A funny thing is happening during this long pandemic of COVID-19. People have been stuck at home and having to entertain themselves in seclusion, all of which seems to have inspired a newfound interest in the night sky.
With that new interest comes equipment needs: Telescope vendors and manufacturers are reporting a surge in sales unlike any other experienced in the past — telescopes are flying off the shelves.
Worldwide interest in astronomy is surging, and telescope vendors everywhere are scrambling to keep up with the newfound demand. Dustin Gibson of Oceanside Photo & Telescope finds himself in the pleasant position of adding new staff in a time when many industries are being decimated by the airborne virus.
Jeff Simon, director of Sky-Watcher North America, tells us, “I’ve never seen this kind of growth in the industry. We often see a bump in interest around a big event such as a total solar eclipse or a bright comet, but this has been unprecedented.” Some companies are seeing an increase in business from 60% to 400% over the previous year.
And this isn’t only driven by sales of entry-level telescopes; Astro-imaging cameras, robotic telescope mounts, premium eyepieces, and other specialized equipment for advanced amateurs are also flying off the virtual shelves. Perhaps this is because, as our reader demographics show, many astronomy enthusiasts tend to be older and less reliant on a salary.
Hobbyist photographers are also dipping their toes into the realm of astrophotography, which often doesn’t require much travel. “Who would have thought that it would take a global pandemic to save amateur astronomy?” says David Nagler of Tele Vue Optics. “People now have the time to discover (or rediscover) the night sky, and pull the trigger on that Go To telescope, or premium refractor they were on the fence about purchasing.”
But this big boom comes with some equally big challenges. The global reaction to the rapid spread of COVID-19 caused international shipping to practically grind to a halt, leading to long waits on orders. Some vendors sourcing from China are hit especially hard and are encountering extended delays in deliveries. But not all vendors face this predicament. Roger Rivers, Sales and Marketing Manager for iOptron, tells us their production team is working hard to keep up with the unexpected surge in demand.
New User Guides
We're glad to see more people from all walks of life looking up and marveling at the sky once again. If you’re among the newcomers to the hobby, check out these resources:
- Considering taking the plunge? How to Choose Your First Telescope
- Tips on how to use your newly purchased gear
- Taking pictures? Share your photos with us!
- Are you still waiting for your telescope to arrive? Learn how to use binoculars for astronomy
- Where to look: Celestial events that are happening now
- Plus, we offer some (free) interactive tools to help you observe the Moon, Mars, the moons of the Jupiter and Saturn, and more