you around or tell you what you're looking at, your wishes are now granted. The Celestron company, well-known maker of telescopes, had a brilliant idea. They took all the GPS and software technology they use to automatically point a telescope at a desired object, and put it into a little handheld unit. It's called the SkyScout.

Here's the magic: When you point it at something in the sky, it tells you what you're looking at! This is, in the words of one of the reviewers, "Way Cool." All of a sudden you know your way around. You can become acquainted with stars, planets, nebulae, clusters, and galaxies.

Remember a couple of years ago when Mars made a well-publicized close approach to Earth? But if you looked at the sky, how would you know which object was Mars? Well, this unit operates in a reverse mode also. You can tell it what you want to see, look through the eyepiece, and it points the way with illuminated arrows to find what you're looking for.

Even that's not all -- It has a mode that will take you through a guided tour of any constellation. It can describe entertaining sidelights and history. It can give you a list of the 20 best objects to see, right here, right now. You can plug in optional audio presentations. It can be updated with new objects.

I personally own a Celestron telescope and I can tell you the pointing software works great. All it needs is a couple of minutes to check its internal compass, and talk to GPS satellites, and it knows exactly where everything is.

This is such a great invention it almost boggles the mind. Your virtual guide through the universe. This little unit is #1 on the list of "Hot New Products For 2007" from Sky & Telescope Magazine.

For anyone who has ever wondered about the night sky, wonder no more. The SkyScoutis a sure winner for anyone on your Christmas gift list who is interested in the stars, or spends any significant amount of time outside at night. It's a natural for Boy Scouts or any similar groups on camping trips.


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