Stocking Stuffers for the Astronomer in Your Life

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Looking for a gift for that special amateur astronomer in your life? Try these 12 items.

‘Tis the season. Amateur astronomers can be tricky to buy Christmas gifts for. The problem: non-astronomer friends often don’t have a clue what astronomer friends want or need. The solution: this list of what astronomers really want.

Here’s our own highly subjective Christmas list of 12 astronomy items under $100:

Red lights: A red flashlight allows an observer to see what they’re doing while preserving their dark-adapted night vision. To be useful, a red light needs to be dim-able, and able to be turned from off to red to back off again without dialing through bright white light settings.

Our pick(s): Knog’s Bilby headlamp (Knog, 59.95$):  https://www.knog.com/product/bilby-headlamp/

Credit: Knog’s Billy

Celestron’s PowerTank Glow 5000 ($37.95): https://www.celestron.com/products/powertank-glow-5000

Credit: Celestron

Telrad: I have a mounting plate for one of these classic finders on every telescope I own. A Telrad gives you a true (not inverted) view of the sky, and is very simple and intuitive to operate. I’ve seen Telrads mounted on everything from small refractors to big university-class telescopes.

Telrad ($44.95): https://www.highpointscientific.com/telrad-finder-with-base-telrad

Credit: Telrad

Laser pointers: My wife realized I needed one of these for Christmas so she could see what I was waving at in the dark. The best laser pointers for astronomy are green (not the red ones used in meetings) as they show up well as a glowing ‘light-saber’ style beam against the night sky. Beware of the blinding hazard presented by laser pointers… a 5-milliwatt pointer is more than sufficient for astronomy. Adults only; don’t buy one for the young, budding astronomer in the family.

Our guide for green lasers: https://astrogeartoday.com/green-laser-pointers-for-astronomy/

Calendars: This is a gift any astronomer will be happy to get, year after year. There are lots of astronomy calendars out there that show key events such as eclipses, moon phases, conjunctions etc.

Our pick: the Vatican Observatory’s 2022 calendar: ($35.00): https://www.vaticanobservatory.org/product/2022-vatican-observatory-calendar/

Credit: Vatican Observatory

Editor’s Note: Those in the southern hemisphere (and others) will want to take a look at this wonderful calendar and guide featuring David Malin Award-winning astrophotos from Astrovisuals in Australia ($18.18 AUD): https://astrovisuals.com/product/astronomy-calendar-2022/

Credit: Astrovisuals

2022 Astronomy Guide: Not just a calendar, but an extended breakdown of the very best astronomical events for the coming year.

Our pick: The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s venerable yearly guide ($28.95): https://myscienceshop.com/product/book/81634

Credit: RASC

Editor’s Note: Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar, which ceased publication in 2016 after 43 years, has returned in electronic form for 2022. Part calendar but mostly guide to celestial events and how to observe them, the e-book will be a welcome addition to any amateur astronomers library. $12 at www.universalworkshop.com/astronomical-calendar-2022.

Astronomy Apps: There are plenty of great astronomybased smartphone apps out there for use in the field.

Our faves: Heavens-Above Pro (for satellite tracking, $4.99), https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.heavens_above.viewer_pro

Credit: Heavens Above

Cosmic Watch (a planetarium simulation app): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cosmic_watch.cosmicwatch

Credit: Celestial Dynamics

Stellarium Plus (a great planetarium app) ($19.99): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.noctuasoftware.stellarium_plus

Credit: Stellarium Labs

Powertank: Portable power is vital in the field. A power tank can power everything from telescope drives, to dew heaters, laptops and tablets. Even a small unit like the aforementioned Celestron Powertank Glow 5000 can still recharge a smartphone in the field.

Our choice: Celestron’s Powertank Lithium LT (87.95$) – https://www.celestron.com/products/powertank-lithium-lt

Credit: Celestron

Dew shield or heater: Battling dew (especially in humid places) is an eternal struggle in the field. While there are expensive, complex systems out there, a simple dew shield for the main telescope aperture is an easy and inexpensive passive way to deal with dew:

Celestron’s Dew Shield ($29.95): https://www.amazon.com/Celestron-Dew-Shield-DX-C6/dp/B08M9SB92Y/ref=asc_df_B08M9SB92Y/

 

Credit: Celestron

Tripod vibration dampeners: There’s nothing worse than a wobbly mount. Even the sturdiest of mounts can use the addition of vibration dampeners. These are simple pads that go under the tripod legs and help isolate local vibrations. They are especially useful if you do a lot of observing from a porch or deck.  

Vibration Suppression Pads ($59.95):  https://www.celestron.com/products/vsp-vibration-suppression-pads

Credit: Celestron

Baader Filter Film: Yes, you can look at the Sun safely. An inexpensive sheet of solar filter film can be used to construct several safe filters for telescopes or binoculars to observe sunspots or a solar eclipse. It’ll be a must for the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse across North America!

Baader AstroSolar Filter Film ($24.00):  https://www.highpointscientific.com/baader-planetarium-visual-astrosolar-safety-film-5-5-x-6-1-sheet-asolv-e

Credit: Baader Planetarium

Solar Can: This is a unique project launched on Kickstarter a few years back. Solar Can is a simple pinhole camera in a can, that you mount outside where there is a clear sunward view of the sky. Upon retrieval after a few months, you’ll have a record of the daily path of the Sun over the local landscape throughout the year.

Solar Can ($21.00): https://solarcan.co.uk/

Credit: Solarcan

Magazine subscription: As a child, I once asked for a subscription to Sky and Telescope for Christmas. Not only was this in the pre-internet era, but the single bookstore in Northern Maine did not carry astronomy magazines. Even today, a magazine subscription will be a gift that keeps on giving, all year long.

Sky and Telescope Magazine (1-year subscription: $56.05):  https://skyandtelescope.dragonforms.com/loading.do?omedasite=SKY_new

Credit: Sky & Telescope

A telescope or binoculars is just the beginning in the hobby of astronomy. These little extras can make a big difference.

 

About David Dickinson

David is a freelance science writer, frequent contributor to Sky & Telescope and Universe Today, author of several astronomy books and long-time amateur astronomer. He lives with his wife Myscha in Norfolk, Virginia.

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