Books by Philip S.
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Nights of Future Passed
Here's a fun look back at some amateur telescopes from days gone by.
Some were great, some not so good. I'll leave it up to you to decide which
Choose your decade:
Click on the thumbnails
to see the fine print.
It must be good to be an amateur
astronomer in California, judging by the ads run by Celestron over the
years. 007 may have his "Bond girls," but we have
the "Celestron girls." Yup, just another typical club star party,
right? (Is anyone else insulted by the not-to-subliminal message
these ads are trying to deliver besides me?) Montage composition
courtesy Rod Mollise.
||To my mind, one
of the best marriages between a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a mount
took the form of the CG-11. Teaming the talents of Celestron and
Losmandy, the CG-11 proved an exceptionally sturdy platform for both
visual observing and photography. The fork-mounted Ultima 11 was a
very good scope as well, but for my money, the CG-11 was clearly superior.
Okay, so this advertisement is for
cigarettes, not telescopes. But I think the photo says it all (note
reversed scope). Or is that actually a 1940s
The 1980s were tough, but the 90s was
Meade's decade. Coming off the embarrassment of their
long-promised-but-never-really-made LX4 "superscope," Meade
really delivered with their LX200 line. The 8-inch LX200, joined
later by larger siblings, was the first reliable GoTo telescope ever
marketed for amateur astronomers. (Celestron had their CompuStar 8
in the 1980s, but its pointing accuracy was less than accurate.)
Even today, more than a decade later, the Meade LX200 remains an extremely
popular choice among series amateurs.
||But Meade really struck gold
with their little ETX-90 Maksutov, a truly historic telescope.
Before the ETX, Maksutov telescopes were elevated to an almost mythic
status. That was largely due to the Questar, another historic
instrument, but on a completely different plain. The ETX delivered
exceptional image quality at an unbelievable price. As exceptional
as a Questar, as this ad implies? No, but that doesn't deter from
the impact that the remarkable ETX had (and continues to have) on the
Now, here's a telescope! Imagine seeing 100 billion
miles away! Let's think about this. The closest star system
to our own is Alpha Centauri, generally agreed to be 4.4 light years away
(for hair splitters: its closest member star, Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light
years away). That means that Alpha is 25.9 trillion miles.
So, what's at 100 billion miles away? Nothing, which is exactly what
this toy scope will show purchasers! :-) Gee, sorry the order
form didn't scan. Can't imagine why...
the ad for Jaegers from the 1960s? As I said, their place in
Lynbrook, NY was destroyed some years ago by a fire. I subsequently found
out that they have reopened at 11 Roosevelt Rd., Valley Stream, NY, not far from
the New York City border. I drove past there in January, 2001, only to
find their "storefront" isn't exactly hospitable. The photo at
left shows their "front door" (if you look carefully, you'll see an
"11" on the second door from the left), while the right photo shows
their back door (note unshoveled snow, there for about two weeks). A call
to their phone number produced an "interesting" conversation.
Yes, they are still in business, but the woman who answered didn't know exactly
what they made! She also said that they have neither a catalog nor a web
site. She suggested that I talk to someone else about what I wanted.
She had no answer for me when I said that I wanted to know what they sold.
I didn't exactly get a warm feeling...
||2004 saw the third coming of Jaegers, now called A. Jaegers, Jr.
Optics. Albert Jaegers, Jr. reopened his dad's business back in
Lynbrook, and even created a web site to promote sales. I drove
past there in November 2004, only to find that the storefront didn't have much
more than a street number on the front door. When later asked about
this, Albert Jaegers, III told me that they are strictly a mail-order
company at present. Viewing their on-line catalog is like looking
through a time portal, since much of what they sell is the same as in the
1950s...except the prices.
2016 update: I haven't checked the
status of A. Jaegers in a number of years, but when I did moments ago, the
link above took me to another retailer. Therefore, we must conclude
that Jaegers is out of business. Again.