Surprise your favourite astronomer and give them something astronomical this Christmas! Here are some ideas and suggestions of presents to give to enthusiastic stargazers, both young and old, for Christmas 2018 including the best telescope to buy for beginners (including children), astronomy books, stargazing experience vouchers and stocking fillers!
If you have any questions or seek further advice feel free to send us an email to [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and clear skies for 2019 from the Go Stargazing team!
Telescopes make an ideal Christmas present particularly for younger astronomers however with such a variety on offer it can be tricky to choose which one is most suitable — ultimately the best telescopes are ones that are used regularly and do not spend most of their time in their box!
The best advice we can give before buying a telescope is to first visit your local Astronomical Society or Astronomy Club who will be happy to help you choose a suitable instrument — many will be able to offer hands on practical experience with a variety of telescopes explaining the pros and cons of each design. For your nearest Society or Club check our events map or the Federation of Astronomical Societies website.
In summary telescopes work by gathering light — the more light they gather combined with the quality of the optics used to gather that light determine how good the image that can be seen through them. Equally important is the mount that the telescope is fixed to — there’s no advantage having a good quality telescope mounted on a poor quality, wobbly and difficult to use tripod. A telescope that is difficult to use won’t get used much!
An ideal telescope is therefore one that has good light gathering area, quality optics and a solid mount that is easily operated and portable. For these reasons we highly recommend a particular type of telescope known as Dobsonian telescope for use by beginners as these are sturdy, have good quality optics and come with larger reflective surfaces (mirrors) that gather more light. A Dobsonian telescope is of simple design involving a tube that is easily moved up and down and mounted on a rotating base so to access any part of the sky and is ultimately good value for money.
Sky-Watcher Skyliner 150P Dobsonian Telescope
This entry-level dobsonian telescope comes with a 150mm (6 inch) mirror, two eyepieces and a finder scope. It is perfect for beginners and offers amazing views of the moon, planets and brighter galaxies and star clusters. Price ~£209.
Purchase a Sky-Watcher Skyliner 150P Dobsonian telescope from First Light Optics
Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P Dobsonian Telescope
This telescope is the slightly bigger brother of the 150P and comes with a 200mm (8 inch) mirror, eyepieces and accessories. Again it is perfect for beginners with the larger light gathering area affording better views of fainter objects. If you can afford a little extra budget that money goes a long way! Cost ~£275.
Purchase a Sky-Watcher Skyliner 200P Dobsonian telescope from First Light Optics
Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Telescope
This table top Dobsonian is great for young astronomers with good views of the brightest objects achievable from the 100mm (4″) mirror. It’s extremely portable so ideal for taking on stargazing holidays. Price ~£90.
Purchase a Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P telescope from First Light Optics
Red dot finder accessory
Most telescopes come with a “finder scope” which is a small telescope mounted on the side of the main telescope and is used to help locate objects in the sky. It can be tricky to find objects and point the telescope at them using a finder scope so a suggested replacement is a “red dot finder” which makes things much easier. There is a variety available costing ~£25 and are a useful and worthy upgrade. Check if the telescope you are purchasing comes with one first!
Purchase a red dot finder from First Light Optics
Turn Left at Orion
Ask any astronomer which book they might recommend as to how to find objects in the sky and the majority will suggest Turn Left at Orion. With easy to use guides covering all of the constellations in the Northern hemisphere this book is the perfect accompaniment to any telescope helping beginners learn their way around the constellations, identifying the brightest and most interesting deep sky objects and observing them through their telescope. Much better than any phone or tablet app! Cost ~£20
A Cat’s Guide to the Night Sky
Aimed at astronomers aged from about 7 to 12 this book is a wonderful introduction to the practical side of astronomy. Follow Felicity the Cat as she guides you around the constellations learning everything from the phases of the moon to how to see the Northern Lights. A perfect Christmas gift for any child interested in space! Available in bookshops. Cost ~£12
Life Through Time and Space
This book by Wallace Arthur, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Ireland and published by Harvard University Press, offers a deep and fascinating exploration into the Universe and the possible likelihood of finding life elsewhere. It covers a wide range of topics and is a perfect gift alternative to the many mainstream astronomy books. Cost ~£12
Philip’s 2019 Stargazing Guide
This pocket guide is an excellent resource and great stocking filler. Cost £3.
Purchase Philip’s 2019 Stargazing Guide from Amazon
This A3 calendar features photos of the amazing observatories that collectively form the European Southern Observatory as well as fascinating images taken by their telescopes. It is THE calendar to have for any Astronomer! Cost £10 + postage
Purchase European Southern Observatory 2019 Calendar from ESO website
This is a great present for anyone interested in photography or even abstract art! Place a Solarcan facing Southwards and let it capture the path of the Sun’s light as our closest star moves across the sky! Excellent stocking filler! Specify the coupon code GoStargazing18 for a discount at checkout! Cost £11.95 with discount applied
Purchase a Solarcan
Stargazing experience vouchers make for a fantastic gift enabling your recipient the option of choosing when and where they go with the voucher being used to cover the cost of their event ticket. For our latest recommendations see our stargazing experience vouchers page.
Another great present for any interested astronomers is tickets to a local stargazing event. Print out the tickets after purchase and include them in a Christmas card for a simple and effective surprise gift. Have a look on our events map to see what is happening near you (or your intended gift recipient!).
Alternatively here’s some ideas:
Hidden Horizons at Dalby Forest (North East England)
Join the team from Hidden Horizons as they explore the dark skies above Dalby Forest with large aperture telescopes. Cost £15
Grizedale Forest in the Lake District (North West England)
Enjoy a break to the Lakes including a stargazing experience with astronomer Robbie Ince who runs numerous events across the region. Cost £15
Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (Southern Scotland)
Enjoy the dark skies above Galloway at the SDSO (purchase tickets on a date around a new moon so the skies are dark when your gift recipient visits!). Cost £16
Lime Tree Observatory (Yorkshire)
Located in the truly amazing surroundings of Nidderdale AONB the Lime Tree Observatory (near Ripon) is a must place to visit with an enthusiastic team of astronomers catering for beginners to experienced stargazers (event tickets available from the Nidderdale AONB website). Cost £15
Kielder Observatory (North England / Scottish Borders)
Visit the iconic Kielder Observatory located at the heart of the wonderful Kielder Forest Park (make sure you book dates around new moon for the best stargazing experience). Cost ~£28+
Solarsphere Astronomy Festival (North Wales)
Astronomy and music at this amazing value family friendly festival in Wales makes for a perfect family gift… The dates 9th – 12th August coincide with the annual peak of the Perseids meteor shower too! Cost £45 adults