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For the traveler fascinated by dark sky reserves or budding astronomer compelled by the planetary movements right outside their window, the right equipment can really bring their hobbyist experience to the next level. Amateur photographers might be interested in capturing astroimages of celestial events, from frequent constellation sightings to occasional comet passings or a more rare solar eclipse. Stargazers might get excited by the prospect of upping their telescope game or receiving NASA-official keepsakes. Whether the astronomer in your life needs photography equipment or a pair of high-end dark sky-optimized binoculars, these are some of the best space gifts for the aspiring astronomer.
Celestron Spotting Telescope
Where a telescope meets binoculars, Celestron’s “Spotting Scope,” is the best handheld telescope currently on the market. Spotting scopes are perfect for the astronomy enthusiast who is often hiking to their destination or generally immersed in the great outdoors while stargazing. Less than 20 inches in length and shy of five pounds, this portable scope is tripod compatible or a perfect device on its own.
To buy: Amazon.com, $799.99
Xeric Trappist-1 NASA Edition Black Hole Watch
This luxury watch is outfitted with silkscreened stargazing dials and planet trackers. According to Watches.com, “the Orbiting Planetary System consists of glowing Super-LumiNova indices and planets to help space explorers keep track of time as they travel in the darkest regions of the universe.” In terms of design, it’s built in the image of a Seiko VH31 with discerning astronomical embellishments. The back of the case is engraved with “50th anniversary commemorative artwork of the Apollo 11 mission patch.”
To buy: Watches.com, $250
Meade Instruments 115mm Telescope
If you’re looking for astronomy gifts with a true “wow” factor, the full-scale Meade Instruments telescope is a high-end stargazing addition to any home. It’s built specifically for astrophotography (or “astroimaging”) with a dual focuser for both rack and pinion focus. It’s mounted sturdily on the LX85 mount, which can support up to 33 pounds, and the telescope’s handheld control panel—the Audio Starbox—is intuitive and user-friendly.
To buy: Amazon.com, $3,075.25
Canon EOS Ra
Taking stunning photos of the night sky is a challenge and requires both the right training and the right equipment. As photography equipment goes, the Canon EOS Ra is one of the top-rated cameras for astrophotography; It has a “modified filter for night sky recording” and is compatible with RF lenses so the photographer can experiment with various sky-enhancing lenses. A pioneering camera, the brand says, “It's the industry's first full-frame mirrorless camera dedicated to astrophotography*, offering 30x magnification, 30.3 million pixels and more to help starry-eyed enthusiasts capture the night sky in breathtaking detail.”
To buy: Amazon.com, $2,499
Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod
Compatible with the Canon and several other top-of-the-line DSLR cameras, this tripod is helpful for those looking to shoot specific events—a meteor shower, for example—over the course of an evening. With adjustable aluminum alloy legs that accommodate three different angles (25, 50 and 80 degrees) and a 360-degree rotating ball head, this tripod fluidly works with shooters to capture the moment.
To buy: Amazon.com, $144.55
Sigma 14mm Lens
Finding the right lens comes partially from research but is just as much a product of trial and error. If the astronomy lover in your life is just getting into shooting the night sky, the Sigma 14mm lens—compatible with the Canon EOS—is a great place to start. The multi-layer coating and bokeh effect will reduce streaking and ghosting—all essentially controlling the light allowed into your shot. You’ll want to make sure it fits by entering the camera model information here.
To buy: Amazon.com, $1,404.25
Vallerret Markhof Pro Photography Gloves
Something a lot of people don’t realize about shooting at night: It gets cold, which affects your hands and their photo-snapping abilities almost immediately. Photography gloves are a simple solution and will ensure that your favorite astrophotographer is well-equipped to face the cold night air. These photography gloves from Vallerret are durable and well-mde, featuring an SD card pocket, no-slip grip protection, and moveable finger flaps.
To buy: B&H, $79.95
Starbound Astronomy Viewing Chair
For the perfect at-home astronomy set-up, the stargazer in your life may want a designated viewing chair positioned by their telescope. This chair is specifically adjustable such that the viewer can achieve different postures necessary for optimal telescope viewing. With a padded seat and the ease of being able to pack it into a lie-flat piece of cargo, this chair can certainly be taken on trips across the country to various dark sky reserves.
To buy: Amazon.com, $169.95
Celestron Night Vision Flashlight
For those eyeing a high-end flashlight or headlamp, remember that it should ideally have red light capabilities. This Celestron flashlight is made for astronomers with two LED red lights to “keep your night vision intact.” The nine-volt battery-powered flashlight has an easy-to-adjust thumbwheel on the side and the double-LED light makes for more even lighting through the darkest night skies.
To buy: Amazon.com, $13.50
Oberwerk Mariner 8x40 Binoculars
A great pair of binoculars is an ideal gift for any adventure traveler, but for the astronomy-inclined, you want to choose binoculars known to perform well at night and for stargazing specifically. Oberwerk, a brand that specializes in “optics for earth and sky,” makes the heavy-duty, 8x40 Mariner binoculars. The waterproof binoculars are known for their “excellent image quality” and “are ideal for hunting, surveillance, astronomy, and of course nautical applications,” according to the brand.
To buy: Oberwerk, $149.95