I ordered my SkyScout in September, hoping that the initial rush on this item was over and that it would be in stock (as listed) when I ordered it. Sadly, it was actually out of stock, and took a few months to arrive. The unit powered up and seemed to function, but was unable to get a GPS fix in a clear field. Hoping that it was a simple matter of updating the unit, I attached it via USB to my computer and followed the simple directions on the screen. It updated quickly and easily, but I still was unable to obtain a GPS fix. Using the instructions provided, I contacted Celestron, and was directed to return the unit to them for evaluation and repair. Less than two weeks passed, when a new unit straight from Celestron arrived in the mail. This one worked perfectly and as advertised, and without any problems!
Now that I've actually used my SkyScout, I can say that it is great fun to use! Now, December and January in Wyoming isn't the best time of year to be outside at night...wind chill last night was -40F for example, but the SkyScout still works like a champ. Multiple modes of function exist as listed in the description, but my personal favorite is being able to identify just about anything you can see with the naked eye in the night sky. Just view the object through the sky scout, push a button, and you'll get the name of the object as well as at least a few lines of text of information. Brighter objects or better known objects also have an audio commentary that will teach about the history and/or significance of what you're looking at.
While I was disappointed about my first SkyScout not functioning properly, the quick customer service and the replacement working flawlessly have overcome my initial disappointment. The SkyScout is quite simple to use and provides a great way for anyone who can read to start to learn the night sky. I highly recommend it for individuals with an interest in astronomy, families, star parties, and youth groups such as the Boy Scouts.
on December 18, 2006
I have literally been waiting for the Skyscout all my life. I always wanted to be able to look in the sky and identify celestial bodies but just didn't have the kind of brain that could wrap itself around star charts. Nor did I know anyone who could stand there and discuss it with me on a chilly night.
The Skyscout is like no other astronomy-related device because for the first time, you can just take it out of the box, put in the batteries, wait a few seconds for it to find its location via GPS (same as a car navigation system), point at something in the sky and press the IDENTIFY button to have it identified to you. Think about that for a second. At last, you have an easy-to-use handheld device that can tell you what star or star formation you're looking at!
Or you can work the other way. Have it list celestial bodies and formations for you, press the LOCATE button, then helpful arrows in the readout will blink until you've pointed it in the right direction. And many of the entries in its database have audio accompaniment so you can learn about them through the included earphones! How cool is that? It has a slot that will eventually accept cartridges with more stuff as time goes by, but the built-in database is pretty big as it is.
And for what it's worth, because the Skyscout uses built-in GPS, you can use it to display your locaiton using GPS coordinates. I have a nav system on my car but the SkyScout is still better than that, because I can't figure out how to get that info out of the car! on the Skyscout it's just one button.
All this stuff is particularly easy to access, and even the error messages are helpful. For example, on one particularly cold Seattle night I tried to use it from inside my car. A magnet icon popped up, and an error message explained that magnetic interference by something such as the chassis of an automobile was impeding it. Slick.
The gizmos currently included with high-end telescopes come nowhere near this facility. First off, you need a telescope with you. The Skyscout is the size of a hotel alarm clock and has its own (non-magnified) viewer. Just whip this thing out of your pocket and go to town. Second, the ones with telescopes are agonizingly slow to calibrate, like half an hour or so, and must be reoriented every time you pick up the 'scope and move. Plus you have to enter all kinds of location and time information on many of them; the Skyscout just finds itself. And finally, none of them of course can simply tell you what you've pointed the 'scope at. The Skyscout can. I also need to emphasize that it neither needs nor comes with an 80-page manual like the ones that come with telescopes. It's like 1 printed sheet, and that's plenty. The UI is very, very simple.
This is a revolutionary 1.0 product. My only complaint is that goes through batteries like I eat Lucky Charms. Bring an extra set when you go out. Oh, and one reviewer said that for $400 it should come with a lens cap. Fair enough. But remember that the optics are almost irrelevant--it's just a plastic cover so you can see the lighted guides pointing you in the right direction. Get a fingerprint on it, fine--just wipe it off with any lens tissue. The unit won't be damaged, nor will its usefulness be affected in any way by a dirty lens. Your telescope has the magnfication and the useful optics. If you even brought it with you--I never have, so far!
on August 18, 2006
Well worth the wait, this Skyscout delivers. It does exactly as advertised. I live in New York City, not exactly the astronomy capital of the world. So I was a bit hesitant to order because of the limited visibility here in the city. I ordered mine from Amazon on June 11 and was tired of waiting for my order to be fulfilled. So I ordered when I noticed the Discovery Store had it in stock. I had to pay more in shipping and tax but I HAVE IT IN HAND!!!
