Summer Fun – The Celestron Optics Kit

For anyone who does astronomy outreach work, is interested in practicing binocular astronomy or is just looking for a great teaching tool, I’ve got something you really need to take another look at – the Celestron 10X50 UpClose Binoculars and Green Laser Pointer Optics Kit; great for binocular astronomy. Almost a year ago I did a review on this product, and I’m back to tell you how it’s held up against another year of service.

When I first researched the Celestron Optics Kit I was looking for inexpensive binoculars that anyone could handle for our guests at the Observatory. During a public night or an outreach program, we may have a hundred or more guests and, let’s face it, providing several pairs of binoculars can be expensive for a non-profit organization. When doing something of this nature, you face two dilemmas. One… When you can afford them, they are invariably low quality and you’ve just disappointed the person you were trying to teach binocular astronomy… and… Two… When you get a good pair of binoculars they cost so much that you’re afraid to let smaller children handle them. (Which is equally wrong, because kids are people, too!)

Of course, since the green laser pointer came along a few years ago, all of us have learned a lot of aiming tricks. They can be aimed (carefully) through an optical finderscope to project a beam in the sky, they can be rigidly mounted on a telescope or binocular body as a finder, they can be used to point things out, or… in my case… I quickly learned that even a novice (right down to my five and six year old grandchildren) can follow the visible beam to where you target it, to its end with binoculars. Then the beam is switched off and the object is in the binoculars! With a mind for safety, it’s a simple and fun way to teach anyone to use binoculars for deep sky observing.

But the green laser wasn’t what I was after… It was the binoculars, wasn’t it?

Another aspect of the binocular astronomy classes we give is providing a monthly star chart to our guests that highlights a few objects for them to locate on their own. It’s just a simple handout – one I print out at home before any program and we stand around in the dark and share a red flashlight as I teach them how to read it and point out the marker stars with the green laser. Yep. We share the red flashlight… A simple tool that should be in the hands of every single person that even remotely takes an interest in reading an astronomy chart outside at night… And one that I just don’t happen to have ten extra to pass around.

But the red flashlights wasn’t what I was after… It was the binoculars, wasn’t it?

So, back to basics. I needed multiple pairs of binoculars that could withstand hard use (like accidentally being dropped on concrete, run over by a Jeep or left out overnight) and perform well. After many years, and many pairs of personal binoculars, I’d love to put Nikon, Oberwerk or Fujinons in every one’s hands, but the reality check is not every one’s hands are ready for these types of binoculars. What I needed was something I knew from experience that could withstand being dropped, was water-proofed and provided an excellent view. In that case, experience tells me Celestron and a great all-purpose astronomy binocular size is 10X50.

So, here I am… Staring at the Celestron 10X50 UpClose Binoculars and Green Laser Pointer Optics Kit for $59 and then the reality check really comes home. For this price I can order five… And get five pairs of binoculars, five green laser pointers and five red flashlights… All for about what five pairs of binoculars would cost! Click. Ordered. Now I find out they’ve gone down to $29.95 and guess who’s ordering more?

Yep. We are. And here’s the reason why…

handnavigationEvery year we see thousands of visitors each summer and teach the night sky. Lessons begin as simply as learning navigation directions – like degrees – with hand spans and finger widths. When it comes down to nuts and bolts, the more experienced people you have with you armed with green lasers, the more effective any program can be, because a lot of seeing the laser beam has to do with the angle you are looking at it. (And unless you’re using one that will bore through concrete, no typical green laser pointer is going to cut through moonlight, ok?) In this case, we can easily do a presentation where we can point out constellations with the green lasers and responsible adults can also assist in the program by pointing out particular stars or objects for us to name. By having several flashlights available, small groups of kids can work together with charts and adults at the same time to learn constellations on their own. When it’s time to practice astronomy, we use the same “follow the beam” trick, they learn and have a great time!

outreachSo how do the binoculars hold up to exuberance, youth and use? Like the fabled Timex watch… If you think a 5 year old would be hard on equipment, try handing it to a group of teenagers. (Word of warning? Never trust them with your laser.) While most of them are respectful, the fact remains that these original 5 pairs of Celestron UpClose 5X10 binoculars have had the right eye diopter twisted like Chubby Checker, the interpupillary distance adjusted in and out more times than my waist size and the focuser spun around more times than the big wheel on the Price Is Right. They’ve had mascara cleaned off the lenses with a t-shirt, knocked off the observing table and left outside. In general… They’ve been used. But you know what? They still perform. All five pair have kept their collimation. Not one pair shows any signs of getting moisture inside and every last one of them still operates just the way they did when they came out of the box.

