NASA's getting back in the swing of manned space exploration, but chances are it won't be your butt strapped to the newly unveiled Space Launch System whenever it takes off. So how's a spacefan nerdboy to get his to-boldly-go fix?
Here are six tools to get you knee-deep in astronomy dweebiness.
Well yeah, duh, you need a telescope. But you're going to want one that's relatively easy to use and align, and preferably not something that's going to take up half of your apartment. This one's got computerised tracking to keep itself aligned, making it easy to use, although for some of the dimmer stars and objects out there, you may want something with a bit more power. $US500.
Let's also make sure you know what the hell it is you're supposed to be doing. Since you can get more or less all star maps (not the Hollywood kind) that you'll need to align your telescope online, here's a gorgeously illustrated history of celestial cartography through the centuries. $US20.
OK, yeah, sure, it seems a little overkill to get a pair of binoculars that outpaces a lot of telescopes, but these things are shock resistant, waterproof, fogproof and basically damage-proof. And even though they're rugged as hell, if you somehow figure out a way to break these things — falling out of a tree while observing a star cluster that happens to be outside your neighbour's window, for example — you get a free replacement. $US2375.
When you think astronomy you probably think the vast and expansive beauty of space and all its wonder. But you could just as easily think long, often cold nights alone with you and your telescope. So you're going to want to make sure you've got something to keep your cocoa or coffee or highly pasteurizsd protein liquid hot. $US160.
When the Inquisition comes for you, and they will come, you'll need something to keep you occupied once you're placed under house arrest for the rest of your life. 42 discs and almost 50 hours of NOVA should be a good start. $US475-$US720.
So you've got a new hobby and all of a sudden you're spending more time in the back yard than the bedroom. We get it. But to show the special folks in your life that they're still more special than light emanating from distant celestial objects that reflects events that happened billions of years ago, why not take the this-will-never-be-cool-again-but-it's-always-adorable route and name a star after them? "Star-ting" at $US29.