Cheap Enough for a Cheap Scope?

One of the Cornerstone Projects for the International Year of Astronomy is for the "Galileoscope," with the goal of creating a small, inexpensive telescope kit that can be given away at star parties. The price ceiling the organizers are shooting for is $10 apiece.

Cheap scope
Don't expect high-quality craftsmanship, but this cheap scope may turn out to be useful.
CVS.com
I couldn't help but think of the Galileoscope as I paged through the Sunday ad for the CVS drug-store chain. There was a "department-store" telescope for $15. This model from Vivitar (an $80 value?! Yeah, right) is not quite what the Galileoscope folks have planned for their product.

If I had gotten a $5 coupon from CVS as part of my Sunday-morning purchases of newspaper and bread, I may have bought one already — just for the heck of it. I still might.

It reminds me of the cheap scope I would set up in front of the Learningsmith store in Harvard Square when I worked there part-time. The 50-mm refractor was good enough to show the rings of Saturn, the phase of Venus, craters on the Moon, or project sunspots. And many a passerby appreciated the view.

I dunno. What do you think? Anyone out there buying one?

12 thoughts on “Cheap Enough for a Cheap Scope?

  1. A.Cousins

    My ex-wife’s father bought of the Vivitar scopes for my 10 year old son this past Christmas. The tripod and finderscope were laughable (and no doubt the reason many newcomers get quickly discouraged). After donating one of my tripods and a functional finderscope, it is now usable for my son to view the bigger/brighter objects.

    Although such a cheap scope pales compared with the equipment I own (which my son and I use when he is with me), it is appropriate for use/storage in the household situation where my son resides (my ex-wife with her new family).

    I do think such an inexpensive telescope would make a neat right-angle finderscope piggybacked on finer equipment, assuming sufficiently low magnification at the .965″ eyepiece(s) provided.

  2. jpglyde

    I bought one of the Vivitars a couple years ago and gave it to my friend’s kid for Christmas. It was a nightmare trying to aim the thing. Couldn’t make out Saturn’s rings but could definitely see some moon craters. I think it gave the kid the astronomy bug though. 20 bucks well spent.

  3. lmg

    I think it would have been more useful for IYA 2009 to make use of the millions of department store telescopes sitting in attics and basements across the US and Europe. They could have encouraged amateurs to find these scopes and their owners to donate them. Then the amateurs could evaluate the scopes and fix up the ones good enough to use, learning some useful skills in the process. The final products would be much more capable than the Galileoscope, and would be far more useful to whoever receives them. This approach also has a “green” aspect in that it recycles and reuses things that have already been manufactured and which might otherwise end up in a dump.

  4. jerry church

    My sons friend gave him a small scope and we used the diagonal and the focusing knob off of it to replace the ones on a better scope. Used the dew deflector too! Worked great.

  5. BobF

    50 years ago, I bought a “cheap scope” from the Lafayette Radio store… it was a 40mm f/10 tube with a rack & pinion focuser. I still have the thing. Many years ago I replaced the drawtube with an 1 1/4″ tube and can use good eyepieces with it.
    .
    Dad was a plumber and made a pipe stand that held the thing pretty steady. It is still a “toy”, but it gave me some nice views of the sky when I was a teenager.
    .
    I’ll bet better views than some of the department store things sold today with their plastic lenses.

  6. Nathaniel Sailor

    It’s a good idea to sell telescopes at low prices so common people can buy it. But I wander If the quality is any good? Ya don’t want to get a one of them scopes and have it fail 2 months later. That’s my consern.

  7. Gene Dees

    Back in 1957 I asked for and got an Edmonds 3-inch reflector scope … wasn’tt he best but it did work better than I thought it would. It’s mount and tripod was also a joke but it did work. Since I wasn’t likely to get anything more expensive as long as I was a kid (was 13 in 1957) but I was hooked enough to get better scopes in the future. It was pain to aim but it could be aimed. If I remember correctly, that scope cost around $29 … in 1957 dollars, of course.

  8. Rob Little

    I came across one of these little telescopes in West Palm Beach in Spetember of 2006, same price, and purchsed one with money made from junking my old car (fair trade). A year or so later, I decided to see what could be done with it. The tripod, for lack of a better term, stinks; wobbles at the slightesr provocation. Fortunately, the telescope comes equipped with a regular tripod mount, so it was a matter of using a better tripod. Finder scope is simply not usable. But, surprisingly, the magnification listed on the box is actually honest, and the two .965″ eyepieces are not that bad, with modest (though not great) eye relief.
    The biggest problem, though, is the interior of the main optic tube. In mine (though I don’t know about others), it was simply bare aluminum. I simply dismantled the telescope and hit it with flat black, and the end results were pretty good.
    Now, when used with either the supplied diagonal and eyepieces (or a hybrid .965″ to 1.25″ diagonal) and a sturdier tripod, this little scope makes a nice grab-n-go.It’s not great, mind you, but for $15, not all that bad either.

  9. Astrosetz

    I have this exact scope and I agree that the tripod is completely unusable. Putting it on a decent tripod made it a little better, but there is no baffling of any kind and even looking at indoor subjects in a mall was a challenge. I think the Galileoscope will, quite frankly, blow this away. And it should: the Galileoscope was designed to be the best telescope for the least amount of money, while the Vivitar was designed for profit.

  10. Dave

    Vivitar makes a cheap scope.

    But at least it is available at Walgreens and CVS.

    Galileoscope is hopelessly backlogged with orders. I emailed an order for one in late May. Apparently they did not have very many made, and after the first 20,000 were shipped anyone after that is still waiting. If it arrives by their latest guess, they will have had my payment for 15 weeks and I will have waited 16 weeks for delivery.

  11. Sammie

    I’d stay away from this. How big an aperture can a $10 telescope have? They say something is better than nothing, but when it comes to telescopes, there are those that I’d keep myself far away from.

    There’s nothing that kills a budding interest in astronomy than a bad telescope with cheap optics. My first telescope was a department store refractor that boasted a 525x magnification – far more powerful than all the other expensive telescopes, I was over the moon (no pun intended)… until I realized that I could hardly tell the difference between the moon and my bedroom wall!

    I then went on to try a different bunch of scopes. The cheapest first telescope I’d recommend is the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope. Being a Dobsonian, it’s got good optics for less money. You DO have to fork out more than just $10, but it’s worth it.

  12. Dale

    the Jupiter Effect ws a book predicitng major earthquakes when the planets liend up due ot the extra gravity. Although some minor quake activity went on, nothing hapend as bad as the book predicited.
    Hiowever, this year Jjupiter is seen at susnet as bright o r borighter than any stari nteh sky so how clsoe is it, and is this comon enough to have hapend more than once a seaoson or once a cnetury? If the earhtquakes are now being caused by smeotg else posisbly a bomb wnet offi nan udnerwater trnech.
    Othewise, why? Ifn ot, is Jupiter so clsoe that is causes this many high quakes?
    When wil ilt reutrn and when did it have apen to bethis clsoe and wht yar last time?
    Thanks for hte help.
    regards, Dale oh yeah, since it is seen at night fall and at sunrise techincally it cna be sene whielthe sun stil makes light so is it also the staro fBethlehem?

Comments are closed.