Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 70AZ - who would have thought something so small would be so much fun?
The other day I was alone, imaging up at the dark sky site.
My rig is autonomous, which means that once it's going, I can pretty much leave it be. I normally hang about watching it, listening for alarms, and I like to watch it during a meridian flip, but sometimes I go to bed for a few hours.
But that night I had a gadget with me to play with, a Celestron StarSense Explorer, the 70mm refractor. It's the baby of the bunch. I hadn't mucked about with it at night before, and this was a good opportunity.
I'd already installed the software on my phone, so I set up the scope and fired up the app. I had to align it, and this involved two steps.
First, I had to position my phone in the cradle so that the camera is above the middle of the StarSense's mirror. There are a couple of knobs that move the phone around.
Second, the camera angle is wide. Somewhere in there is the spot where the scope is pointing, and the app needs to know exactly where this is. I pointed the scope at the Moon, and dragged the image of the small Moon into the crosshairs.
That was all it needed. The magic works, and it found targets accurately. You can choose targets off a map on the screen, a number of lists, or ask for tonight's best.
I had a load of fun zooming around the sky, checking out whatever was around. I was able to glimpse the Tarantula, Omega Centauri, and similarly dim objects. From the city it wouldn't be that good, but the app tells you which targets are "city viewable". Star clusters like the Beehive were great.
A couple of things, though. It has a tendency to suggest things right on the horizon. A few times I found trees. The app would be better suggesting only things that are higher than 15 degrees above the horizon.
Also, the mount can't point straight up. I was keen to see where I was imaging, but the mount wasn't able to.
A tip: bring an external battery for your phone, you’re going to need it.
This little gadget really puts a bit of fun into stargazing!