Galileo Galilei pointed a telescope at the heavens, and revolutionized our conception of Earth’s place in the Universe. Now you can do the same thing! In conjunction with the International Year of Astronomy, replicas of Galileo’s telescope are now available. For the low price of $20, you can marvel at the moons circling Jupiter, be astonished by our Moon’s rugged and beautiful landscape, and admire the profound beauty of Saturn’s rings. You can also be amazed at Galileo’s genius; tracking Jupiter’s moons with one of these things is no easy task. It is to be noted that these “Galileoscopes” are actually significantly better than what Galileo was working with (e.g., with a much larger field of view, and a higher magnification [50x] eyepiece). And, according to the website, these telescopes can be put together by children in minutes. And possess fairly sophisticated features (such as achromatic lenses). But note: a tripod (not included, but the mount is compatible with any standard camera tripod) is essential (the image in the Galileoscope logo, at right, notwithstanding). Otherwise, Jupiter will be jumping all over the place, and it’ll be impossible to share your revolutionary discoveries with others.
Playing with a telescope seems like the perfect way to wind down the Year of Astronomy. And they make very nice gifts (although December delivery is apparently not guaranteed). If you’ve never looked through a half-decent telescope, you will be absolutely astounded by what you see. One forgets that all these things we talk about and see pictures of really exist up there, and are just waiting to be admired!