Books by Philip S. Harrington

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Astronomy For All Ages

Cosmic Challenge

The Deep Sky: An Introduction


The Illustrated Timeline of the Universe

The Space Shuttle

Star Ware, 4th edition

Star Watch

Touring the Universe Through Binoculars


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 is which!

Choose your decade:
1920's 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's
1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's

Click on the thumbnails to see the fine print.


c-girls.jpg (314134 bytes) Celestron

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.


cg11.jpg (272257 bytes) 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 Brandon refractor?

lx200.jpg (262808 bytes) Meade Instruments

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.

etx.jpg (223134 bytes) 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 telescope market.

Brand X

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...


A. Jaegers

2001: Remember 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...

jaegers04.jpg (20632 bytes) 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.


1920's 1930's 1940's 1950's 1960's
1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's