Telescopes for the sky-challenged?

Phil Plait has published his annual article on telescopes as presents. But for many people telescopes are simply not an option. There’s skyglow in cities and commonly cloud cover in many northern climes. So, are there other useful and interesting wavelengths of light that commonly penetrate to ground level for which a telescope could be put into a compact package? Obviously you’d need a computer to translate the resulting image to something visible.

Short answer, no.

Besides visible light, the atmosphere is transparent to some infrared wavelenghts and radio waves. But for most infrared bands, the sky itself emits a lot of radiation, so it’s difficult to observe from the ground. Infrared is also strongly affected by clouds and humidity (more so than visible light).

Radio is a possibility, but you can’t really take an image with a radio telescope. All you can do is scan across the sky and plot the signal strength vs. position. Or use multiple telescope and do interferometry - not exactly the “compact package” you’re looking for.

There are visible light “light pollution filters” designed to filter out light from streetlamps. Namely, they block the sodium emission lines from sodium vapor lamps (the yellow streetlamps). They can be useful on some targets, but I haven’t been very impressed with them.

Oh well.

The only impressive things I’ve seen through an amateur telescope were so bright as to unaffected by light. The Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, maybe The Pleiades and Orion. I never tried it but looking at the Sun with a solar filter could be cool.