The Skyscout comes with
one skyscout, a padded case, earphones, wrist strap, usb cable, quick start guide, and instructional CD-ROM
Setup is a snap. Just insert two fresh double A's in the protective shields inside the battery compartment. Tighten the screw and hold the power button until you get the startup screen which reads SKYSCOUT.
After that the GPS kicks in to locate exactly where you are. That takes about a minute or so. You then press continue and your ready to go. You can choose from: Identify, Locate, GPS, Field Guide, and Settings. Tonight I went to Cunningham Park, stood in the middle, and started the show.
Under the option Locate, you search for planets, stars, deep space objects, and it also gives you the option to choose tonights highlights. This narrows space down to what you can see that night. Brightest stars, planets, constellations, whatever you are in the mood for.
I started out looking at Jupiter. I pressed the identify button and it tells you to search for a star and press the target button.
I pointed to the biggest and brightest star and the Skyscout identified it was Jupiter. It then gives you the option of getting information in text form, or by audio narrative. The Skyscout contains audio narration for over 200 hundred celestial objects. I am sure Celestron will add more to that number with updates. It is a great feature that brings your star gazing to life.
The skyscout is great, but as with any new technology it has its bugs.
My skyscout on a number of occasions just shut off. I would have to power it back on and wait for the GPS to relocate my point of origin. It happened about five or six times, today and yesterday. I have no idea why it happens. I was in the middle of the park so I do not believe there was any magnetic interference. It was fustrating and disappointing, I got over it. I love this thing.
One thing I felt could be improved was the viewfinder. I live in the light polluted city so I feel that if it had a wider field of vision it would be much easier to locate what you want to see. You need dark skies and I understand that, but if it had a wider field of vision I would be able to see the stars much easier. There are two red led rings within the viewfinder that provide directional arrows to find an object. But maybe if those rings were shutoff while you are looking through the veiwfinder it would be easier to see the stars as well. Just my opinion. It is a zero magnification viewfinder so you do not have to hold it up to your eye.
The skyscout is worth every penny. It gets five stars for doing what it is supposed to do. If you have children you will have hours of fun with them. If your an adult and love star gazing, grab the wife as I did and have some fun. You will not be disappointed. Unless of course yours shuts off for no reason too.
on July 27, 2006
In a word this product is fantastic.
I ordered my Skyscout on May 3 and rec'd it on July 25th. The delay in delivery was frustrating (not surprising with a new product of this complexity)but worth it. I had the device working within a minute of taking it out of the box. Just insert two double A batteries, turn it on and within a minute the GPS had located my position and the Skyscout was ready to go.
The Locate and Identify functions work exactly as desribed, the accuracy is amazing. The interface is very user friendly and informative. You get look up stars, planets, other objects, constellation (it can show you maps). You get a primer on astonomy and famous astronomers plus lots of other features.
The device feels solid, it is easy to grip and is not heavy to hold. It comes with a USB cable and software that allows you to check for updates from the Celestron site.
I've used it five of the past seven evenings and have enjoyed every minute of it!!
on September 15, 2006
I just got my new SkyScout and decided to update the firmware using the Update utility. What a mistake. After 3 sets of batteries and 3 tries I finally got it to take. The first two attempts ended with a "writing to block" error. After such a failure the unit is dead. Both failures occurred at different points during the updating firmware phase. This was after waiting 15 minutes for the download phase to finish on my 8meg broadband connection. The unit is running on battery through entire process (no AC adapter) and the batteries fade fast. And what a pain to change them! You need a screwdriver and a lot of patience to swap them out. I'm surprised that it only uses 2 AA batteries for such power hungry device.
I spoke with Celestron tech support. No help there. By the way, they answered their main phone number with a simple "Hello". I had to confirm that I was actually talking with Celestron. The tech was unfamiliar with the product and needed to talk with someone else. He was supposed to call back in 30 minutes. He never called back. Fortunately I was able to get the unit back running again by myself.
With the exception of the battery and update feature the unit seems well engineered and very easy to use. It quickly acquired the GPS satellites and was up and running fast. I love the cool red backlighting and the audio prompts as well.
