Find a Great Gift Idea for the Astronomer in Your Life

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 gifts. 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. 

How about an Astronomy Book? 

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. 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, 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 (a great subscription for every level of observer), and Sky&, which offers products for both beginners and experienced observers.


There's AstroApp for That

Nearly everybody has access to a smart phone 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. You can 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.  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

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 you a chance to learn from the best, at your own speed! NASA also 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 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 you or your loved one is ready for a telescope, it's important to know what you want to observe. A telescope for planet-gazing might not be the same one you'd use for deep-sky objects. If you're not sure about what to get, 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. Also look into  other good ideas about cost-effective ways to indulge a love of skywatching.

Warm clothes Make the Stargazer Happy

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 warmers are a great stocking stuffer, along with a few energy bars to munch on during those long all-nighters.

Take Them to a Star Party or Planetarium

Think about attending a star party with your 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 to someone you care about. The best part is, you'll all get something out of it!