Shopping for stargazers in 2021

It’s nearing the end of 2021, and COVID-19 is still with us, but we can still shop for Christmas and the holiday season.

Once again, it’s that time of year to shop for your favorite stargazer.



WTOP’s annual gifts for stargazers recommendations will help Santa provide goodies for those who spend time enjoying the stars and night sky. I have checked several major outlets — sales are ongoing and supplies appear to be plentiful.

Monthly magazine subscription

An essential first step for someone new to astronomy (or even a seasoned stargazer) is a magazine subscription to either (or both) Sky and Telescope (S&T) or Astronomy. Santa gets an added bonus when the magazine arrives each month as it will be a reminder of you to your special stargazer. S&T and Astronomy also provide digital versions as part of their magazine subscriptions, which comes in handy for convenient computer access and reference.

Both monthly magazines, with their respective websites, are a wealth of observing advice, astronomical equipment, pictures, book reviews, astronomy related ads, related news and monthly observing guides/star charts.

Full disclosure: I am a lifelong S&T subscriber; I’ve done major feature articles for them and I’ve been on their staff for their total solar eclipse cruise tour.

Astronomical calendar

These nifty and useful gifts provide your stargazer essential astronomical information on a daily basis, accompanied by a beautiful and informative astronomical image. These can be used at work or at home. You can find these at the online stores for Astronomy and Sky and Telescope

A big tip for Santa — if you have a seasoned stargazer, consider getting the 2022 Observer’s Handbook. Santa gets me one each year and I use it every day — and at night, too.

Books

A whole universe of astronomy and space-related books are available for Santa to check out and purchase.

You can browse Amazon and Barnes and Noble for a title that is out of this world. If you know your stargazer’s particular area of interest, you can try and buy a book for them. A gift card that they can use to buy a book of their own choice and interest, might be a better option.

Browse these websites in advance to make sure your gift card has sufficient value to cover most of the books in the selection. This is a tried-and-true present for your stargazer.

An excellent astronomy and space book publisher you want to check out is Springer Astronomy.

The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series” has 173 books that cover just about everything in the universe of amateur astronomy.

Oh, and I have two books in the series. If you have a stargazer who is interested in taking pictures of the night sky, then my newest book is for you — it covers the basics of astrophotography.

Give a space rock

You can’t give a more out-of-this-world gift than an actual space rock — or, more likely, a piece of one.

Meteorites come from the asteroid belt, the Moon and even Mars. When the weather gets your stargazer down, cure their frustration by giving them a piece of the solar system to hold and contemplate. It really is pretty awesome to hold a 4.6-billion-year-old rock that came from space!

“Know thy dealer” are words to the wise when shopping for space rocks. New England Meteoritical Services (NEMS) has what I consider to be the best and most reasonably priced presentation sets for purchase, which you can see when you scroll down their webpage.

I have personally dealt with them and bought specimens from them. I highly recommend NEMS.

Movies

If you want a sock-stuffer consider buying space-themed movies.

The “Star Trek” movies (new and old), ’‘Gravity”, “Europa Report”, “Cosmos the Series” (original and new versions), “The Martian”, “Interstellar”, “Apollo 11”, “Hidden Figures” and any of the National Geographic, Science Channel, Discovery Channel, History Channel space-themed segments are excellent.

Binoculars

If you have a budding stargazer who wants to see more of the sky than what’s visible to their eyes alone, quality binoculars are a great gift. A whole new view of the sky is theirs, and they can be used for bird watching and sporting events.

A good pair of binoculars will show impressive detail on the Moon, a few galaxies, star clusters and nebulae if you know where to look for them. (This is where those magazine subscriptions and books come in handy.)

The four main moons of Jupiter will be visible if you hold your binoculars steady enough. Stars and their colors will be more vibrant in appearance in binoculars, and are very pretty to look at.

“7×50” binoculars — the 7 is the magnification while the 50 is the size of each objective lens in millimeters — are recommended. This is a good compromise between magnification, light-gathering ability and field of view.

Less magnification means less detail but a wider field of view, while more magnification reduces field of view while giving more detail. I would not go higher than 8 in magnification or lower than 50 in objective size for a beginner. There are large astro-binoculars out there, but they are for advanced users.

You can buy binoculars at sporting goods stores and all of the major chains, such as Costco, Walmart and Amazon.

Orion Telescopes is a good online store that I have used for many years. They have an excellent assortment of binoculars (and all things astronomical), stand by their products and provide great customer service.

They also have extensive descriptions and background information on types of binoculars and how to choose a pair.

Telescope

Here are online sources to look over to help you in your telescope selection.

A recommendation for first telescopes is this: Put together a gift package or card that says that after a selection process has determined for the best telescope to buy, you will bankroll the purchase of a new telescope. Set a price limit, as as telescopes can cost thousands of dollars.

Home planetarium

For the stargazer that has everything, here is something to consider – a home planetarium. Cloudy skies got your stargazer down? They will cheer up after looking at the heavens projected on to a ceiling or wall.

Shop online to help you find the best gift and price deals for your favorite stargazer. If the current shipping issues affect your purchase, just let your stargazer know that a special present is on the way.

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