Astronomy Cast Ep. 396: Family Astronomy for the Holidays

Every year, it’s the same dilemma: what gift should you get for the super space nerd in the family? And if someone has a budding interest in space and astronomy, what can you do to feed their hunger for knowledge? Today we’ll talk telescopes, books and planispheres. Everything you need to avoid a holiday gift disaster.

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2 Replies to “Astronomy Cast Ep. 396: Family Astronomy for the Holidays”

  1. You mentioned the difficulty holding heavier binoculars. Try using a painter’s sanding pole? Get one that is lightweight/alum. and extensible/height adjustable. The head will pivot 360* and 120* on a clamped sphere. Use large rubber bands, velcro straps or small bungee’s to attach the binocs to the flat. Adjust the height to either sitting or standing position and balance/rest the binocs on your new monopod!

    P.S. If it’s recycled, be sure to blow the dust off first.
    P.P.S. LEGO binoculars – Or telescope

  2. I have some binoculars that I rarely use because they’re frankly terrible (at least for astronomy purposes) and I would give them away (or trade) in the right circumstances. They are general-purpose binoculars with adjustable zoom 10-30×50, independent focus on one eyepiece, and the brand is Barska.

    The main reason they’re terrible is that not only is it a pain to get them into focus, but simply the pressure of holding them against your face is enough to squeeze them OUT of focus again. I don’t really understand what’s going on there (you can’t squeeze them all the way), but it’s so frustrating. My guess is this is somehow a side-effect of the adjustable zoom and that the answer is to avoid adjustable zoom binoculars like the space plague, but I’d appreciate advice/confirmation/contradiction.

    Next time I’ll go for at least 15×60, though more light would be nice, and so would some rudimentary astrophotography ability. But for me it isn’t practical to go BIG. I’m better off with something I can take with me when I visit darker skies, and not have to pack any extra luggage. Something I can take “just in case” I use them, fitting them snugly in a bag that I would have brought with me anyway, and not feel I’ve wasted the effort if I don’t do any stargazing after all.

    I have no plans to buy anything in the short term, but there’s every chance I will in the somewhat longer term.

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