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Everybody loves a good meteor shower.
There’s nothing quite like a night spent out under the stars, learning a little bit more about your place in the cosmos.
Everyone has that friend who’s obsessed with space — I am that friend for many people — so maybe this holiday it’s time to give them a gift they’ll use all the time when heading out for long nights of skywatching.
You might think that a telescope or a pair of binoculars might be the perfect gift for that friend obsessed with skywatching, but in reality, they probably have their heart set on a very specific piece of expensive gear.
Instead of buying one of those big-ticket items, more understated gift will be sure to please and surprise the budding skywatcher in your life.
Those late nights spent in dark places during the fall and winter can get chilly, so your favorite skywatcher will always appreciate a cuddly blanket to bundle up with.
It also helps if the blanket is waterproof and can be used on the ground like a picnic blanket, like the quilted fleece stadium blanket. Versatility is key when it comes to skywatching, and a good convertible blanket is a great option.
Price: $39.99 on Amazon
Just like a warm blanket, a thermos can come in quite handy during a long night of skywatching. Fill the thermos with tea or coffee and settle in for a long night of gazing up at the stars with your friends.
Even picky skywatchers should be pleased with the 20-ounce YETI Rambler in stainless steel, though as long as it keeps your liquids the right temperature, anything will do.
Price: $29.99 on Amazon
We all know that it’s important to take a headlamp out with you into dark places after nightfall, but the type of headlamp matters when it comes to skywatching.
Bright white light can ruin night vision, and since it takes about 30 minutes for eyes to adjust to the dark, you don’t want to constantly have white light shining when trying to read a map or guide.
My personal favorite headlamp is the Black Diamond Cosmo, which has more settings than most of us ever need, including a red light mode that won’t ruin your night vision.
Price: $29.95 at REI
Skywatchers need entertainment even when there’s no meteor shower on display, so what’s better than a good book to enhance the stargazing experience?
One of my personal favorites is The End of Night by Paul Bogard. The book walks readers through a well-written account of how and why the dark night sky is disappearing around the world and what, if anything, we can do about it.
Price: $9.28 on Amazon
Even the best skywatcher can get turned around when looking up at the night sky. We all need help getting oriented sometimes, and one of the best ways to do that is with a skywatching app. My personal favorite of the many night sky apps out there is Star Walk.
The app has a simple interface and points out all the great items of interest, including satellites and any planets that might be visible. It always helps to be able to quickly tap on an app and hold it up to the sky to figure out exactly what you’re seeing at a moment’s notice.