From telescopes to home decor, here are some gift ideas for night sky fiends, whether they celebrate a winter holiday or not. (Annie Spratt)
2020 SkyNews astronomer’s gift guide

Suggested by the SkyNews team, here’s a range of celestial gifts for the space aficionado in your life.

The ASIAIR PRO WiFi controller from ZWO lets you leave your laptop behind during your astrophotography runs. This little powerhouse features WiFi control of ZWO cameras and a growing list of Nikon and Canon DSLRs. It also includes power management, plate solving, polar alignment, autoguiding, and mount control. Just download the ASIAIR app and you have complete control over your imaging rig with your smart phone or tablet. The ASIAIR PRO is all wrapped up in an attractive aluminum housing marked with stylized star maps of Ursa Minor and Ursa Major. An ideal gift for astrophotographers.

— Brian Ventrudo

ASIAIR PRO WiFi controller from ZWO.

I’m always conflicted about asking people for gifts. I love space things. But I also think one of the best things about space is the free view of the universe available by looking up, which is something you can’t buy. That said, Startorialist is a small company that makes beautiful space-themed jewellery and outfits. The Mars 2020 face mask I have my eye on is just one of several masks available on their website. Getting this gift would support a small business, while keeping our communities safe during a pandemic, which seems a bargain to me for the $25 USD price.

— Elizabeth Howell

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At Sky-Watcher USA, we deliver the best possible product, with the best possible service, at the best possible value. We understand what it takes to be an astronomer. Some of you drive hours just to observe at a dark sky site. Some of you have built private observatories in your backyard. Some of you wait all winter just to get a clear sky. Some of you plan vacations around new moon, and some of you spend your free time doing outreach events to share your love of astronomy. We’re here to help.

In testing many brands of eyepieces in recent months, a series that stood out as one of the best is the new Morpheus line from Baader Planetarium. From the 17.5mm to the 4.5mm, all have a long 20mm of eye relief, making even the high power models very comfortable to look through. Their apparent field of view is 76 degrees, not as wide as many premium eyepieces, but still impressive, especially as stars are tack sharp across all but the outer few percent of the field. All the Morpheus eyepieces (around $320 each) are dual-barrel, fitting 2-inch focusers but requiring only lower-cost 1.25-inch filters. 

— Alan Dyer

The new Morpheus line from Baader Planetarium.

I thought what I wanted for Christmas was a slam dunk, but, like most astronomers, I quickly realized that I want it all. So, it was really difficult for me to narrow it down (and I’m sure I will think of more after this is published). Sadly (or maybe not sadly), I can’t narrow it down to one thing. So, here are the two contenders. First, I miss my Lunt solar scope. I miss being in awe of the Sun and, with the solar maximum coming up, I’m sure I’ll be itching to closely examine our nearest star. When I had it, I used it almost weekly, so I know I’d get good use out of it. Secondly, Comet NEOWISE made me realize how much I could use a tracking mount like the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer, so that’s definitely another one for my wish list!

— Nicole Mortillaro

I love hiking, paddling and camping in Canada’s backcountry. While in the woods, I’ve been using an old set of birding binoculars to magnify the stars. I’d love to get a light telescope to add to my pack, like the Astro-Tech AT60ED or a used Stellarvue SV60EDS. I wouldn’t say no to a carbon fibre Explore Scientific ED APO 102, either, if someone was looking to give it to me. For those looking for a lower price point — or something that you can easily get in Canada — as a Trekkie and a cat owner, one of the most apropos gifts I have ever received is a book called Star Trek Cats. It’s a hardcover with illustrations of famous scenes from The Original Series with the characters replaced by, well, cats. It’s a delight to show fellow Trekkies and has an honoured place on my bookshelf, and it’s a steal for just about $20. There’s also The Next Generation version of the book.

— Allendria Brunjes

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Take advantage of our Early Black Friday sale at KhanScope.com. Order early, our stock won’t last! We have some fantastic scopes on offer such as the Explore Scientific 80mm FirstLight (as featured in the Nov/Dec 2020 edition of SkyNews), the Celestron StarSense Explorer 114mm, the Meade Polaris 127mm, and the Celestron StarSense Explorer 102mm. Lots of options for seasoned stargazers and beginners alike. For a limited time, some of our scopes include a FREE Astro Kit, the perfect set of accessories for new stargazers. Place your orders at khanscope.com for curbside pickup or shipment across the country.

Space is so much more rewarding when it is shared. For the holidays, I want to be able to get the people together and show them all the cool stuff that’s up there. The gift I would like most is to share views of the stars with all my family and friends, cozied up around the scope and sharing hot chocolate and tea to stay warm — but this year, though, I’ll encourage everyone to bring their own binoculars, telescopes and hot chocolate from home. (You can check out RASC’s website for details on upcoming online star parties and other events, as well, for ideas.)

— Jenna Hinds

This year saw my husband and I become first-time homeowners and first-time comet chasers. I wanted his gift to combine our new hobbies of stargazing and home decorating, so the ability to purchase a portion of a meteorite caught my eye immediately. The one I found comes with an acrylic display case, making it a great conversation piece for the living room. For my own gift, I gravitated towards the Moon for inspiration, with items such as a set of mirrors shaped in phases of the Moon, a delicate golden Moon phase chain garland and a bronze planter shaped like a crescent Moon. 

— Sahar Fatima

Having been an amateur astronomer for more than 50 years, I’ve collected a few gadgets over the years and readily admit that during the busy child-rearing years and peak-career years, I was more of a telescope collector than an astronomer. Surprisingly, these past seven years on the RASC board of directors forces a focus away from personal observing, redirecting my attention to the business and well-being of the Society. Seeing the end of my career on the horizon has me looking to what the next chapter of astronomy might look like. In addition to taking part in observing certificate programs, I hope to enter into the realm of astro-imaging. I have enough kit in hand to realize its shortcomings though, and that leads me to my wish list item. At the top of the list is an Eagle3 computer. In addition to the obvious benefits of a stripped-down, tube-ring-mounted computer running only the necessary applications for polar alignment, auto-guiding and image capture, it also runs on a 12VDC power source. This to me a big advantage; conventional laptops run on 19V supplies and when they are tasked with running imaging gear, they are woefully under-powered. Many overcome this with deep-cycle RV batteries and inverters, but the thought of adding another 28-32 kilograms to my “portable” observatory makes me shudder. Running all on a 12VDC LiFePO4 battery makes that trek to dark skies much more palatable. It will be a Merry Christmas indeed if I can say that the Eagle has landed (under our tree).

— Robyn Foret

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