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The moon and the stars
Galactic gifts, large and small

12/11/14



You don’t have to travel through space to find an out-of-this-world gift. The following gift ideas will send family and friends to the stars and back again.

 
Access the solar system
While the moon may be 238,900 miles away, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive, Concord, 271-7827, starhop.com) is right around the corner.
“Some people think we’re just for school field trips, but that’s only a quarter of our visitors each year,” Executive Director Jeanne Gerulskis said. “People who are generally interested in astronomy, space aviation and science really like to come here.”
There’s plenty to see and do at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center for space enthusiasts of any age. There are exhibits on the solar system, lunar recon and what it’s like to live and work in space.
Guests can check out a planetarium show, like Extreme Planets or Tonight’s Sky, which shows what the current night’s sky looks like and provides information about what you will see when you look up — and no two shows are the same. If it’s clear out, you can visit the observatory and see solar flares during the day and the stars and planets at night.
Aviation fans can view a craft a little closer to home. Now in its retirement from service, the XF8U-2 Crusader Jet is on display in the center now.
After a trip to space, visitors can head to the Science Store gift shop, where memberships and gift certificates can be purchased, along with fun science-y souvenirs.
“People can can give gift certificates for admission and a planetarium show, gift memberships so people can come free all year round and gift certificates for the gift shop,” Gerulskis said. “Maybe do a little package. You could have a gift bag with Mars Mud and astronaut ice cream, a little science kit and a gift membership.”
Gift memberships for a whole year for a family (one member and four guests) cost $100, for a student (includes college students) $30, and an individual membership costs $50. 
 
Adopt a star
There are a few ways to honor a loved one, family member or friend in the night sky. While you can name a star through commercial websites like nameastar.com, technically, you’re not actually naming that star (although you do receive a certificate). If you’re considering giving someone a star for the holidays, try adopting a star through an organization where the funds will benefit scientific education and research. 
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center has just that kind of program. 
“People can pay for someone they love to have a star named after them in our theater for a year or 10 years. So when we do the Our Sky Tonight show, you see their name,” Gerulskis said. 
For one year, a star in the planetarium theater will be named after a loved one for $125, and for 10 years, you can adopt a star for $1,000. 
“Besides having fun it helps fund our educational programs. We have a pretty reduced rate for our school visitors,” Gerulskis said. “This really helps us continue to offer them programs.”
Or better yet, give your loved one a piece of the stars by purchasing meteorites or even stardust from dealers like New England Meteoritical Services (visit meteorlab.com). 
 
Go stargazing
Of course, nothing beats looking at the stars. For big gifts, telescopes range in price from $100 to thousands of dollars. Smaller stargazing gifts could include astronomical star charts, calendars and almanacs (most will cost under $10 to $20). Consider magazine subscriptions like Sky & Telescope and Astronomy. 
If making memories under stars sounds like the kind of gift you’d like to give, check out the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (visit nhastro.com). The society offers skywatch programs for local libraries and groups, and can also be a great way to get started stargazing.
 
As seen in the December 11, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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