SkyScout: Your Guide to the Heavens


Amateur astronomers, listen up: Imagine if you could hire an expert astronomy guide to accompany you on all of your stargazing field trips for only $212. The only catch is that you aren’t actually hiring the guide, you are buying the guide.


 The Celestron SkyScout is a device that you point at a star, the moon, a planet, or any other celestial body and it will identify that object for you. SkyScout uses GPS technology, sensors that measure gravitational and magnetic fields and software to calculate the positions of celestial objects relative to Earth. The device is like a 1:1 telescope that you look through to target a celestial object. When you have the object centered in the targeting rings, you simply press the target button and an alphanumeric display identifies the object. The device doesn’t  "see" anything; it simply knows how objects are positioned, and thus, what they are.


I tested the Celestron SkyScout on a recent camping trip in upstate
New York
. To use the device you have to go to an open area, turn it on, and wait for it to gather GPS information. It takes only a minute or two for this function. Then, it works as advertised. Or at least I have to assume it does, because I don’t know enough about astronomy to dispute its claims. But I was able to verify its functionality by pointing it at the moon, a celestial body I can identify without electronic assistance.


SkyScout contains a database of more than 50,000 stars, planets and constellations. You can have the device identify an object for you or you can look up an object in the database and have the device guide you to it. A ring of arrows within the targeting scope guides you toward the object you’re seeking. The database also contains text and audio descriptions of the history and mythology of the most popular objects. Just plug in the included earphones to hear the audio.


Depending on the date, time and your location anywhere in the world, SkyScout can generate a customized list of the 20 best objects to look at. If you lock onto a star that’s part of a constellation, SkyScout will identify the star and the constellation, show a picture of the constellation and guide you to the other stars that belong to it. If you don’t know what to do, SkyScout contains a built-in help menu that guides you step by step.


SkyScout features a USB port that lets you perform periodic updates of the operating software, and also lets you download new data regarding temporary objects such as the space shuttle. A 1/4"-20 threaded socket on the bottom of the device lets you mount it on a tripod or a telescope's piggypack camera mount.


SkyScout is very easy to use, and a lot of fun. My son wanted to see what it was all about, so he pointed it at a bright star, targeted and shouted, “Arcturus… awesome, Dad!”