We all have one of those friends who seems more interested in the rest of the universe than our home planet. They're glued to NASA TV, they're awed by every new image from the Hubble telescope, and nothing makes them happier than a clear, cloudless night. And if there's someone on your list fascinated by the stars, here are some great suggestions to get your shopping done early.
Celestron Travel Scope 70 Portable Telescope
The best place to see the stars is far away from the bright lights and smog of a big city. But instead of hauling an expensive piece of gear designed to permanently sit on a tripod, Celestron's 70-millimeter travel scope folds away into an easy to transport backpack. And while it won't automatically pinpoint objects in the sky, with a included app running on a laptop anyone should be able to track down even the most obscure constellation in the night sky.
Beamshot GreenBeam Tactical 5mw Green Laser Pointer
As cool as they may be, there's not a lot of practical reasons to own a high-powered green laser pointer—except for astronomy. It's the perfect way to point out constellations or planets in the night sky that are visible to the human eye. And, let's be honest, a green laser pointer is also as close as you'll get to a lightsaber these days.
iOptron LiveStar Mini Planetarium
Unfortunately the weather isn't always conducive to spending every night gazing up at the stars. When it's rainy, snowy, or just even overcast outside, this miniature planetarium will project the constellations and other celestial bodies on the ceiling letting anyone continue their celestial explorations even while they drift off to sleep.
Celestron SkyProdigy 90 50x165 Telescope
This 90-millimeter telescope might look tiny, but it has enough resolving power to leave anyone breathlessly staring at the night sky. And if you don't know Leo from Capricorn, or Saturn from Uranus, a tethered remote has a database of over 4,000 celestial objects and will automatically orient the telescope to focus on whatever heavenly world you want to spy on.
It can be difficult for a star gazer to get through the day when there's only one star visible in the sky. (Which you can't exactly gaze at.) But this lovely Planisphere Watch should tide them over. When the date and time are aligned on the edge of the bezel, it displays the constellations that will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere that evening giving them something to look forward to when darkness falls.
Star Walk for iPad
Of all the things the iPad can do, one of the most valuable could be serving as a personal astronomy professor. Using the tablet's gyroscope, accelerometer, and your location, it provides detailed information about the stars and other objects on screen when pointed at the night sky. It will even let you know when the ISS is over head, and there's guaranteed to be no final exam.
Celestron SkyScout Personal Planetarium
Particularly well suited for amateur astronomers who want to learn more about their hobby, the SkyScout works like a handheld night vision scope for the heavens providing detailed information on whatever part of the sky it's pointed at. Using GPS it can also locate and direct you to over 6,000 stars, planets, and other constellations.
Meade MAX 20-Inch ACF Observatory Class Telescope
Hobbies aren't only for amateurs. Eventually even a beginner astronomer is going to outgrow their basic telescope and want something that looks deeper into the heavens. And Meade's top-of-the-line 20-inch observatory class, $36,000 telescope will most definitely fill that wish. It might cost as much as a nice car, but who cares about a comfy ride when the entire universe is waiting to be explored?