Celestron makes discovering not only nearby stars, but distant nebula and galaxies, a snap. Their SkyProdigy, advertised as a robotic telescope, is one of the CES Innovation Honorees.
The telescope automatically aligns itself – no user fussing with dials or needing prior knowledge of astronomy. It could be called a telescope for dummies. The instrument contains over 4,000 images of celestial bodies. StarSense, patent pending technology, uses images from its on board digital camera and matches them against those internal objects.
Additionally, the SkyProdigy includes a Sky Tour feature which automatically moves the telescope to the best astronomical objects currently visible from your backyard. Its camera is made with image capture technology from Kodak with an ARM Cortex microprocessor.
Celestron encourages students to learn about and enjoy the fun of astronomy. One goal is to draw more students into the fields of science and engineering. Dr. Robert Mills Director of Lowell Observatory is concerned that the US will not be able to compete globally if we do not start turning out more scientists and engineers. He points out that 200 well paid engineering jobs are going begging at an Arizona military base, making the void a national security issue.
To raise awareness and involvement, Celestron donates product to schools, universities, and community centers. The White House got into the act with a Star Party in October 2009 which saw President Obama viewing the heavens through a telescope and honoring starry-eyed youngsters who are already making discoveries.
One school, El Camino College in Torrence, California just down the block from the Celestron's factory, is a major educational influence. Rick Hedrick, founder of PlaneWave Instruments and former owner of Celestron was once a school dropout who played in a rock band.
Then he heard Carl Sagan on the radio and decided to register at the college to continue his education. He was instrumental in pushing Dr. Perry Hacking to teach a telescope making class. The rest is history. Hedrick now holds patents for telescope designs, and Celestron celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Their newest telescope has a 130mm optical tube, glass reflective coating, and a five-inch-plus aperture that resolves those dim, deep sky objects. Eye pieces that are 9mm and 25mm provide 72 and 26 magnification. It takes most standard 1.25-inch and 2-inch eyepieces. The telescope sits on a stainless steel tripod with an accessory tray. Staying with the easy approach, you don't need tools to assemble it all.
You can check out the new SkyProdigy at the Celestron booth #14736 in the Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. You'll be able to buy one this summer in models ranging from a refracting, to a Maksutov-Cassegrain model to a reflecting version, costing $699 to $799 respectively.