Meet The Spacewriter Links to sites of Interest The Library and Gift Shop The Spacewriter's Blog Henrietta Leavitt Flat Screen Space Theater Visions of the Cosmos Gallery About this website Home Page
Other Astronomy-Related Items Star Tales and Mythology practical and beginners general interest

Other Astronomy-Related Products

Astronomy — like much of life — is a highly personalized adventure. Some stargazers are content to scan the skies with unaided eyes with nothing but night noises to keep them company. Others lie back with binoculars and gaze at the stars. Still others are hankering after telescopes so they can ply the deeps of space from the comfort of their own back yards. There are plenty of astro-enthusiasts who like nothing more than to curl up inside with a book or some software and maybe some space music to take them on voyages of galactic discovery. On this page I've listed some of my own favorite astro-toys and products, along with information on how to find them online or in real life.


The best way to learn the night sky is with the naked eye and a good star chart or star wheel. But there comes a time when you want to magnify the view. The first thing everybody thinks is "I've GOT to have a telescope!" Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I always tell folks to start out with binoculars, especially if they've not done a lot of stargazing before. Binos are perfect for scanning the sky and you can actually see some pretty neat stuff with them. The beauty of binos is that if (heaven forfend!) you get tired of doing astronomy, they'll be great for birdwatching, ball games, cloud gazing, and a host of other activities — and you won't feel like you've wasted money on something you'll never use again.

But wait, you say. Binoculars have all kinds of mysterious numbers in front of them — stuff that looks like 10 x 50, or 11 x 80. Strange terms get connected to binoculars, like "exit pupil" and "auto-focus." True enough. The best guide to binoculars I've ever read is at the Sky & Telescope webpage, so I recommend you check it out (link will open in a separate window): Choosing Binoculars for Stargazing.

One thing to remember about binoculars is that they probably aren't the best choice for really young people, unless the child is strong enough to hold them up for awhile. Also, the lenses of some binoculars aren't adjustable down to the size of kids' faces (and eye separation), so keep that in mind if you're looking for something that the budding young astronomer can use. Best to try out some binoculars in a store to see if the child can actually see through them.

The binoculars I recommend the most often are 10 × 50's — which means they magnify things 10 times over normal, and they're equipped with 50mm lenses (2 of them, which is why they're called binoculars). Also acceptable are sizes ranging from 7 × 50's to 12 × 50. Anything bigger (like, say, 11 × 80) and you're struggling to hold them up long enough to do any decent stargazing.


When it comes to telescopes, what you want to look at really does influence what you buy. As with the binoculars, the best reference article I've seen about buying telescopes is at Sky & Telescope's website (the article opens in a new window): Choosing Your First 'Scope.

I have one telescopes right now. It's an Edmunds Astroscan, one of the most rugged, adaptable, and handy scopes I've ever owned. It travels well and (important for families) is a great kids' scope! It looks a little strange, but it delivers great views! In 1986 I was hired to be the astronomy lecturer for two tour groups in South America. The idea was to visit great sites in Peru during the day and look for Comet Halley during the wee hours of the morning. The best instruments to view it with were binoculars and small scopes — and my Astroscan fit the bill. I also took it along when I was ship's lecturer onboard MS Ryndam in 2001. It fits into the overhead bin of just about any airliner, and sets up in seconds! If you're looking for a good astro-gift, this is one to consider!

There are plenty of cool telescopes out there. You can find plenty of Dobsonian-type scopes at Orion Telescopes.

Edmunds Astroscan.

Like I said above, this baby is just about indestructible! I've bounced mine off the top of my car, rolled it down dirt roads, and dropped it off of tables (none of this on purpose, of course). It emerged none the worse for wear and continues to give good views almost 20 years after I bought it! This is a great scope for kids, and it's easy to toss into the car when you're packing up for a camping trip or that overnight with the Scout troop. It comes with an eyepiece, a stand, and a shoulder strap, and a few other accessories. You can fit it into a gym bag for easy carrying.


There's something kind of cool about exploring the universe using your computer. With a few mouse clicks you can be surfing the web, browsing image libraries, or firing up a program that'll help you learn the constellations, print out star charts, and learn more about the objects in the sky. I have used a number of programs over the years, including Voyager, from CarinaSoft,; a powerful program from Software Bisque called TheSky, which will teach you the sky and, if you're so inclined, control a telescope; another great program called SkyMap (from SkyMap Software), and a great freeware program called Ciel et Espace, available at

I highly recommend any of these programs for your computerized space exploration — some of them have demo versions you can download and try out before you buy. My personal favorite? I have two: Ciel et Espace, and TheSky. I use them to make star charts for friends and family and for quick lookups when I'm writing viewing entries on my blog. The others are great, too — you'll find that no two users favor the same program and I suspect it all depends on personal taste.



For me, music is an integral part of life. I don't always listen to music when I'm stargazing, but I do have something playing while I work. Some folks like to have music playing softly as they watch the heavens — for those and others who join me in the love of fine sound, I've included a few of my favorites here. (My tastes run the gamut of musical experience, and with the possible exception of opera and Hungarian throat singing, I'll listen to just about anything — at least once!) As I mentioned elsewhere, I'm married to a space music composer. His music — which can be found at Loch Ness Productions is recorded under the name Geodesium and can be heard in fine planetariums around the world, as well as selected music stations. My personal favorite album is Fourth Universe, although it's followed right up by Anasazi and Stellar Collections. His latest album is called A Gentle Rain of Starlight,, and it's a soul-touching listen. They're all available through our website and five of his six albums are available through