I got my Galileoscopes!

I got my Galileoscopes!

I got my Galileoscopes!

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 24 2009 7:19 AM

I got my Galileoscopes!

My Galileoscopes arrived in the mail!

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Yay! There were some shipping problems, and it took longer than expected (they arrived about a month ago but I've been too busy to write up this post). But still, very cool. I ordered three; one for my daughter and me, one to give away on the blog (coming soon), and one that was an anonymous gift to some place that could use a telescope to show kids the wonder of the skies.

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It comes packed pretty well, and all the pieces were there. The lenses are glass -- very nice! -- and the plastic in the tube is solid and fits together pretty well. I will say that the instructions are not terribly clear; if you get a 'scope, go to the Universe Awareness for Young Children site, which has language neutral instructions that make assembly a snap.

Once I opened that page, assembly took only a few minutes. When it was done, I mounted it on my sturdy tripod (I highly recommend using one) and took it outside for a spin.

Galileoscope setup

As expected, with the low power eyepiece it's not too hard to use. The difficulty for beginners is that the telescope employs a lens, which means images are reversed and upside-down, so be prepared for that! It takes getting used to, but most folks do get the hang of it pretty quickly.

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Star images are pretty crisp. That means the lenses are decent quality and aligned well. I tried for Saturn, but couldn't see the rings. The planet is clearly a disk, but the rings are almost edge-on and difficult to discern. Plus, Saturn is about as far away as it can get right now, so it's a poor target to choose. It was the only object up at twilight, though, which is why I tried.

Later, Jupiter rose above our treeline, and the good news is it gets higher every night for a while now. Through low power the planet is easily resolved as a disk, and the four big moons were a piece of cake to spot. I could even just barely make out two or three of the cloud stripes on Jupiter.

I found the higher-power eyepiece almost impossible to use, which I actually expected -- it's hard enough in much more expensive telescopes. Higher power means smaller field of view, so finding objects is tough. Focusing is hard as well, since the target is hard to keep centered. I suggest finding the best focus with both eyepieces and then marking the slider tubes with a white or silver marker that you can see in the dark. That way you can pre-focus.

All in all the Galileoscope is a good piece of equipment. It's not hard to assemble, and if you have a tripod and some measure of patience it will allow you view large bright objects. You won't go galaxy hopping with it, and the inverted view makes bird-spotting hard too. But it serves the purpose it was designed to do: get astronomy in the hands of people everywhere for a very low price.