SkyScout, which is priced at $399, is the invention of Mike Lemp, an engineer who had the idea in 1995.
always enjoyed looking at the stars, but found it difficult to point them out to his
children. ''It was hard, even when I knew where they were,'' he
There had to be a better way, he
thought, than ''Left of that telephone pole.
See that tree?
Go up from there.''
Mr. Lemp is chief executive of Yamcon, in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., which has licensed his technology to Celestron, a manufacturer of astronomical equipment, which has engaged Mr. Lemp to further develop a SkyScout product line.
weighs a bit less than a pound, including two AA batteries.
It uses a global positioning system chip, Mr. Lemp
explained, ''to give us the current daytime and your location on the surface of the earth.''
To calculate where the SkyScout
is aimed, Mr. Lemp
used two other sensors -- one to detect the magnetic field of the earth; the other, the gravitational field. ''I need to know where the earth's magnetic and gravitational fields are to figure out which way you are pointing the device,'' he
Mr. Lemp, the inventor, who also developed the commercial technology, said that many of the components were inexpensive off-the-shelf items used in other computer-based applications.
For example, the gravity sensors are similar to ones used in air bag deployment in automobiles.
Making the prototype was one thing, Mr. Lemp
said, ''but making 100,000 that worked perfectly is another project.''