Thursday, June 17, 2010

A cherished childhood toy

When I was about 7, Dad gave me a wonderful educational toy called the AstroExplorer. It's a nifty little gadget for seeing constellations.

The AstroExplorer is a small plastic gadget with a flashlight bulb that's almost completely blacked out. You open it up, slip a disk of black paper into the base with a constellation in white on it, then fit the two pieces together again. The light bulb (powered by an AA battery) puts out a very dim light that backlights the paper and shines dimly through the white bits. You hold the AstroExplorer up to one eye and look with the other eye at the sky so that the constellation image overlays the stars in the sky and voila! Thanks to the miracle of binocular vision, you can see the constellation in the sky with some of the star names, the connecting lines, and a drawing of the figure in the constellation. The disks also have arrows pointing to other constellations nearby, the ecliptic, and so on.

I love this toy, both because of how cool it is and because it reminds me of Dad whenever I look at it. (I may take it with us when we go visit him this December.) Although the manufacturer, Tri-G Company in Venice, CA, vanished decades ago, you can still buy these for $10 or so on eBay. They're a wonderful gift for anyone who likes stargazing.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Cool! I'm surprised I've never heard of this before (aka shocked that my dad didn't have one!) Well maybe he did but not by the time I came around. I'm checking ebay as we speak.