My child's astronomy-related birthday present - help!

We received the following email from my uncle in regards to my daughter’s (Sophie) Christmas present. For brevity, read the part in bold:

Question:

  1. Does anybody actually know what it is that Sophie is getting?
  2. Has anybody done (or heard of) these sort of programs before? (If so, would you have an idea as to the observatories in question?)
  3. Two of the telescopes are Southern Hemisphere (Chili, Australia): **what do you suggest that we look at? **(Daddy likes galaxies). Let’s assume these are visual light telescopes and not x-ray, radio, etc.

Thanks!

It sounds like Sophie is getting time on a smaller, but professional telescope on a program for children. The telescope will be much much better than anything you could afford to buy and use in a backyard and will be located in a suitably high and remote area to have good seeing. She will use the telescope remotely via the internet. She will also get a workbook to help her make productive use of the time and learn something in the process.

It seems like a great gift for a child with an interest in science.

My question (especially after scams like “star registry” where you can name a star yourself) is how do we know this is a legitimate service? How do we know the child or children are in remote control and it’s not just a simulation and you just get a standard printout of some group of stars?

I suspect you uncle is using SLOOH which is legitimate. You do have to take their word that you’re getting time on an actual telescope and it’s not a simulation. But everything I’ve read indicates SLOOH does what it says it does.

Yup. That is definitely SLOOH. SLOOH is good for kids who can’t afford a telescope or those who have too much light pollution, but it is also a good gift for more advanced astronomers as most of the telescopes are in the Southern Hemisphere and can see stuff you can’t normally view without a serious trip.

Thanks for the answers!

Next question: What is worth seeing in the S. Hemisphere?

The large and small Magellanic clouds. They’re the dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, and are only visible from the southern hemisphere.

All the fun stuff is in the Southern sky - like Centaurus, or, as I like to call it, “Howdy, Neighbour!”. Or the aforementioned Magellanic clouds.
Or Crux. Especially the Jewelbox, it really is spectacular. And the Coalsack. There’s also Scorpius, which has a couple cool clusters in it as well.