Midnight At The OPT Corral: Shootout Between The Celestron SkyScout and Meade MySKY

It’s midnight on the plains of Ohio. A lone tumbleweed rolls across the backyard – or maybe it’s just a black german shepherd skulking about in the starlight. A mysterious figure dressed in black steps off the deck planks and out into the open. She’s come fully armed and ready to duel it out. But this time it isn’t the classic battle between the McClaurys and Clantons versus the Earps and Doc Holliday… It’s a shootout between a Celestron SkyScout and a Meade mySKY.

There isn’t any spurs to chink on my tennis shoes as I make my way out across the open back field. However, I am just strange enough to be dressed in a black leather duster and a borrowed black leather fedora and I’m doing my best cowboy swagger as I mosey my way towards the fence row where I’d earlier hung a cardboard sign that proclaimed it to be the “OPT Corral”. I’m in the wide, wide open now… Armed with fresh batteries and the latest technology. I want my questions answered and I want to give those answers to you.

Ready… Set… Aim… Shoot!

Hands down, the Meade mySKY is the single coolest astronomy gadget I’ve ever used. The second it turned on I was hopelessly, helplessly in love with the graphics, music and program. Five minutes later I had a short in the audio cable and when I tried to turn it off the button stuck and even at the risk of getting dew and grass on my good leather coat I had to sit down and take the batteries out to fix it. Once done, everything reset, and we were good to go again, but the nagging problem with a slight short in the audio cord persisted. Still… It’s terminally cool. Every time I would aim it at something I would have this vision of Carl Sagan out there with me, wandering through the weeds, puffing away and aiming a ray gun at the night sky. Hollywood all the way, baby… The multi-media presentations are simply stunning (and after awhile, annoying) and I can say without a doubt that for anyone who even remotely has an interest in astronomy that you’d love it, too.

Ready… Set… Aim… Shoot!

The Celestron SkyScout has about all the visual appeal of a chubby chick at a dance – but take it from a chubby chick at a dance – we’re the type you want to meet. Yep, we aren’t glamorous – but we don’t short out and we’re still on the same batteries you put in us over a year ago. We’re not “wowing” you with fifteen minute video on everything you wanted to know about the Moon but were afraid to ask, but guess what? We’re not blinding you either. We’re just a nice sturdy little box with a pleasant voice that explains an object when wanted and needed, and gives a red scrolling readout when wanted and needed. Same goes with the other… But not all the time, you see. No matter how many times you turn it off and on, or have to take the batteries out to turn it off and on, you have to go through the initial video presentation. But I digress…

Ready… Set… Aim… Shoot!

Once you’ve learned to use the Meade mySKY functions, you can dim the screen and change it over to night vision mode. However, I will warn you that even very dim and red, it is still like pointing your cell phone screen at the sky. Personally, I found it blinding and had to cover it with my hand to aim. The aiming mechanism itself is also a little difficult. It is three illuminated red marks, like a reflex sight, which can either be static or blinking. The problem is, when you go for a tight star field? The sights cover the stars and you can’t see where you’re aimed! To be fair, the Celestron SkyScout has somewhat solved that problem. By looking through the SkyScout (similar to a camcorder) you are seeing an unmagnified view of the night sky and you have an illuminated (brightness adjustable) red exterior circle. Again, this is considerably better, but not perfect. The screen does dim the stellar factor, so there’s no absolute solution besides preference.

Ready… Set… Aim… Shoot!

Score in the favor of the Meade mySKY. In this case I feel that its internal GPS system picked up on my location faster than the Celestron SkyScout and didn’t seem to notice when I walked it closer to metal. Odd, but true. In both cases, some operations are absolutely identical, because both pieces of equipment are capable of driving each companies respective telescopes. However, out here in the back fields, drivin’ the scopes ain’t what I’m after… It’s drivin’ the stars.

Ready… Set… Aim… Shoot!

Now we’re down to that good old classic saying – “the brass tacks”. In other words, what’s my opinion and why. Well, I ain’t afraid of no buzzards, so I’m going to give it to you.

If you want totally cool, get the Meade mySKY. It goes through all the same motions as the other, plus it has all the multi-media programming that any techno-geek could ever want. As a word of caution, I would also assess it as not very durable and somewhat annoying in the long run. It’s damn fancy, Frank… Kinda’ like a silver Colt revolver with trimmins’….

