Need a Truly Cosmic Gift?

astronomy as a gift
Give the gift of the cosmos! There's a universe of books, apps, and other astro-related products for you to choose from when figuring out what to buy that astro-fan on your list!. NASA

There you are — shopping for that hard-to-shop-for person on your gift list. They're into astronomy and space exploration, which present some great ideas for presents. You might be searching for the best birthday gift ever. Or, a holiday present for a loved one. Or some other special occasion that calls for the perfect gift. There is a universe of ideas for that special something you can give to please even the most cosmic person you know.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started on the search for a gift that can bring you and your loved one the stars, planets, and galaxies. 

  • How about an astronomy book? Or a magazine subscription? Sometimes the best way to learn is by reading and studying up on a topic. There are amazing books on astronomy for all levels, from beginner and up. In the article Astronomy Books for All Ages, you can find some good reads. The best ones allow you to curl up and read on a cloudy night and still learn something new about the cosmos. Readers can learn about observational astronomy or explore the accomplishments of the world's professional astronomers. Some books are avaialble in hardcopy or electronic format, so you can choose the best way to deliver the cosmos to your intended giftee. If you're thinking more about a monthly astro-splurge, consider the two best magazines around:  Astronomy Magazine at Astronomy.com (a great subscription for every level of observer), and Sky&Telescope.com, which offers products for both beginners and experienced observers.  Check 'em out!  
  • There's AstroApp for That! We live in an age of modern electronic marvels that can connect us to our friends, family, or the cosmos! These days just about everybody has some sort of device — from a smart phone or phablet to a laptop and desktop computer. Astronomy programs and apps for all the different devices are plentiful, ranging in price from free to several hundred dollars. In the article Digital Astronomy, you can explore some of the best-known products out there. You can give yourself or your giftee a present that will keep you and them exploring the skies for many, many nights using a smartphone or tablet computer.
  • Study Astronomy Online! These days a number of universities and other institutions are offering free or low-cost astro-related courses online. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, has made many of its courses available for anyone to use. Its "Hands-On Astronomy" course gives you a chance to learn from the best, at your own speed!   NASA has a series of podcasts that let you 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! 
  • But I really Want a Telescope! Sooner or later, even the most patient star hopper decides to magnify the view. That's when they start thinking about telescopes, and that's when some serious money starts getting spent. If you or someone you want to give a gift to is at that point, think about getting a pair of binoculars first. They're like having a telescope for each eye, and you can also use them during the day for birdwatching and other activities. There's more information about these in the article Stargazing on the Cheap
  • Warm clothes make the stargazer happy. No matter where you live, at some point, you'll find yourself observing with the kids or your friends on a chilly night. This actually happens even in warm-weather areas. So, the best thing you can do is provide cuddly clothes that keep your astronomer warm on the outside. Hats, gloves, windbreaker, and rain slick are some of the obvious things to supply to the stargazer in your life. Chemical hand warmers are a great stocking stuffer, along with a few energy bars to munch on during those long all-nighters.
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And, of course, the best gift you can give is your attention and interest to someone who wants to learn the sky. Think about attending a star party with your friend or family member. Check out the local planetarium for a fascinating star show. Also check out the local college or university to see if they offer public lectures in astronomy. These are all ways to give the gift of the cosmos to someone you care about. The best part is, you'll all get something out of it!