Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coming very soon: the Galileoscope

A model of the Galileoscope
Image Credit: IAU / IYA 2009

Within the next few weeks, one of the cornerstone products of the International Year of Astronomy will finally be available: the Galileoscope (model pictured above).

The Galileoscope is an inexpensive (I believe $15) kit that allows people to build their own telescopes of the same size as Galileo's pioneering telescope. But it is better than Galileo's version, because it uses modern optical components. With the telescope, you can see Jupiter's moons, Saturn's rings, mountains and craters on the moon, the phases of Venus, and even many extra stars in some star clusters like the Pleiades or the Beehive. These were all major discoveries that Galileo made 400 years ago. One of my colleagues was able to look through a Galileoscope last week, and said that the quality is amazing, especially considering the small size and small price of each kit.

Anyone will be able to buy the kit, but it is really ideal for educators. With the inexpensive cost and the build-it-yourself nature of the kit, we hope that teachers at all grade levels will be able to buy one or more kits for their science classes. Some tested Galileo-oriented teaching activities will be available, that not only allow students to learn about optics and astronomy, but also fulfill many other state-mandated science teaching goals.

For more information about Galileoscopes, including a sign-up to be notified when they go on sale and some pictures taken through an assembled kit, check out the Galileoscope website.

I think that efforts will be made to try and provide some financial assistance for needy classrooms, both in the U.S. and abroad. You should contact the Galileoscope project to get further information.

And, if you don't want or need a Galileoscope of your own, but would like to help this project and other astronomy outreach projects of the International Year of Astronomy, please consider donating a little money. Budgets are tight, and our goal as astronomers is to get every human on the Earth to think about astronomy at least once this year!

Finally, if you'd like to use the Galileoscope with your classes to look at the phases of Venus, be sure to order one soon. Venus will be visible in the early evening sky only until about the start of April. From May through the rest of the 2009, Venus will be up only in the pre-dawn sky (good luck at trying to get school children out of bed early for that!)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:46 PM

    At a news conference in San Francisco last month the head of the Galileoscope project said that significant numbers of the telescope would be available not before this summer - it how far does it advance matters to "to order one soon" and have it actually arrive before the evening apparition of Venus is over?

    Also it was reported in a newpaper from the town of the Wisconsin company that should run the whole business that the latter is in major financial difficulties and hasn't been able to get the Chinese production line running since banks wouldn't give them credit. Meanwhile the deadline for when orders on the website might be enabled, keeps slipping all the time, at about the same rate as time progresses ...

    A sober assessment of the situation and open communication of the challenges still ahead for what was once one of the key projects of the IYA would be worthwile, now that this very year is already 1/12 over ...