If you want long-term service, get the Celestron SkyScout. It lacks the bells and whistles, but also lacks the techno-problems that goes with them. It has proven itself to be highly durable and practical, perhaps a bit boring, but a useful astronomy tool. It’s a Glock, George… Plain and simple.

Shoot ’em both and decide.

Addendum: OPT has announced that due to the popular nature of this article, they have reduced the price of the Celestron SkyScout to $199 and a Meade mySKY will now be offered at $149 with free shipping.

Many thanks to Oceanside Photo and Telescope for providing the Meade mySKY and allowing me to use OPT as part of the ‘shoot out’ idea.

6 Replies to “Midnight At The OPT Corral: Shootout Between The Celestron SkyScout and Meade MySKY”

  1. Thanks Tammie for the comparison and thanks to Fraser for getting you the mySky. I hope that Meade donated it to the observatory not just a loan from OPT πŸ™‚

  2. My understanding is that the Meade mySky Plus no longer has a GPS unit. You need to enter time and location. How close to actual location does one have to get for accuracy? Zip code, actual coordinates? Is this reay an advance over the mySky?

    Thanks, Howard

  3. Some time ago i wrote a ‘glowing’ report over on Mike Weasner’s Meade site, raving about how fabulous the mySky is. I have used it extensively and it has never failed to be accurate and ideal for stars parties and teaching situations.

    BUT, it is flimsy and although my orignal mySky was replaced under guarantee, my current has also failed in the same way – the on/off button either doesn’t work (take the batteries out to switch off !) or is completely jammed.

    Shame I was having such fun…………….

  4. You do have to enter the time, date, etc. into the Meade mySKY… and make no mistake… it IS flimsy. Both of these units are alike – but very unalike at the same time. This is what makes comparing them rather hard… and why my article ended up being so tounge in cheek instead of being nuts and bolts facts. I couldn’t be factual – because I couldn’t keep a straight face the whole time I used the Meade mySKY. It’s like holding a whole presentation right in your hands! Carl Sagan with a trigger…

    You have to understand, the mySKY was great fun… There was color video presentations, lights, music, camera, action!! And five minutes out of the box? It was malfunctioning. So…. I went right to the source and asked… And they were aware there was a problem. Kinda’ odd that Roger B., myself and hundreds of other people encountered this same thing – yet Meade didn’t pull the product, huh? Stuff happens, and hopefully they have corrected the problem, because it really is a cool toy.

    The Celestron SkyScout never once – not ever – gave me one second of trouble – not even a hint. Yes, it doesn’t have those “WOW!” video presentations and it doesn’t look like something out of Star Trek – but it’s reliable. In my book, that makes it a better choice in the long run for someone who wants a servicable piece of astronomy equipment that needs to be around for a long, long time because you can’t afford to replace it six months down the road. In my situation, I have to trade the “cool factor” in for boring and lasting. It just works better for what I do.

    Another thing I really need to make very clear is the mySKY is blinding. Here again, there are times when I’m happy to trade in blinding for fun. When it’s my dime I’m using, I’ll spend way too much money on a cool astronomy toy that’s fun for a few minutes but doesn’t serve long range goals because it really is fun for a few minutes. If you are trying to seriously use the mySKY as a navigation tool, then don’t… Because you’re going to be angry with it in a big hurry. Imagine (at best here) taping three big blinking red lights on top your cell phone and aiming it at the sky. Your happy display screen (no matter how dimly red lit) is completely annihilating five degrees or more of sky and if you have to cover it with your hand to see then you’re defeating the purpose. At least the Celestron SkyScout works very similarly to a Telrad finderscope, and while the clear display screen does knock a half magnitude off the stars, you’re not blocking anything while you’re looking through it!

    But, like I said in the article – I digress. For the sake of being kind to Meade, the mySKY is great fun to play with for a little while… but when I want to be serious about what I’m doing I want the Celestron SkyScout. I sincerely believe that if any of you were given the same opportunity that you would also come to the same conclusion… While the MySKY is awesome to show off at star parties – it is an expensive toy. The Celestron SkyScout is the one that qualifies as a true astronomy tool.

  5. Good review. Last weekend at the All Arizona Star Party there were two Mead reps. Both great guys and very helpful. They had a mySky there & I’d hoped to get a demo Saturday night, but alas it had fallen off the table & wasn’t working. I had to make do with trying out their 16″ Lightbridge & 12″ LX200 πŸ™‚

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