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Gift guide for astronomy lovers: Here's the best skywatching gear

Nine products that will help you enjoy the night sky.
by Dan Falk /
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Few sights are as awe-inspiring as the night sky on a clear, moonless night — especially if you're able to escape to a dark location far from city lights. While the naked eye is all you'll need to enjoy the Perseid meteor shower this weekend, observing planets, stars and other far-flung celestial objects calls for some good skywatching gear.

With that in mind, your friends at NBC News MACH have carefully selected nine products that will make skywatching a special pleasure for you or your favorite astro-buff.

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.

1. Nikon 10x50 Action Extreme ATB Binoculars, $155

Nikon 7245 Action 10x50 EX Extreme All-Terrain Binocular
B&H Photo

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.

Buy them on Amazon for $155.

Buy them on B&H Photo for $155.

2. Meade Lightbridge Mini 130 Reflector Telescope, $179

Meade Instruments LightBridge Mini 130 Telescope, White (203003)
Amazon.com

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.

Buy it on Amazon for $179 (normally $200).

Buy it on B&H Photo for $189.

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 $99.

Orion 10012 SkyScanner 100mm TableTop Reflector Telescope (Burgundy)
Amazon.com

Buy it on Amazon for $99 (normally $110).

3. SkyView Lite skywatching app

Skyview iTunes App
iTunes

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.

Download the app for free from iTunes.

4. iOptron SkyTracker Pro Camera Mount, $299

iOptron SkyTracker Pro Camera Mount with Polar Scope
Amazon.com

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).

Buy it on Amazon for $299.

Buy it on B&H Photo for $299.

5. "NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe" by Terence Dickinson, $35

NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
Amazon.com

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.

Buy it on Amazon for $35.

6. Authentic 40-60 gram meteorite, $35.95

Authentic Extra Large Massive 40-60 grams Meteorite, BONUS Treasure Chest Box, Display Case, Velvet Pouch, Education Card & Certificate of Authenticity
Amazon.com

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.

Buy it on Amazon for $36.

7. 12-inch Mars globe, $104.95

S&T 12" Mars Globe on Acrylic Stand
Amazon.com

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.

Buy it on Amazon for $105.

Buy it on Houzz for $105.

8. Glow-in-the-dark constellation dress, $39.99

Glow-in-the-Dark Constellation Dress
Think Geek

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.

Buy it for $40 (normally $50) on Think Geek.

9. Constellation socks, $11.50

Sock It To Me, Constellations, Men's Crew Socks, Star Socks
Amazon.com

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.

Buy them on Amazon for $12.

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