Celestron NexStar 5i

California telescope maker Celestron International recently introduced a new Go To version of its venerable 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, the NexStar 5i. It operates manually as well as electronically and accepts an optional GPS receiver.

Courtesy Celestron International.

The fate of Celestron International, the world's second largest maker of high-end Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes for amateur astronomers, remains uncertain. At the end of May Tasco Worldwide, which bought Celestron in June 1998, reported that it was beginning to liquidate its assets after defaulting on nearly $30 million in loans. The announcement raised considerable speculation in the astronomical community as to what would happen to Celestron, the company that developed the first commercially viable Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes during the 1960s.

According to Celestron's executive vice president, Joseph A. Lupica Jr., the company's senior management group (including Lupica, former company president Alan Hale, and vice president of engineering Rick Hedrick) has entered into an agreement to purchase all of Celestron's assets, which are currently in the hands of a trustee overseeing Tasco's liquidation. (Lupica has published a statement about this on Celestron's Web site.)

But efforts to finalize the purchase are being hampered by lawsuits filed by its chief competitor, Meade Instruments. Meade filed suit against Celestron last October, charging patent infringement, after receiving a patent on technology used in its computer-pointed Go To telescopes. Meade was awarded a second patent on related technology at the end of May. Last week, while Celestron's senior managers were in the midst of negotiating the purchase of the company's assets, Meade filed another suit alleging infringement of its newest patent, this time naming as defendants any prospective purchasers of Tasco or Celestron. Several weeks earlier the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had moved to block any attempt by Meade to acquire Celestron’s assets from Tasco — which Meade confirms it had been considering in recent months.

Sky & Telescope will continue to follow this story as it develops.


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