Even a casual gaze up at the heavens can spark the desire to see the stars and planets above in more detail. Unless you’re booked on an upcoming Virgin Galactic spaceflight, this equipment will have to do. On the plus side, you could buy it all for far less than the $450,000 cost of the spaceflight. This gear and a smartphone starfinder app will get you started.
For Serious Stargazers
Like the “other” Hubble telescope, this Dobsonian-style system provides a stellar view via a relatively large 18-inch primary mirror. The very effective light-gathering optical design is favored by serious astronomers, and this model is especially valued by those seeking a powerful telescope that, weighing just 81 pounds and designed to be folded, can be easily transported and set up on sites far from where the city emits light pollution.
Small yet powerful, this telescope is ideal for astronomers and serious amateurs seeking an easy-to-use, very portable system. Use the 8-power viewfinder to find the star, then activate the SmartDrive system to allow long-exposure photography by automatically tracking the star’s movement. Add a star diagonal to flip images right-side-up for nature-watching use.
Take a Seat
The most overlooked aspect of stargazing is staying comfortable. The angles required to look though the eyepiece of a Dobsonian or refractor-style telescope, set at the lower end and requiring you to stoop or crouch, can quickly lead to kinks in your back—making this chair a very viable alternative. The lightweight yet sturdy design can be adjusted to suit the system, bringing you in line with the viewfinder, securely perched for hours of comfortable viewing.
The Easy View
Binoculars are an ideal and easy way to enjoy heavenly light shows, but a set that’s perfect for watching a football game won’t have enough power to bring the moon or stars up close. This set from Celestron magnifies 25 times, with 100 mm objective lenses for low-light use, making them a good choice for observing the sky. With all that power, you’ll want to use these with a tripod for best results.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Stargazing is fun, but not everyone can stay up late to do it. This system from Celestron lets you pair most smartphones with a telescope or binoculars; three knobs align the phone’s camera with the telescope’s viewfinder and then hold it securely in place. It allows you to share photos and videos with friends, as well as to capture them for your own enjoyment. You’ll be glad you have this in case E.T. ever flies past.