Archive for the ‘Astronomy Gear’ category

Upgrade your Celestron “i” Series hand controller!

February 3, 2008

nx8i.jpgThe only reason I might have purchased a Meade telescope instead of my Celestron was the ability to download updates to the hand controller, such as new comets and such. Good news! Celestron has redesigned their hand controller for their new SkyAlign™ technology, and it also supports downloadable updates. Cool. Even better, I just learned that you can buy the new controller for your “i” series for $150, or send your original and $75 to trade in the old for the new controller. I’m doing it.

More information at the Celestron site. Other Celestrons are also upgradeable, see this page on Mike Swanson’s NexStar Resource Site to learn more.

Update 2/3/2008- As of this writing, Celestron seems to have discontinued the trade-in program. The new controller is now available through resellers for $150. I read in the newsgroups that they aren’t easy to find, at least not yet. Starizona is one outfit that advertises them.

A new member of the family is on the way- The Coronado PST (Personal Solar Telescope)

October 28, 2006

The Coronado Personal Solar Telescope As I wrote in another entry, planet Mercury will be transiting the Sun on November 8 viewed from here in the eastern USA. I do have a solar filter for my Celestron 8i, and I used that combination during the Venus Transit in June 2004. I’ve long wanted to be able to observe the sun more routinely, but setting up that whole rig can be tedious, particularly because that configuration will only display sunspots. If there are no sunspots, I get a nice picture of a featureless ball for my efforts.

Visible Sun Features, Image © Greg Piepol, used with permission

Coronado has made their name with very high-grade hydrogen-alpha filters for solar viewing. Pictures in hydrogen-alpha reveal the beautiful texture of the Sun’s surface, as well as sunspots, solar prominences, granules, filaments, and more. Until a few years ago, it was far too expensive for most people to own a hydrogen-alpha filter or telescope, but no more. For $499, at this writing, I’m getting a scope that will give me views like those you see here, weighs about 3 pounds, and fits on top of a standard camera tripod. Oh sure, I could still spend $20,000 and get the latest and greatest Coronado scopes, but… well actually, I couldn’t. At this price, I am thrilled. I plan to leave the scope set up on my tripod, check this current picture of the Sun in hydrogen-alpha light once a day, and be able to be out and observing in under two minutes.

(solar image © Greg Piepol,, used with permission)

UPDATED: Nice to have: Celestron’s Sky Scout handheld star finder & “personal planetarium”

September 4, 2006

Celestron's Sky Scout As my friends can attest, for years I have wanted to design and market a consumer device that would combine a laptop, astronomy software, and virtual reality glasses you can see through (like a heads-up display) with which to teach astronomy. Imagine, for instance, looking up, pressing a button, and having the outlines of all the constellations superimposed on your view of the sky? Of course, hobbyists like myself would also have a complete blast.

Anyway, Celestron is releasing something like that in April 2006, called the SkyScout, for only $399.

UPDATE 8/24/06: Sky & Telescope magazine’s mini review is here.

UPDATE 8/30/06: Another review, this time from the Associated Press, is here. Also, I’ve learned another very cool use for the SkyScout?: it can find bright objects like Venus or Jupiter during daylight hours! Few people have seen these during the day, though they are frequently visible if you know exactly where to look, especially through binoculars. Sadly, eyes are not good at picking up a tiny speck of light against a vast field of blue. I think if I had one, I’d probably attach my StarFinder™ Green Laser Pointer to it, so people with me could follow what I’m seeing.

UPDATE 9/4/05: The AP SkyScout review is now on the web. Looks like this is going to be a popular device!

I’ve read the online information, and the three main features seem to be:

  • Look through Sky Scout and point at something in the sky, and it will tell you what you’re looking at.
  • Ask Sky Scout to locate something for you, look through it, and arrows in the viewfinder will guide you to it.
  • An LCD readout and audio output will provide more information on the sky, and even take you on guided tours.

All of which is very slick for the price. I suspect they’ll sell a bunch of them. I’d like one myself.

Astronomy gear I want to buy next… (updated)

February 18, 2006

What’s money when I have more stars and galaxies to find?


Observation Log 2/4/06: Kemble’s Cascade, the final chapter

February 4, 2006

Later the same night, I picked up the last few dim stars with the bigger binoculars.


Loose bolts on my Celestron N8i

April 20, 2004

Important ones, too.


StarFinder™ 532nm Green Laser Pointer & Mount from

March 23, 2004

Green Laser Star Pointer
Whether on a scope or just pointing out stars in the sky, this is one sexy piece of equipment.