As a kid, I was captivated with television. Not to give away my age, but color television (and programs) didn't really become commonplace until I was in grade school. Back then, they were large, cumbersome things. A "portable" set was roughly the size of a suitcase. As technology advanced, the sizes became much smaller and I'd stand for hours at our corner gas station, staring in slack-jawed fascination at what was probably a 3-inch screen implanted in cereal box-sized housing.
Needless to say, as I got older, all things video never lost that sense of appeal. I cherished my ever smaller televisions, reveled in the VCR, embraced the DVD and succumbed to Blue Ray. I've owned several video cameras and video eyepieces, and I still grin like an idiot when it comes to a webcam. How George Jetson can you get?
Then I saw the Orion StarShoot LCD-DVR...
The Orion StarShoot LCD-DVR
I'm in love. Here's a tiny little beastie - no bigger than your average cell phone - that can record the video taken by your telescope's eyepiece camera and play it back. It can be either the normal video style, or the USB computer camera. This Orion Starshoot LCD-DVR can record video in MPEG format, images in jpeg format, and audio in WAV format. And there's more? A lot more! You can use it with any equipment that has an RCA function. That means it doesn't have to be strictly an astronomy tool. You can put a movie right on this diminutive dude and take it with you! It's quite a little player. Not only does it function as a DVR, but it also allows you to transfer what you have in its memory to your computer. You can convert your VHS tapes and plug right into your camcorder. It comes with a 2G SD card that gives you roughly 90 minutes of recording time, but you can add one up to 32G in size for even more space. Power hungry? Skip worrying about spending a fortune in AAA batteries. The Orion Starshoot LCD-DVR comes with a rechargeable 5V lithium battery and the charger. You can go for about 3 hours when loaded. It's even got a remote control.
Can you imagine all the things you can do with the StarShoot LCD-DVR? Let's say you have to wait somewhere. Just record a movie and take it along. Got grandkids? Share your latest videos of them with pocket-sized ease, or put some cartoons on it for the car ride. Do you have old videos that you'd like to have on DVD, but hate the thought of the expense of replacing them? Just use this little gadget as a go-between. Put them on the StarShoot, then on to the computer, then on to DVD!
The astronomy applications alone make the Orion StarShoot LCD-DVR worth its weight in gold. There's a nifty little bracket that you can add to it that attaches right to your telescope. Just hook it up with an eyepiece video camera and you can display what your telescope is seeing. The LCD screen isn't night vision invasive. Now visitors at public outreach functions can see what your telescope is seeing, without needing the eyepiece. That's a real bonus if you sometimes need a step stool for some guests to view! Just think?You could have the Moon on screen and be able to point out its features to several people at the same time!
Need more? Then save that video footage and share it with friends and co-workers. Put it into your computer as a type of "video observing log." Convert it and turn it into a YouTube video! Keep single images and enhance them. There's simply no limit to what you and your imagination can do with an Orion StarShoot LCD-DVR.
I guarantee you'll be fascinated, too!
Tammy Plotner is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She's received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.