This last week my family was able to celebrate the birthday of my oldest son. Anyone with children (especially older kids) knows how hard it can be to go shopping for the perfect present. Luckily, this year it was actually very easy to choose a gift. My son is going through a phase right now where he is really into astronomy and staying up late staring into the night sky. I admit I’m the one who sparked it all by reading an interesting little book I came across in our garage entitled “NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe” by Terence Dickinson.
I had taken an “Intro to Astronomy” class in college and found the subject to be really interesting. I ended up purchasing “NightWatch,” as part of the course curriculum but I never got around to reading it. It had it sitting in my garage for at least 5 years, but coming across it again re-sparked my interest.
I must say that this text is very thorough and goes into great detail all about constellations, telescopes, and the history of sky watching. Usually books that are this comprehensive can be hard to get through for people who aren’t experts on the subject, but I found this to be a relatively easy read. It is definitely a book that will be enjoyable if it’s read in conjunction with some sort of star gazing activities, so as to apply the information that you are learning.
At the time I was going through this book we did not own a telescope, so my night activities began with pulling out some old binoculars. Pretty soon my oldest son decided that he was going to join me. As I would point out constellations and planets I would show him pictures from the book, and his interest in astronomy really took off. Pretty soon binoculars didn’t seem like enough.
Thankfully his birthday was coming along and we could justify spending a little money to help support his new fascination. He only wanted one present this year – a telescope. We were still pretty new to all of this astronomy stuff, but we did know a little bit about what to look for. We wanted a nice sturdy portable mount and a decent-sized aperture. We found an online buying guide for telescopes that helped us compare scopes that were in our price range. After searching through the reviews and doing the comparison we were able to feel pretty confident in our choice.
To make a long story short, we decided to go with an Orion, and our kid couldn’t have been happier. There have been many late nights since, and this is a hobby that could potentially turn into more. It may be a little too early to tell, but we’re hoping that this passion persists as it has really helped our son to come out of his shell, and he seems to have a real knack for understanding this astronomy stuff. Either way, if nothing more it’s just another testament to how much influence just one good book can have!