Believe it or not, this Friday marks the beginning of yet another holiday shopping season in the U.S. Perhaps someone on your shopping list is pestering you to buy them a telescope. Should you do it?
My opinion on this is unchanged from my post on this subject from last year. Unless you are absolutely positive that a telescope will get a lot of use, you may want to consider buying some nice binoculars and a tripod for those binoculars instead of a telescope. There are a lot of neat astronomical objects that can be seen with binoculars (comets, the moons of Jupiter, galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae), and binoculars can be used for other interesting things, like bird watching, hunting, spying on your strange neighbors, and so on. A telescope is hard to learn to use and not much use outside of stargazing, and a lot of telescopes are purchased, used once or twice, put away out of frustration, and forgotten about.
Along with those binoculars, consider giving the gift of a subscription to an astronomy magazine like Sky and Telescope orAstronomy. Not only will a magazine keep your budding astronomer abreast of astronomy news, but it also will offer tips on what is up in the sky and some good targets to look at.