Astronomy gifts are some of the coolest ones around. There is a universe of ideas, ranging from books and gear to clothing and apps. Here are some suggestions for cosmic gift-giving any time of year.
Reading about astronomy is a great pleasure, whether it's the latest news in a magazine or a book on a specific topic. There are amazing books on astronomy for all levels, from beginner and up. The article Astronomy Books for All Ages offers find some good reads. The best reads allow someone to curl up and explore on a cloudy night and still learn something new about the cosmos.Good astronomy books help explorers of all ages learn about the sky and what's in it. Teresa Short/Getty Images
Readers can learn about observational astronomy, with books that offer tips on the best ways to skygaze and photograph the stars. Or, for those who want to dig into the science behind the stars and galaxies, there are many books that explain in approachable language. Other works highlight the lives of famous astronomers, giving a good historical context for the work today's observers are doing. Some books are available in hard copy or electronic format, so you can choose the best way to deliver the cosmos to your intended giftee. Also, consider the two best magazines around: Astronomy Magazine at Astronomy.com (a great subscription for every level of an observer), and Sky&Telescope.com, which offers products for both beginners and experienced observers.
Nearly everybody has access to a smartphone or phablet to a laptop and desktop computer, which opens up a raft of ideas for gifts. There are astronomy programs and apps for all the different devices, ranging in price from free to several hundred dollars. Also explore some of the best-known products, ranging from Stellarium and Cartes du Ciel (which are free) to apps that cost a few dollars, such as StarMap2, and others. Apps have a great advantage because they are available on a smart device at the push of a tab.
Online Astronomy Courses
Astronomy courses via the Web are another good way to learn the subject. Users can go at their own speed, and in many cases, they're learning from some of the top astronomers in the field. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, has made many of its courses available for anyone to use. Its "Hands-On Astronomy" course gives users a chance to learn from the best, at their own speed! NASA also has a series of podcasts that lets people explore Mars as Curiosity Rover does, one landscape at a time. There are many other delightful offerings online at the drop of a Google search for the term "online astronomy courses."
Sooner or later, even the most patient star hoppers decide to magnify their view of the sky. That's when they start thinking about telescopes. It's also when some serious money starts getting spent. If someone is ready for a telescope, it's important to know what they want to observe. A telescope for planet-gazing might not be the same one they'd use for deep-sky objects. Or if telescope-buying is out of the question, consider getting a pair of binoculars first. They're like having a telescope for each eye, and people can also use them during the day for birdwatching and other activities. Also, look into other good ideas about cost-effective ways to indulge a love of skywatching.Every stargazer discovers what she or he needs to enjoy the sky. Take it easy and all good things will eventually come to you. Halfblue/Wikimedia Commons Share and Share Alike license.
Stargazing exposes observers to cooler weather, no matter where they live. Even in warmer climates, evenings and early mornings can be cool and damp. So, it's always good to have a sweater or jacket or raincoat handy. There isn't a stargazer alive who doesn't appreciate a sweater, jacket, or raincoat. Hats, gloves, and windbreaker, are also useful. Chemical hand warmer packs are a great stocking stuffer, along with a few energy bars to munch on during those long all-nighters.
Star Party and Planetarium Visits
Offering a trip to a star party is also a great gift for a friend or family member. Check out the local planetarium for a fascinating star show. Also, see if the local college or university offers public lectures in astronomy. These are all ways to give the gift of the cosmos!