Aug
07
2007

SkyScout: GPS goes universal

Sky spy: This new device -- the SkyScout -- uses GPS to take all the guess work out of astronomy. Point the videocamera-sized unit at light in the heavens and it wiil identify what it is. (Photo from Celestron)
Sky spy: This new device -- the SkyScout -- uses GPS to take all the guess work out of astronomy. Point the videocamera-sized unit at light in the heavens and it wiil identify what it is. (Photo from Celestron)
Looking for that special gift for the astronomer who has everything?

Have you heard about SkyScout? It’s a nifty new tool that costs about $400 but makes identifying things you spot in the heavens a lot easier.

About the size of video camera, the unit made by Celestron can help you identify a particular light you’re seeing in the sky. Or, you can punch in key data and have scan the skies so you can find a particular star or planet.

How does it work?

When you turn on the unit, SkyScout’s global positioning systems first work to identify where you’re at and what day and time it is. By placing the object you want to identify at the center of its concentric circle viewing scope, it then reads landmark stars and objects in the sky to zero in on the item you’re interested in. An audio option can be turned on so that SkyScout will verbally tell you what you’re looking at.

On the flip side, if you want to find Venus, let’s say, you’d simply click on that celestial body on the SkyScout’s menu. Arrows in the viewfinder will guide to move SkyScout in the right directions to that you ultimately get it in your sights. SkyScout has a database of 6,000 heavenly bodies to search out that way.

A Star-Tribune story that ran over the weekend about the unit said that one local astronomy store – Radio City in Moundsview – can’t keep the units on the shelf. And a competitor product, MySky, has just entered the market.

What do you think of this new application of GPS? Have you tried a SkyScout or MySky? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have a SkyScout and it is one of the greatest gadgets I own. It is easy and fun to use. My son is amazed at my knowledge of the sky. He is only 3 and thinks mommy is a genius.

posted on Wed, 08/15/2007 - 2:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How does this work? I can image it finding out how it's tilted via measuring garvity, but how does the Skyscout find the horizontal direction it's pointing at (I mean whether it's pointing to the north of the west)? Magnetism?

posted on Tue, 11/20/2007 - 11:00am
bryan kennedy's picture

A friend of mine asked the same question. I suspect that it just has some sort of digital compass inside (magnetism). It likely combines this information with a tilt sensor (gravity) and the GPS signal (satellites) to figure out the whole picture of where you are pointing it.

posted on Tue, 11/20/2007 - 12:02pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

I see in the Sharper Image holiday catalog that they're carrying the SkyScout now, so you can stop in to one of those stores if you want to see an actual product.

posted on Tue, 11/20/2007 - 1:30pm

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