The Celestron SkyScout has been out in the market now for about a year, though I just recently learned about it. Usually I am not really all that interested in the latest hi-tech gadgets but I have never seen anything quite like the SkyScout.
Quite simply, the SkyScout is more of an educational tool than a toy and it should be, given its price tag. It was invented to help educate the average backyard astronomer, though through the use of some of today’s latest technology, I feel as if the SkyScout would work well for even a more advanced amateur.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be that much to it. It is rather lightweight but it is rubber armored and feels solid in the hand. There are volume controls for the audio and brightness adjustments for the menu screens and viewfinder. It is roughly the size of a handheld camcorder, and runs on 2 AA batteries. When turned on, the GPS system immediately goes to work locating satellites. Doing some research, I found out that the SkyScout employs special software that can calculate where the stars and planets are at that particular moment. It also utilizes 3 “axix sensors” which act to measure earth’s gravitational and magnetic fields.
Using the menu in the viewfinder, you simply navigate via simple instructions to locate a particular heavenly object such as Mars. Blinking arrows indicate which way to point the device – up, down, left or right until your target is reached. You can also point and press the target button while pointing at any visible object (it can identify over 6,000) and it will tell you what you are looking at. It works no matter where you may be located on the planet, of course.
Headphones are also included, though the quality is poor. If you want audio information, you simply point the device at a planet or star then once again press target, and select the audio function on the menu and you will be greeted with a woman’s voice that supplies facts and information about any one of over 200 objects.
Some of the Celestron SkyScouts features include the “Tonight’s Must-See List” (tells the user the 10 most interesting things to look at in the sky that night),”Constellation Lessons” (shows a picture of the constellation, and helps the user locate the other stars in that particular constellation) and “Content Cards” – an SD (secure digital) card slot is readily available for additional content.
Overall I thought it was a very innovative device and apparently I was not alone. Awards? It’s won a few including PC Magazine’s Last Gadget Standing, Popular Mechanics’ Editor’s Choice, Popular Science’s Best of What’s New and CES’s Best-Of Innovations.
If you are in the market for a fun and educational experience, then put away your flashlights and starcharts all you astronomy buffs. Pick up a few extra batteries go out into the night sky and give the SkyScout a try and see what you think.