Sky ScoutWe spent a couple of nights trying out the new Sky Scout from Celestron, a leading maker of telescopes. It’s a beautifully made piece of optical and electronic equipment for scouting the nighttime sky. Turn it on and Sky Scout’s built-in GPS locator determines where you are and the time zone. Point the handheld device at something bright in the sky and Sky Scout, says the manual, will tell you what you’re looking at.

For our first try we pointed it at what our newspaper’s “night sky” section told us would be Jupiter, appearing above the eastern horizon. Sure enough, there it was, big and bright. Sky Scout’s digital display, however, informed us we were looking at a globular cluster 2,200 light-years from Earth. When we tried another object, we were informed it too was thousands of light-years away, though Bob was pretty sure it was Saturn, which is only light minutes away. (Note: You can see Saturn and its rings with a top pair of binoculars, so this was not a tough test.)

Later the next evening, as the old silent movie signs would read, we tried our luck from a beach 14 miles outside Chicago. The device gave us a message saying there was too much magnetic interference to pinpoint our location (what magnetic interference?), but after a while it found us. We then pointed Sky Scout at the moon, a pretty big target. Apparently it wasn’t the moon, because the Sky Scout display informed us we were looking at the binary star Theta Aurigae, 173 light-years away. Gosh, it sure looked like the moon.

The device has tons of rave reviews from users commenting at Amazon.com. Amazon is selling it for $399, by the way. The rave reviews make us wonder, as we have many times before, just who posts them. They must be from a different planet, because on our humble orb, this one goes in the techno-junk pile. There’s a slight chance that our unit is defective, the company told us, and they would send another one. But it’s been several weeks, and we’ve stopped holding our breath.


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