Exposé of a Telescope Ad

Exposé of a Telescope Ad

Gary Smith

The following official-sounding newspaper ad is unbelievable. Upon reading it, I was at first amused by the scientific misinformation, then I realized how this might confuse those who are taking a first venture into astronomy and looking for a reasonably priced telescope. I just can't resist tearing the ad apart!

First of all, 100 billion miles won't even get to the next star, let alone "deep space". The price is not $199.95 - it's not $5.95 or $500.00 either - but "only" $29.95 on this once-a-year 'Depot-Overstock' release to the public!

Bad telescope ad

The rest of the ad hasn't been reproduced here because the printing is too small, but it goes on to say:

"Starting midnight tonight the Aerospace & Nautical Depot will open its warehouse doors to the public and accept orders for DEEP SPACE 100-BILLION MILES TELESCOPES. Each of these precision-engineered EXTRA LONG-RANGE TELESCOPES is equipped with 3 individual lens systems - telephoto, wide-angle and deep space probe - for clear, close-up view-range of up to 100 billion miles."

Extra long range would be something like 10 billion light years. But that's not the point, the statement implies the telescope is reaching out; no telescope reaches out, it waits for the light from distant sources to reach it. Also note it is "precision engineered" with no mention if it's precision made ... at only $29.95.

"Now bring the surface of the Moon, Mars, Venus, etc. right into your living room."

Wouldn't you have to cut a hole in the roof for that? Some newcomers have been surprised to learn that you actually have to go outside to view celestial objects with a telescope.

"Track comets streaking across the heavens. Be absolutely spellbound in your ringside seat as asteroids collide in fiery explosions ... see meteors flame through the skies ... in the most spectacular nighttime "fireworks show" in the world!"

Boy, that must be some scope to give you a ringside seat as "asteroids collide". Try getting an asteroid in this scope, let alone getting it at exactly the time two of them get together and collide. Have you ever heard of a fiery explosion caused by asteroids? The boys at Mount Palomar would like to get their hands on this baby! Best "fireworks show in the world"? How about the Solar System? And you don't need a telescope to see meteors.

"Machine tooled with high-impact housing and reflective lenses."

Check out those "reflective lenses" - I always thought you wanted coated lenses to cut down on the reflections. These guys must know something we don't. Maybe that's why it's only a 100 billion mile scope, because the lenses reflect most of the light back to where it came from. At this price, I'd guess these lenses are made of genuine plastic! The "TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS" say they have a 20X, 30X, and 40X lens, a wide angle, a telephoto, and that "Deep Space Probe". Makes me wonder if you could add another one to get an even "DEEPER SPACE PROBE"?

"... they are designed to penetrate some of the remotest sights in the universe, thousands of light years away - as giant stars and distant galaxies, such as the Milky Way are drawn into full, close-up view."

Here we are with that misguided concept "penetrate" again. And what happened with only 100 billion miles? Now we are up to "thousands of light years". Then they comment about "distant galaxies such as the Milky Way". Don't they know we are in the Milky Way?

"It's the greatest show on earth, now being made available to the public on this once-a-year Depot Overstock Release, at the most affordable price ever! And if you act within the next 30 days the Aerospace & Nautical Depot will also include FREE a professional astronomical tripod. But this is a one-time-only special Depot release ... once last remaining telescopes are gone ... this announcement to the public may not be repeated, so order today!"

I'm sorry this article didn't get out in time for you to take advantage of this "OFFER". What do they mean "one-time-only"? In the beginning they said "once-a-year". I can only imagine the quality of the FREE professional astronomical tripod!

Published in the January 2000 issue of the NightTimes