Celestron Travelscope 70
How did I get it? A few months ago, I went down to our local telescope shop to look into making a purchase, and quickly became overwhelmed. So I employed that tried and true tactic of asking an expert for help. It turned out the man behind the overly-cluttered counter in the even-more-cluttered shop was just such an expert, having spent more time looking through telescopes than I’ve spent breathing, so I told him:
- I was looking to buy a telescope for the upcoming birthday of my currently-space-mad-but-who-knows-what-he’ll-be-interested-in-by-Christmas almost-five-year-old.
- I wanted something good enough to expand and encourage him.
- I didn’t want to spend an enormous amount of money.
- We live on the ground floor of an apartment building, overlooked on all sides by very nearby apartment buildings, with no roof terrace, in the middle of a light-polluted city, and we don’t own a car.
Without hesitation, he told me I should buy the celestron travelscope 70. Then I employed that tried and true tactic of not believing him until I’d done some research on the internet, after which I went back to the shop and bought the celestron travelscope 70, and I couldn’t be happier.
When, Where, and How Often Do I Use It? We use it weekly at present, except when the PSI is so high that the entire city looks like a post-apocalyptic war zone. Sometimes we set it up on the balcony to squint at the tiny window of sky we can actually see from home. Other times we carry it to the local park.
We’ve taken it on two holidays, and we also take it on any expedition where we think we might want to look at far away things up close. If you’re in Singapore, you can try taking yours to the Science Centre Observatory on Friday nights, from about 7:30-10pm (slightly variable). An enthusiastic and dedicated band of volunteers will be happy to help you out with your sky gazing using either their own, personal telescopes or the big one belonging to the observatory – for free.
Good points: It’s portable. It’s very portable. And if it wasn’t portable, we would never, ever use it, so that’s definitely key for us. We have managed to take it with us by bus, car, MRT, foot-scooter, stroller, motor boat, aeroplane, and cable car, and even the five-year-old can carry it easily on his back. Not only that, but it actually works (we heard the toy telescopes didn’t share this virtue). We can see stars and the craters of the moon, have found Venus (we’re pretty sure) and possibly also Jupiter (unconfirmed), and this is about the extent of our astronomy for now. I also like it because it’s adaptable – we can always expand its functions later on by fitting different filters and eyepieces.
It comes bundled with everything you need (including the carry bag) to get started with a quick, no-tool setup, which obviously suits the attention span of a young child and those shopping with young children in stores which sell delicate, enormously expensive, but incredibly interesting equipment. It’s rugged enough to withstand at least some accidental knock-downs onto concrete surfaces (guess how I know), and on top of all of that, it delivers images right-way-up, so that when astronomy loses its allure it can still come with us to the zoo, the shipping docks, the wetlands, the scenic hiking trail, and the voyeurs anonymous group I attend each Thursday evening at various undisclosed locations around Singapore (no I don’t).
Drawbacks: The tripod deserves at least some of the criticism it gets, having been optimised for cost and packing weight rather than stability or function. That said, it isn’t as bad as some make out, either. Weighting the tripod was a good tip I picked up from a review site (Amazon? the suggestion was a couple of rocks in the carry bag hung between the legs), and changing to a different tripod is another worthwhile consideration. We manage to make it work well enough at our level, which, as stated above, mainly involves casual star and moon gazing.
The biggest problem for us is that it’s best for horizontal viewing. To say that this is a pain in the neck on those occasions when the moon is almost directly overhead between sundown and children’s bedtime would be both accurate and a terrible pun. On the other hand, the horizontal view is absolutely great for all those non-astronomy purposes.
Do I recommend it? If you’re the type of hard-core astronomy geek who regards the celestron brand as being “pretty decent, for a mass-produced range” (like the wizened old gentleman who sold ours to us but prefers to custom-make his own), I would consult a hard-core astronomy geek, rather than take my advice. But if you want an affordable, versatile, and above all portable instrument to get your family started, this is definitely a good option.
You can find out more about the celestron travelscope 70 at their website. (Celestron recommends it for thirteen years and over, but I think you can come down a bit there.)
Disclosure: The only reward I’m getting for this is the smug sense of self-satisfaction that comes from dispensing one’s unsolicited advice.