There can’t be an astronomer in the world today who isn’t familiar with the name Celestron. It evokes so many things to so many people. From its parent company, Valor Electronics, started by founder Tom Johnson in California, 1955, re-branded as Celestron Pacific July 28, 1964, the company has forged its own impressive path. It is today and has always been at the forefront of innovation and is held in the highest regard by astronomers around the globe to this day. Celestron continue to surprise, impress and inspire. Their dream resonates with so many of us, amateur astronomers.
A half century ago any serious astronomical equipment was truly out of reach to all but the most fortunate individuals. High-end telescopes were limited to a few legendary names and came with a price tag that was impossibly prohibitive. The only alternatives open to most amateurs came with significant compromises in quality. Who from that generation hasn’t owned an unwieldly, over-priced, sub-par 50mm refractor? Quality wasn’t the only problem either. Telescopes with apertures of more than 6 inches were exceedingly rare amongst amateurs. In addition, the idea that you could move from an ephemeral visual experience to the persistence of an image on film was still a distant dream for many too, the optical systems were not up to the task and only the most dedicated could make a success with film cameras of the day.
All that started to change in the early 1980s. By now, the name Celestron had risen to become a part of every astronomer’s lexicon. How many of us dreamed of one day owning one of those iconic orange Celestron telescopes advertised so alluringly in the American astronomy magazines of the day? Celestron were pushing the then boundaries of what was possible and making seriously capable telescopes more readily available. The era of computer-controlled Go-To telescopes came of age. Still, globalisation was a nascent concept and shiny, professional-looking ‘state of the art’ telescopes from these early pioneers, remained prohibitively expensive, at least outside the US.
As we moved in to the 1990s the world did indeed become a far smaller place and now the whole world could imagine purchasing a telescope they could love and be proud to own. Celestron didn’t stop there, either. They were then and still are to this day amongst the greatest innovators of our time. They brought us Faststar , the Cold Camera, StarSense, EdgeHD and RASA to name but a handful of their most coveted offerings.
At the helm of the main Australian distributer for Celestron is long-time friend of Astrofest, Will Godward, who himself has been attending Astrofest on behalf of Celestron since 2017. Celestron did not even hesitate to sponsor the event. When asked why Celestron is so successful, Will replies “our purpose is to help grow astronomy in the country and to develop future specialist retailers make products more readily available to end users”. Isn’t that precisely what Tom Johnson set out to achieve nearly 60 years ago?