Are the laser pointers and flashlights still using the original batteries? Oddly enough, two of the flashlights and one of the laser pointers still is. None of the flashlights malfunctioned with time, but we did have two laser pointers that have to be “warmed up” to use. (Don’t ask me why, but they work brighter after they’ve been on for a few minutes.) Also, when the weather dipped down below the freezing point, the lasers also needed to be kept warm (like in an internal coat pocket) to function quick and easy. Sure, these low power green lasers aren’t going to stun the crowds with their light sabre-like qualities and shoot down passing aircraft, but they are highly efficient at being a simple beam pointer and work just fine. Just try to find one for what this whole kit costs!

Am I disappointed in the Celestron 10X50 UpClose Binoculars and Green Laser Pointer Optics Kits? Not hardly – and you won’t be either. Combined with a simple star chart and a starry night, you’ll be in for a whole lot of summer fun for about what a large pizza would cost. It is an exceptional bargain at $29.95 and one I highly recommend. As a matter of a fact, I recommend it so much that OPT is even going to give three of these kits away to Universe Today readers to keep so you can test it out yourself! From now until June 25 at 12:00 pm PDT you can send an email with the title of this review in the subject line and your name in the body of the email and Universe Today will randomly choose a winner to get your own Celestron Green Laser Pointer Optics Kit for free! All you have to do is pay for shipping, ok?

Put ’em to the test and see if you don’t agree. The Celestron 10X50 UpClose Binoculars and Green Laser Pointer Optics Kit is an exceptionally rugged and good performing astronomy binocular and having a red flashlight and green laser is a huge bonus.

The Celestron 10X50 UpClose Binoculars and Green Laser Pointer Optics Kit were purchased for this review from Oceanside Photo and Telescope and three free kits will be provided to randomly chosen winners by Fraser Cain of UniverseToday.

4 Replies to “Summer Fun – The Celestron Optics Kit”

  1. I’ve long held that newbies to astronomy purchase a pair of binoculars in the 7X50 or 10×50 range to learn about the sky and some of the brighter deep-sky objects before plunging directly into using telescopes. Binos for more advanced amateurs can have objectives in the 70-150mm range! and may have features including interchangeable matched sets of eyepieces and threading for matching pairs of filters. Not to mention reduced eye fatigue by using both eyes. Thanks, Tammy, for bringing this important aspect of astronomical obdervation to our attention.

  2. Although I have 3 telescopes, my 7X50 Celestron Binoculars get more use than any other optics I own. Many people fail to realize just how large some objects are; the Pleiades cluster and Andromeda Galaxy are best viewed in low-power optics, like binoculars. With higher power, you will only see part of these objects.

    And binoculars are great for wildlife viewing and sporting events, as well.

  3. paul swanson brings up a couple of good points. A pair of binoculars are much easier to tote around, meaning they’ll probably be used more often than most telescopes one owns. I always keep a pair of 10X50s at close hand for either astronomical or terrestrial use (you never know when you might sight a bolide with a long-lasting train on some dark, moonless night). The second reason for choosing binoculars as your instrument of choice has to do with the apparent size of the object in question. Some objects with large apparent angular sizes benefit from the wide field of view and low magnification that binoculars offer. Objects like the Andromeda Galaxy (M 31), M 33, the Hyades Cluster, Barnard’s Loop and many others come to mind. Other advantages of binoculars are are their usually great collimation, ruggedness, light weight and portability and ease of use (they even sell solar filters for binos!). They say two eyes are better than one, but then what is the QE of the eye compared to a back-illuminated CCD ?

  4. don’t forget OPT is giving three sets of celestron optics kits away for free as a thank you to Universe Today readers! (all you have to do is pay for the shipping and you’re in for a real treat… and how i wish i could get in on this contest!)

    just use the above link or email: [email protected] with “Summer Fun” in the subject line and fraser will randomly draw three winners in a couple of weeks. this is a great chance to get either a spare pair or your first pair of binoculars and start enjoying!

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