October 4 - 10 is World Space Week, and what better way to celebrate the occasion than kitting yourself out with the best stargazing equipment.
In theory stargazing requires nothing more than a minimum of 10 minutes outdoors to adjust eyes to the dark – but both the British weather and the sheer scale of the cosmos make some purchases helpful.
Practical things all stargazers need include a really big mountain-style warm coat, a thick jumper, hat and gloves. You don't want to be taking the latter off, so find something like the SealSkinz Ultra Grip gloves - available for about £26 on Amazon - which make handling binoculars, books and/or a telescope easy.
Clear nights are the coldest of all, and standing still is what stargazing is all about, so wrap up warm.
Other essentials for all stargazers are a head torch with a red light mode (such as the Petzl Tikka Plus 2, available for under £30 on Amazon), so as not to damage your night vision, a chair, deckchair or sun-lounger to avoid a sore neck and a hot drink. Your reward will be the warm glow of the night sky.
At first you'll need help finding your bearings. For a quick tour, download a cheap smartphone app like SkySafari 5 (Android £2.79 & iOS £2.29), Night Sky 4 (Android & iOS 99p) or StarWalk (iOS £1.99, Android 99p).
Hold your phone up to the sky and your smartphone's compass and GPS will present a 'live' view of what's in front of you, but do make sure you engage the red 'night vision' mode on the app to prevent the damaging white glare from your smartphone.
However, these apps do take your attention away from the night sky. If you're in no rush and really want to learn how to find your way around, buy a red-light head torch and print-out a free starchart each month. A Nasa moon map might also be useful.
With a basic knowledge of constellations and the brightest stars, it's time to take a closer look at the likes of the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula and a first glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy.
At this stage of your stargazing, two eyes are better than one - find a pair of binoculars, which will give you a close-up view and a fabulous sense of depth. Choose 7x50, 10x42 or 10x50 binoculars, which magnify everything by seven or 10 times but which have a wide enough aperture to let lots of brightness in.
Any pair with that rating will do; try the travel-friendly Bushnell 10x42 Powerview (£59 - Amazon) or waterproof Nikon 10x50 SPORTER EX (£159 - Amazon), but try them out before you buy - twist-up eyecups are best.
Binoculars are best used for stargazing alongside a book like Binocular Highlights: 99 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users (£18.99 - Amazon) and can be taken camping, on a cruise or just left in the car, which will encourage you to stargaze more frequently.
Now's a good time to get a tripod like the professionals - we have a selection for you in our guide to taking photos of the sky.
As your knowledge of the night sky increases and you become familiar with the sky's main sights, you'll likely develop a thirst to see Jupiter, Saturn, the Orion Nebula and the Moon in close-up.
First, get yourself a copy of Patrick Moore's Yearbook of Astronomy 2016 (£9.94 - Amazon), which lays out the major celestial events and observing tips for each month. Since Moore's death in 2012, his friend and long-time co-editor Dr John Mason has taken on the task of annually refreshing the books.
Time for a telescope? Probably, but before you leap into the technical and potentially frustrating world of telescopes, pause and consider what it is you want to look at. A book like Turn Left At Orion (£21.20 - Amazon) is a great place to start, as is a Newtonian reflector telescope such as the Meade ETX80 Goto Telescope Tabletop System (£229 - Amazon).
That should do for easily found objects, but finding nebulas and star clusters invisible to the naked eye is most easily done using a Go-To telescope. The likes of the Skywatcher Skymax 127 SynScan (£379 - Amazon) and Orion StarBlast 6i IntelliScope (£410.03 - Amazon) will find and track any night-sky object, though you will still have to learn how to set telescopes like these up.
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