Celestron SkyPort WiFi Module Review

Technology has come a long way, and the Celestron SkyPort WiFi Module is a true example of this. This nifty tool will turn your handheld devices into the control center of your telescope and therefore, your stargazing. Here is everything you need to know about it before you invest in one for yourself.

Overview

The Celestron SkyPort WiFi Module is designed for smartphones and tablets. It functions the same way that popular computer programs do, but there is no need to be set up or plugged in to use it. The intention is that you can have all the perks of planetarium software, with all the portability of a wireless, handheld device. An immediate drawback, however, is that currently, the SkyPort WiFi Module is only available for Android and iOS. It’s unclear if Windows compatibility is in the works.

To use the module, all you have to do is plug it into your telescope’s hand control or AUX port. Doing so will transform your telescope into a WiFi receiver, so you can connect directly to it using your smart device. You will then be able to use your phone or tablet as a controller for your telescope, and it doesn’t end there. The module has a range of cool, fun and handy features; each accessible with a simple tap of your screen.

First and foremost, the SkyPortal app is free to download for both operating systems. It is easy to use and makes controlling and aligning your telescope a breeze. Once your device and telescope are connected, all you have to do is tap on the object you are interested in, and the app will instantly identify it for you. If you want to then observe it through your telescope, tap it again and SkyPortal will automatically and precisely align your telescope to it.

SkyPortal has more than 100,000 objects listed in its database. If you do not have any objects in mind, its Sky Tour feature will optimize your stargazing by presenting the best objects to view according to your exact location and time. The app will automatically read your device’s location, so there is no need to fuss with co-ordinates or time zones.

While you are stargazing, you also have the option to view images of, or to listen to audios about, the popular objects in the night sky. These descriptions are informative and fun, and cover the highlights, history and mythology of hundreds of objects. This feature is excellent for beginner or young astronomers looking to broaden their knowledge of the sky.

Another useful feature is that you can plan ahead using the app. Events are mapped out for the next 100 or so years, so you will be the first to know what to look out for without ever having to worry about missing any special events. You can use this to track lunar phases, and other transits within our solar system too.

As for the hardware, the module is compatible with all current computerized Celestron telescopes. Some older models may be compatible too, but you will have to check your specs. Early generation mounts and telescopes generally will not be able to handle this mount, so it is better to make sure before you spend money on it. The module does not use batteries, and won’t need an external power source to work. All you need is the module and the SkyPortal app, and just like that you have your very own handheld planetarium.

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Review

The SkyPort Module is comprehensive enough for astronomers of all skill levels. Whether you are a seasoned astronomer looking for the sophistication and ease of a handheld telescope controller; an amateur astronomer looking to upgrade your stargazing; or a beginner hoping to learn more about the night sky, there is something for everyone.

With its impressive database and convenient automated functions, this module is well worth owning and is bound to improve your stargazing. The system–including both the module and the SkyPortal app–is intuitive, fast working, accurate and efficient throughout, so there is very little to criticize.

That said, it has a few drawbacks. For one, it is not exactly a budget tool. Its price is justified when you consider the technology, features, and utility; but may be considered excessive if you do not have a real need for it. Remember that you only pay for the hardware, as the SkyPortal app is free to download for all users.

Speaking of the software, it is bothersome that it is only available (currently) for iOS and Android users. These two operating systems are, of course, the most popular, but Microsoft users (and others), unfortunately cannot access the software, so the hardware will not be of any use.

However, the app itself has frustrated a few customers who complain of bugs and much needed updates that Celestron regularly neglects to implement. Take this with a grain of salt as it is unclear whether Celestron is at fault, or if it’s misuse of the app or problems with use devices rather than the software.

That said, there are quite a few reports of the app’s failure to verify user accounts or connections to the module. It seems the problem is that if you are not connected to your home network when you first launch the app, it will attempt to kick you off of it. Make sure that your WiFi and module are set up before you try to sign up or log in to avoid this. Note that once your account is in working order, you can use or browse the app even if it is out of the module’s range.

The noticeable flaws in the SkyPortal app are not isolated to it. Sometimes it slows down or fails to respond to commands, but it is nothing that resetting the device or your connection will not solve. There have been cases of the app canceling operations if the network connection is lost, though, so there is a chance you will have to restart what you are doing. This is not a deal breaker, but it will be extremely frustrating if your connection fluctuates often.

Overall the benefits of the SkyPort WiFi Module far outweigh its cons. This system gives your stargazing and astronomy a cool boost. It covers all bases from education to scheduling and planning, to convenience. It is recommended throughout astronomy communities, regardless of age and experience or location.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The module does not require batteries or external charging.
  • The SkyPortal app is free to download and use.
  • Includes a database of more than 100,000 objects.
  • Scheduling events far into the future is a handy feature, especially when tracking moon phases or planetary transits.
  • Includes audio for educational facts about hundreds of popular celestial objects.
  • Suitable for all ages and skill levels.
  • Sky Tour feature is optimized to your exact location and time zone, without the need for manual set up or input of co-ordinates.
  • Works with all current Celestron computerized telescopes.
  • App works through all smart devices, including phones and tablets.
  • Set up and interface are intuitive and easy to work with.

Cons

  • SkyPortal is only available for Android and iOS.
  • Some users report bugs in the app that cause it to crash if not connected to the internet when first launching it.
  • Celestron could stand to implement more updates.
  • Older Celestron telescope models may not be compatible with the system.
  • It is not a budget-friendly device.

Verdict

The Celestron SkyPort WiFi Module is educational, convenient and fun, so you cannot go wrong with it. It may not be a necessary addition to your set up, but there are scores of astronomers who highly recommend it purely for its utility. If the idea of having a wireless planetarium at your fingertips does not appeal to you, go ahead and give this module a miss. If, on the other hand, you think it looks cool and is worth a try, you would be absolutely right and encouraged to follow through.

There is no harm in giving this module a try, but take care to make sure that you will have use for it. Its utilization and compatibility is somewhat limited to select telescope and device models.

This module is a great tool for beginners and young astronomers, but even seasoned stargazers will get a lot out of this one. It gives you personalized, optimized and hassle-free observing. Each feature is immensely useful, and it is a nice system to have, even if you do not have a desperate need for it. Its sophistication and depth make it well worth the money. Its flaws are few and far between, and may not even be the fault of Celestron.

Just make sure that you set it up properly when you first use it, otherwise your experience may not be seamless.

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