Few sights are as awe-inspiring as the sky on a clear, moonless night — especially if you're able to find a dark location far from city lights. While the naked eye is all you need for basic skywatching, it takes some skywatching gear to get a really good look at the moon, the planets, the stars and other celestial objects.
With that in mind, your friends at NBC News MACH have selected nine products that will indulge your special interest in skywatching. They also make great gifts for the astro-buffs on your holiday gift list.
MACH has affiliate relationships, so we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchases. These items, which were chosen by MACH's editorial staff, are sold by the retailer, not by MACH. All prices are subject to change and items could sell out based on the merchant’s inventory.
Sure, telescopes are great — but nothing can match the sweeping views of the Milky Way you get with a good pair of binoculars. These moderately priced Nikon 10x50 Action Extreme ATB binoculars are a great way to explore the night sky.
For close-up views of planets, star clusters, nebulae and galaxies, you’ll need a telescope. There are dozens of styles to choose from. Tabletop reflectors are great for beginners, and they've become popular in recent years thanks to their affordability and ease of use. The Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 has a leg up: While its competitors typically offer a 3-inch or 4-inch aperture (mirror size), this stylish scope boasts an impressive 130mm (5.1-inch) aperture. It comes with eyepieces for low and high power.
If you're easing into the astronomy scene, a smaller, ultra-portable reflector may be the way to go. This one from Amazon costs only $110.
Learning what’s where in the ever-changing night sky has never been easier, thanks to stargazing apps that put the functionality of a planetarium in the palm of your hand. Of the various products available, SkyView Lite stands out. It has a snappy interface and detailed descriptions of sky objects, along with a “night mode” with red-tinted backlighting to protect your night vision.
4. iOptron SkyTracker Pro Camera Mount, $299
Ever wonder how the pros get those amazing photos of the Milky Way, showing way more stars than you could ever see with the unaided eye? The answer is a special motor-driven mount that slowly turns a camera to compensate for Earth’s rotation. Weighing just 2.5 pounds, the iOptron SkyTracker Pro will easily fit in your kit bag for your next astrophotography adventure (though you’ll also need a sturdy tripod).
Terence Dickinson’s classic "Nightwatch" is still the best all-around introduction to observing the night sky — no wonder it’s been the top-selling stargazing guide for the past 20 years. The fourth edition contains information on sky events through 2025.
6. Authentic 40-60 gram meteorite, $36
If you can’t go into space, let space come to you! These fragments are from a 50-ton iron-nickel meteorite that fell to the ground in Argentina some 4,000 years ago. The specimen comes with a velvet pouch, wooden display case and a certificate of authenticity.
7. 12-inch Mars globe, $118
Of all our sibling planets, none has captivated our collective imagination quite like Mars. And nothing shows that you’re serious about the Red Planet like this 12-inch Mars globe, created from more than 6,000 highly detailed images from the Viking spacecraft.
Why just talk about the stars when you can wear them? Nothing says astro-fan like this 100-percent-cotton dress in navy blue, with glow-in-the-dark stars and constellations. It’s also the perfect gift for the person who lights up your universe.
9. Constellation socks, $12
These socks were made for gawking! If it’s too cloudy to look up at the stars, just look down — and there they are. These eye-catching cotton-poly socks from Sock It To Me are a fun reminder of the hobby you love.
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