VOTE NOW FOR THE BEST OF ORLANDO® 2021!

Tom Johnson, 1923-March 13, 2012 

Amateur astronomer invented the Celestron telescope

click to enlarge 1424066.jpg

With Curiosity ambling around on Mars, there's public excitement about space exploration again, albeit not so charged as when Kennedy first declared we were going to the moon. It was during that 1960s era that one of the geniuses of our time, Tom Johnson, first became interested not just in the sky, but also in the accessibility of all its wonders. It started with a wish he granted to his two sons, who desperately wanted a telescope during a time when they were super-trendy. But the commercially available ones were technically inferior to the sophisticated instruments used by serious astronomers. So, in his spare time, Johnson invented machines in his garage that allowed him to build and perfect the components that would become the country's most popular and, to date, best-selling telescope of all time: the Celestron 8.

After the Celestron was developed, amateur astronomers were suddenly able to make landmark discoveries. Since then, NASA regularly fields opinions and data from amateurs to populate their database of near-Earth objects (NEOs). Hell, this year, an amateur astronomer discovered Tatooine – a planet that matches the description of Luke Skywalker's home planet. The design that Johnson perfected in 1969 is still used in the precise instruments Celestron mass-produces today, only now they also include an integrated GPS, so that we no longer have to rely on antiquated strategies like star hopping or setting circles to find the objects we seek. Johnson's work made it possible for starry-eyed kids of all ages to explore space from just about any dark, elevated place, encouraging the imaginations of generations.

Tags: ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 5, 2021

View more issues

Calendar

© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation