Getting kids active in astronomy faces one big roadblock -- good optics tend to be rather expensive. Inexpensive telescopes aimed at kids usually have crappy lenses that make anything further away than the moon little more than a bright smudge in the sky. And with the starting price for a halfway decent telescope topping $100, it’s unlikely that most parents will be willing to entrust one to a small, clumsy Sagan wannabe.
Enter the Galileoscope. Since 2006, a group of astronomers and engineers have been hard at work designing an inexpensive and sturdy telescope kit using good optics that kids (or adults) can assemble into a basic 50-mm, 25 to 50 power telescope. The ‘scope, and the one-laptop-per-child-style donation program designed to get telescopes into the hands of underprivileged children that goes along with it, were Cornerstone Projects of the International Year of Astronomy. Unfortunately, as Pamela Gaye reports, the project was chronically underfunded – which means if you order a kit you’re signing up for a very long wait. Working without start-up funds means that the project group doesn’t have a stockpile of kits to mail out; instead, they have to collect orders until they can afford to order a new batch from the factory. So the Astrosphere New Media Association is trying to help them out with a pair of charity eBay auctions. What’s on the block? A pair of Galileoscope kits, one signed by Felicia Day and the Battlestar Galactica cast, the other signed by the cast of Ghost Hunters International. The auctions will run until 10 am Eastern time on October 1st, if you’re interested in bidding. Or consider making an order of your own. (I’ve ordered one for my family – and given how cold it gets in the winter around here, I can’t say I’ll mind the wait.)