A Fun, Educational and Inexpensive Stocking Stuffer

I’ve been attending public star parties for years as well as going solo for the Guy-with-the-Telescope thing.  It always saddens me to see that most people simply have no idea whatsoever as to what’s in the night sky.  They’re missing out on so much wonder and adventure.  How can we rectify this unfortunate state of affairs? 

Every child should own his or her own planisphere.  I don’t normally do product endorsements but I’ll make an exception to the rule.  The Guide to the Stars Planisphere is only four dollars and available on Amazon.   It makes a great holiday stocking stuffer for kids of any age.  I’ve been buying them for years for my 6th Grade Astronomy students and they’re always a big hit.   Not only that but they’re so useful I find myself referring to them again and again through out the school year. 

Your child could learn the constellations with an astronomy App on an iPad so why, you might wonder, give him or her an old fashioned planisphere.  In this instance I believe that going “old school” is best.  A Planisphere makes it clear that the fixed stars are “fixed” relative to each other and appear to rotate around Polaris.   One of my students was surprised to discover that individual stars have names.  Another was amazed that the Milky Way isn’t just a candy bar. 

Best of all is when a 6th Grader tells me that by using his planisphere he was able to find Orion or Cassiopeia all on his own.  That fills a young person with a real sense of accomplishment.  The reverse side covers the basics for a beginning astronomer.  Give a child a planisphere and there’s no telling where it might take her. 

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