Cosmic Gift Ideas

What to Give that Space Fan in Your Life

If you have a space and astronomy fan in your circle of giftees (or, if you’re looking for something for yourself), finding a gift for those folks can sometimes be tough. I’ve got some ideas to share with you that might help — and some links to some cool products.

Name a Mars Crater, Fund Some Science

gift idea mars map

Give the gift of a crater name on Uwingu’s Mars map!

A few years ago my old friend and colleague Alan Stern shared a cool product with me that was about to be announced. It is a Mars map that he and his team at Uwingu.com hope will be used on Mars by future colonists and explorers. Uwingu sells certificates that allow you to name a crater on the map for yourself (or someone else). Half the proceeds go to fund science research and education. In these uncertain political days, sending money directly to fund research is not such a far-fetched idea as it used to be. Plus, you get a cool certificate (framed or unframed) to send along to your holiday giftee.

Why name craters on a Mars map? There are thousands and thousands of unnamed craters on Mars, and Uwingu is taking up the slack by creating their map. It will come in very handy when Mars exploration by humans commences within a decade or two. By having pre-labeled maps, early explorers will have a useful resource map. It will come in handy as they report their explorations back to Earth. The map is already one of the most complete Mars chart in existence, and should be very useful. Interested? There are still plenty of craters left to name on the Uwingu map!

Mars and Our Future

mars

Mars exploration is described by Leonard David.

Speaking of Mars, there’s a new book out called Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet. It’s written by our friend Leonard David and accompanies the National Geographic TV series about Mars directed by Ron Howard. Leonard’s a long-time space writer and fixture on the space media scene and he’s done a good job with this book. It lays out what humanity’s exploration of Mars could be like in an approachable style. This looks like a coffee table book and reads like a well-done treatise on the issues that we’ll face as we reach out to Mars.

Explore the Cosmos

Astronomy gift

Answers to questions about astronomy.

Earlier this year I got a review copy of David Eicher’s The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy’s Big Questions, and have been savoring it ever since. Dave’s approach to answering new questions in astronomy and cosmology is clear, concise and at times, very thought-provoking. If you have somebody on your list who wants to explore the cosmos from the armchair perspective, this book is a great read.

The Men Who Blazed the Way

astronomy gift

Stories of long-lost heroes of the space age.

My Aussie friend Kate Doolan and co-authors Colin Burgess and Bert Vis have an interesting book about astronauts who died in our quest for space. It’s called Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon. It begins by revealing the existence of a very special memorial on the Moon that salutes these space pioneers. The book then goes on to detail their lives and achievements. It’s a great find for the space buff in your life.

Astronomy 101

astronomy gift

Astronomy 101.

A few years ago I wrote a book for Adams Media called Astronomy 101. It was a great hit and earlier in 2016, the company published a second edition. Think of it as an “executive summary” of astronomy, written for interested laypeople. I get letters from teenagers (and pre-teens) who have read it, as well as older readers who are happy to find an approachable book on the subject. Check it out!

More Gift Ideas

I’ve written several articles at Space.About.com with gift ideas and suggestions. Surf on over and check out more of my book recommendations in Astronomy Books for All Ages. I’ve covered some of the more popular choices there, approachable for readers at all levels.

Beyond books, I’ve written a story called Gift Ideas that are Out of this World, as well as Cosmic Gifts for Any Occasion. It includes suggestions about computer, tablet and smartphone astronomy apps and books as well as star charts and telescopes.

Speaking of telescopes, I have a couple of articles focused on stargazing on the cheap and buying a telescope, including one on some mid-price-range scopes to check out. Telescopes are a good idea, as are binoculars (which can help beginners get started on learning the sky before they get that first scope).

Getting Fancy

If you are looking for some really special gifts, consider giving the gift of a membership to Digital Blasphemy, an online art source for desktop, smartphone, and table wallpapers. Ryan’s a genius at space art, and his work adorns my devices. It’s unique and amazingly cool!

If bigger artwork is your fancy, then check out a set of large, high-end prints that you can buy to adorn your walls, from StarMap Graphics. They are museum-quality prints based on design and data from the creator of the StarMap astronomy app for iOS. The app, which I have worked on for a few years, is free for the basic edition and allows you to customize it with in-app purchases. The graphics in the app are quite lovely, and they inspired the app developer to create high-end prints for those who love beautiful astronomy graphics.

Space Music to Your Ears

astronomy gift

Space music makes a fine gift!

As most of my readers know, I’m married to the best space music composer in the cosmos. He creates music under the name Geodesium, and you can find his work at Geodesium.com, as well as on my Amazon Astore, at Spotify.com and through other fine purveyors listed on the Geodesium web site. The music is available on CD and via download, making it portable and perfect for gifting.

So, there are some suggestions for gifting this season and throughout the year. Happy hunting and happy holidays!

Come Sail Away

Exploration and Travel are the Keys to the Cosmos

sunset over bermuda and travel

Come sail away and travel the planet… or out to the stars!

I’m listening to Styx’s Come Sail Away piece right now and it really brightened a cold, winter morning.  Not that I’m sad; quite the opposite. I just returned from two periods of extended travel to Iceland and Europe. My task: to serve as an astronomy lecturer for Smithsonian Journeys on a land trip. That was followed aa few weeks later by an assignment on a transatlantic cruise.  They were fabulous experiences. On the cruise, I had the privilege of bringing my mom along as my guest.  We had fun times, fun experiences, and  it was another chance to share the cosmos with fellow travelers.

Each time I go on a journey, I think about how much travel can broaden a person’s horizons. It doesn’t have to be very far  — many people find inspiration as they travel from one town to another, or even to another neighborhood in their own metropolis. The important thing is that when a person travels to a new environment, be it next door or around the world, they see a new vista, a distant horizon, and meet new and different people.

Travel and Exploration are How We Learn

That’s the essence of exploration – to learn new things from new places. It’s why I enjoy going around sharing astronomy and space science with others. It’s sort of a “meta” experience — reaching out to others about how we explore the universe and what we learn about it (and ourselves). That’s probably why I am so fascinated with astronomy and space exploration; they are important journeys to make, and the journey of my life has been to study astronomy and then share it with others. Each time we look up and out, we make progress toward understanding our place in the universe. each time we travel around our own planet, we make progress in understanding our brothers and sisters on this planet, and the places they live in. Progress is the greatest journey of all.