If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, there is a rather amazing device available from leading telescope suppliers Celestron that can automatically tell you what you are looking at in the heavens.
The extraordinary gizmo, called the SkyScout, simply has to be pointed at the object in question to work its magic. You click a button and then read off the details about it from a side panel.
It will also tell you all about the celestial body with an audio presentation. You can plug in an earphone to avoid disturbing the nighttime silence.
The SkyScout works because it employs GPS satellite technology to tell it your exact location and orientation. Celestron say the SkyScout has a database of more than 6,000 stars, planets and constellations.
Apart from straightforward descriptive information about your target, it will tell you trivia, history and mythology about popular celestial objects.
The Cloudy Nights website named the SkyScout one of the Top Ten New Products of 2006, saying: “Rarely does a product comes around that looks to change the face of amateur astronomy…Here’s a device squarely aimed at reducing the average age, and introducing beginners into our hobby. The Celestron SkyScout is the wonder gadget of the decade…While it’s perfect for the beginning astronomer, or some one who does a lot of outreach it will also appeal to those gadget lovers out there – you know who you are.”
There are reviews of the device from happy users on the Amazon site as well as elsewhere on the web. I’d be very interested to hear how others get on with this innovative piece of equipment.