Whether you want to gaze into the distance in the sky or on land, a Costa Mesa store has the right piece of equipment for you to scope it out.

Scope City has the county's widest variety of telescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, accessories and replacement parts.

"Most of the customers are amateur astronomers," store manager Kevin Walsh said. "They come in and see what's the latest."

Walsh says the Costa Mesa store and its six sister stores make the company the world's largest retail telescope outlet.

For those who would like to look into space and are just beginning, refractor telescopes are the best bet, according to Walsh. They do not require a lot of maintenance, are reasonably priced and work very well even in "light-polluted" areas, such as much of Orange County.

"For a lot of objects in distant space you should be out away from the city lights," Walsh said. "But for big objects like the planets and the moon, you can see through these very well even in the city."

The largest and most expensive astronomical scope in the store is a Newtonian reflecting telescope with a 16-inch mirror from the Parks-brand Observatory Series. It stands about eight feet high and sells for $15,000.

"You'd be surprised by the number of folks who buy this scope and put it in their back yards," Walsh said.

Tripod-mounted binoculars and spotting scopes are available for viewing objects on land that are a long distance away.

The advantages of using high-powered binoculars over spotting scopes is the increased lens space that viewing through two lenses instead of one will give you, Walsh explained.

While many people come in looking to buy a scope as a gift, Walsh advises bringing the person receiving the gift into the store.

"Most people who are into this type of thing are technically minded, and have a definite idea of what they want," he said.

Other items available at the store include camera supplies, maps of the stars (no, not the Hollywood types) and books on other astronomy-related topics.

The store also offers consignment services for those who would like to bring in their old equipment and trade up. Repair service for telescopes, spotting scopes and binoculars is also available.

Many hobbyists stop by the store to talk about what they have sighted recently as well as the latest equipment, Walsh said.

"It really is a gathering place for people who share this interest."

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Address: 3033 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa

Telephone: (714) 957-6900

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