Earn the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge from home

Thank you to Celestron for sending their StarSense telescope for review. No monetary compensation was received, I just wanted to share how you can use it to earn the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge at home.

Celestron telescope by waterIf you’ve been reading here awhile, you know how much we love travel and adventure as a family. Staying at home these past few months has been such a huge transition for us, so we’ve tried our best to keep doing whatever we can from home. One of the ways we are doing that is by earning Junior Ranger badges on our own away from the National Parks while they are closed. Since we’ve always had a love of astronomy, we starting with having the kids earn the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge at home first.

Earning Junior Ranger Badges is a big thing to our kids, and they have collected badges from all over in our travels. The kids have earned badges from all over Washington, Massachusetts, Montana, and Oregon. We we were planning on earning our first California badge before everything shut down. I didn’t even realize you could also earn badges from home until a friend shared the Junior Ranger online program after our trip was cancelled.

Earn the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge from home

As soon as I saw the Junior Ranger badge options, I knew my kids would absolutely love the Night Explorer badge. We downloaded and printed off the PDF and then I was all set to help them observe the night skies.Celestron little star gazer

Although you can technically earn your Night Explorer badge without any special equipment by skipping the telescope parts of the PDF, I wouldn’t recommend it. Stargazing with an actual telescope is what takes the learning to the next level, and it makes this activity so incredibly fun for the whole family.Celestron Telescope to earn your Night Explorer Junior Ranger Badge at Home

While earning the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge from home, you will learn about the 24-hour light cycle, the sun, and get an introduction to constellations. My kiddos loved learning the stories behind the star formations, guiding by stars, how to visualize the scale of the planets, and how to track the cycles of the moon as well as all the other fun games in the PDF packet. The highlight of the badge earning process  was being able to observe the sky from our brand new Celestron StarSense Explorer telescope.

I happened to connect with Celestron at CES this year and I’m so glad I got to check out their StarSense telescopes just in time for homeschooling. The Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ came about a month into the stay at home orders, and I knew it was perfect for helping us earn the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge at home. Celestron waiting for sunset

Kid-friendly stargazing

The first thing that sold me was of course the StarSense app. If you’ve ever stargazed with little kids, you know that no matter how many times you tell them not to touch the telescope after it’s positioned, they will, in fact, touch it as soon as they put their eye up to it. That’s a fact.Celestron with phone attached

Without the StarSense app, you’re looking at a good few minutes to reposition the telescope every single time they touch it. Spoiler alert: they touch it a lot. They will also kick a leg of the telescope tripod, bump you while you’re re-setting up, and they will definitely unfocus your target even after you assure them it’s ready to view. You can bet your frustration level will be through the roof and there will be little or no actual stargazing happening.Celestron StarSense Telescope 2

With the StarSense app, finding your target is as easy as following arrows. Simply follow the on-screen arrows to your desired target and when the bullseye turns green, it’s ready to view in the telescope’s eyepiece. Yes, it really is *that* easy. If your kid kicks it as they peer to look {and they will kick it, I promise}, simply follow the arrows again and wait for the bullseye to turn green. No fit-throwing required.Celestron StarSense App for earning Night Explorer Junior Ranger badge at home

In fact, it’s so easy that it’s highly likely that the kid who just accidentally kicked your tripod leg can probably re-center it for you. This makes it the perfect tool to rekindle everyone’s love of astronomy together.

A life-long love of astronomy

Years ago, I surprised my husband with a super expensive telescope for Christmas. It had a motorized remote, and we were both so excited to try it out, thinking it would be easier than manual telescopes we used in school. I thought it was going to be something we could use for years, but instead it has an incredibly thick layer of dust on it from sitting unused.

You see, as expensive as it was, it wasn’t very user-friendly and it really, really wasn’t kid-friendly. We used it a few times, both with and without kids, and ended up extremely frustrated by the remote and all the features that had originally sold me on it.

I would go out with high hopes of seeing something exciting only to struggle to find it through the scope before it disappeared. Using the telescope was frustrating, and eventually made stargazing with it more trouble than it was worth. Oh, and if someone bumped the telescope after you finally found your celestial object? It was a pain to get back where you were.

But, it wasn’t just hard to use. The telescope was also terrible compared to the ones we used in school. The lenses and attachments were subpar, which made the viewing experience lackluster. So, this super expensive telescope sat in the corner of our movie room and we never took it out to gaze.

I didn’t consider replacing our telescope because I figured whatever we replaced it with would also gather dust. So, for the past decade, we’ve simply enjoyed stargazing with the naked eye, which sometimes is delightful. But then other times, we’ve wanted to look closer at a visiting planet or a celestial event and groaned about the idea of using our old telescope.

Why we love the Celestron StarSense telescope line

It wasn’t until I happened upon Celestron at CES that I realized what our problem was with our old telescope. It wasn’t easy to use on the fly, which is almost always how we stargaze these days. The new Celestron StarSense Explorer solves that by pairing with the StarSense Explorer app I was raving about.Celestron telescope at sunset

Although I talk about using it with kids, it should be said that the Explorer line is not “toy” telescopes. These are the real deal, and fun for families as well as a casual stargazer. So much fun that the men in our party got quite into the hunt for celestial sightings and barely let the kids have a turn because they didn’t want to give it up.Celestron set up 2

The Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ is a 80mm refractor telescope with fully coated glass optics for bright, sharp views. In fact, it is so much clearer than our super expensive telescope with the remote that I will never consider using that again. This picture of the moon was taken with a basic cell phone camera while looking through the telescope, which shows what an amazing piece of machinery it is. Even with a bad cell phone camera, the image shows all sorts of details on the almost-full moon.Celestron telescope Moon

The Celestron StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ includes both 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, a 2x Barlow Lens, StarSense smartphone dock, erect image diagonal, a red dot finderscope {in case you want to use the telescope without your phone}, and a full-height tripod. Oh, and it also includes a subscription to the desktop app as well as iOs and Android StarSense app.Celestron searching

And, did I mention I love the StarSense app?

The app analyzes star patterns overhead and calculates its position in real time, taking all of the guesswork out of viewing the night sky. This award-winning and patent-pending StarSense sky recognition technology automatically generates a list of objects currently visible. View planets, brighter nebulae and galaxies, star clusters, and double stars right outside your door or take your telescope to darker skies to view faint, deep sky objects.Celestron set up

Simply follow the on-screen arrows to your desired target and when the bullseye turns green, it’s ready to view in the telescope’s eyepiece. Yes, it really is *that* easy. Manual altazimuth mount with altitude slow motion adjustment and sliding rod makes it easy to adjust to physically locate your target, which makes it easy enough for kids.

You can download the app for free with purchase of the telescope and you’re all ready to stargaze. Whether you’ve been into astronomy for years or you’re a novice, the StarSense App makes viewing incredibly easy and oh so fun.

You can buy the new Celestron StarSense Explorer line at celestron.com

Celestron StarSense Telescope


4 thoughts on “Earn the Junior Ranger Night Explorer Badge from home”

  1. So cool! I had no idea you could earn badges virtually, but now I want one of these to have the kiddies earn it!


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