What happens when you mix a large group of kids with a telescope that talks? Chances are, you’ve got a recipe for loads of astronomy fun. Thanks to a generous donation of a Celestron SkyScout 90 telescope and more, the Outreach Team at Warren Rupp Observatory soon found out what it was like to take on more than 300 guests during a recent public night and just how valuable certain pieces of astronomy education equipment can be. Come on inside where it’s dark and let me show you what we’ve found…

Since the introduction of the Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium, amateur astronomers the world over have been delighting in its simple, easy to use format and ability to instantly identify and/or locate any celestial object visible to the unaided eye, providing educational and entertaining information, both in text and audio. Many times when you encounter a large group of people, you’ll find there are some that are just a bit too shy to ask questions, but desperately would like to explore… And handing them a Celestron SkyScout opened up a whole new world to them. But what exactly would happen if you gave them the equally easy ability to see the objects they had found with a telescope? That’s where the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90 came into play and opened up the wonders of the Comos…

Like all non-profit educational organizations, the Observatory simply couldn’t afford new equipment. We never charge for attending public nights – nor do we charge for giving educational programs. As a result? Well, we might always be broke… But that hasn’t stopped us from continuously being #5 in the NASA Night Sky Network Outreach standings and serving thousands of children and adults the very best in educational programming and sharing the night sky. And even as quiet as we try to be in the dark, sometimes our voice gets heard! Just like Celestron heard about UT reader Brian Sheen’s Outreach Expedition in “Canoe Africa” and donated equipment, so our need was also heard and OPT Telescope stepped forward with an equally astounding donation…

With just a few gentle lessons from one of our Outreach Team Members, Bob Kocar, it wasn’t long until the kids soon took over our new Celestron SkyScout Scope 90. The easy to use alt-azimuth mount and tripod allows users of any age to move easily around the sky, but that wasn’t the only treat they had in store! Along with our donation package from OPT came the incredible blessing of the Celestron SkyScout Speakers. This amazing little device only took a few minutes to charge via a USB port and delivered big, big sound to anyone within the waiting circle around the scope! Now, while one child aimed the scope, another could produce the “program” to go along with it! Story after story played, but sky scouting out the astronomy fun didn’t stop there…

With an easy to use telescope, a personal planetarium that worked like their familiar iPods, and a sky full of stars… What more could a huge group of kids and adults ask for? That’s right. More. And OPT had delivered more in the form of the Celestron Sky Scout Expansion Card – International Year of Astronomy. The next thing you know, we were hearing about all the celestial events that would be taking place this month, information on the International Year of Astronomy and highlights of important milestones in astronomy and space history. After a few bright Messier objects, a young man held up two more he had found in our box of astronomy toys and the crowd around the telescope soon grew larger as they explored the Celestron Sky Scout Expansion Card – Astronomy For Beginners and Celestron Sky Scout Expansion Card – All About The Stars.

Does adding a dimension like the Celestron SkyScout Scope 90, the Celestron SkyScout, speakers and expansion cards really have an impact on both personal and public astronomy? You can see the results for yourself, but what you can’t see is the most important of all. For those of us who practice astronomy, we often tease that we never know a face – but we know the voice in the dark. That night the voices in the dark were busy talking about star colors and names, pointing out constellations to each other and talking about distances and facts like young Carl Sagans. For some folks, this type of equipment might not seem right – a recorded voice taking place of a live astronomer – a telescope that utilizes GPS technology and point and shoot simplicity… But for a huge group of kids who embrace new technology?

It was a night of Sky Scouting out astronomy fun!

Our many thanks go once again to Mr. Craig Weatherwax of Oceanside Photo and Telescope for your generous donation to Warren Rupp Observatory and your continued support of our UT readers. It means so very much to all of us…

Tammy Plotner

Tammy was a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status. (Tammy passed away in early 2015... she will be missed)

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