Despite the cool features I just can not recommend this unit at this time. The poor customer support, battery and updating issues seem to indicate that Celestron still needs to do more work before the SkyScout is ready for prime time.
on February 20, 2008
The idea is genius - marry a GPS with an accelerometer and create a device that can tell you exactly what star it is pointing at, or direct you to any visible star. And it pretty much works as advertised. We've used ours on several nights so far, and everyone in our extended family has wanted a turn spotting different stars.
The info on the major stars is plentiful. The audio is a nice idea, but it just reads the same information that is on the text display. Sighting can be a little tricky through the plastic tube, but even faint stars took no more than two or three tries to spot.
The precision is good, but not great. If you point to Orion's belt, it's going to list all three stars. You'll have to read the descriptions to determine whether you are interested in the eastern-most, western-most, or middle star. Did you know that the middle star of Orion's belt, Alnilam, is 50% farther away than the other two? Or that Alnitak, the leftmost star in the belt, is primarily a hot blue supergiant star that is 6 million years old and has already begun to die? Those are the kinds of things SkyScout will tell you. Fun stuff.
It is very sensitive to metal - you can't use rechargeable batteries, and it comes with special tubes to you have to put the batteries in. We couldn't use it standing next to a big swing set, for instance. A little symbol pops up on the video screen and it refuses to work.
The software is PC only. No Mac version in the works as of now. We haven't tried running the updater in parallels or VMWare yet. Updates seem fairly rare anyway.
It's a little pricey, but all in all, I really can't find too many negatives about it. It's amazing.
on November 15, 2006
I haven't bought this yet, but I e-mailed the Celestron Tech Service about the flaws I had read about in these amazon reviews. They replied with,
"Battery life varies with usage. It has a range from 4-8 hours. More locating and identifying will use more batteries.
Magnetic interference has nothing to do with the GPS. GPS works pretty much anywhere in the world, as long as you have a clear sky overhead.
The magnetic interference issue is relative. If you have many powerlines, or are around large metallic objects or electrical junction boxes, then the magnetic sensors will most likely be affected. Most of the time simply moving a few feet away will remedy any issue.
Any crashes or shutdowns due to the firmware were remedied with an online upgrade months ago, and are no longer an issue.
Yes, the SkyScout will shut down after five minutes. This is to conserve battery life when not in use. It will prompt you with a message telling you that it will shut down in a few seconds, and allow you the option to not shut down."
on November 29, 2006
I just got a Sky Scout from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope last night. Since they are backordered until Spring all over the country, I'm feeling pretty lucky. I brought it home and installed the batteries into their special metal shields and took it outside to try it out. I was in the middle of our apartment complex in Los Angeles with 3 story buildings surrounding me and it managed to find GPS lock in under 2 minutes.
This thing is seriously cool. The operation is very easy and I was identifying objects very quickly. I asked it to locate the moon and it took me right to it! Wow, that is cool. The audio narrations are few but very informative.
Now like people have been complaining it does have some issues:
It goes through batteries like water ( 4 power on's and they were half dead.)
The GPS is slow/under powered ( GPS lock can take up to 2 minutes, and does not store your location on power down)
It does not like to be near metal objects (Cars, Fences, Gates, Beams...etc)
Limited audio narrations
Its made of plastic
Red lights inside the scope make it tough to spot dim stars.
No Mac support
Despite all this, I really love this thing. It works like it says it does, and it's easy to use.
If you can find one, I recommend checking it out.
on December 13, 2006
After seeing some of the other reviews which rank it low, I can only imagine they had a bad batch. Mine works flawlessly, aquires a GPS signal within about 1-2 minutes, and I have no problems with magnetic interferance. In terms of battery life, I've used it for about an average of an hour over 5 different nights and I am still on my first set of batteries (regular AA Alkalines). The product is well made, sturdy, and has a solid feel.
My 9 year old daughter has invented a new verb "skyscouting", and we have been "skyscouting" almost every night we've had clear skies and learning more about the night sky more quickly than ever before! She loves the "Identify" mode and enjoys targetting stars. I especially like the constellation image feature and Tonight's Highlights. I did notice that the audio and text descriptions differ slightly so listen/look at both.
on November 4, 2006
I waited a couple months on order before getting mine but was amazed by it. I took it camping in Yosemite and learned so much. It took about a half an hour to really figure out how to work the thing. However, once it was going, I learned a lifetime of astronomy in an hour. I have brought it out on a number of occasions and everyone is always blown away.