If you have any space-mad family members or loved ones, or even just acquaintances, still to buy a pressie for, what could you get them for Christmas? OBVIOUSLY you’re not going to “buy” them a star, or pay to have one “named after” them, ‘cos that’s an absolute waste of money, for reasons I have described fully on this blog on previous occasions. A telescope then? Well, maybe… but very expensive, and only a good idea if they already know the night sky pretty well, well enough to use their telescope to zoom in on things. A book? Great idea! But there are so many, where do you start? How about a meteorite then? Yep, another great idea, you can get some very reasonably-priced ones from mineral shops and online suppliers.
How about something a bit more, well, practical tho? Something they could use daily, something which they will go back to again and again and again? Sounds good? Then the 2015 “The Year In Space” calendar, which is published in co-operation with The Planetary Society, might be just what you’re looking for…
I’ve thought for a long time that it’s funny how calendars are still being produced. After all, we use our smartphones and tablets for planning and organising our lives now, don’t we? When it’s so convenient to carry your diary, calendar, address book and notepad on your pocket, why on Earth would you want to buy what is basically just a big card booklet and hang it on your wall and… um… write on… with a pen… you know, like they used to do in Ye Olden Times?
Well, not all calendars are created equal. The ones you see in the “Calendar Shops” which spring up in shopping centres and on the high street at this time of year are basically just a grid of small boxes beneath a big pretty picture, one for each month. I was in my local one this morning, and there are some really attractive spacey ones in there – Moon calendars, aurora calendars, Solar System and Space Exploration calendars – but they’re all very basic, and as lovely as the images inside them are at first glance, I’m not sure I’d want to be stuck with some of them for a whole month before flipping on to the next one. The “The Year In Space” calendar is different. For a start it is printed on extremely high quality glossy card, and the printing is perfect (unlike some of the ones I flicked through this morning).
As you can see from this picture, showing an engrossed Peggy reading all about the exploration of Mars on the August spread it is, essentially, a very large, extremely slim book, or magazine, each of its twelve double-page spreads dedicated to a different month of the year. But each spread is so crammed full of information, so packed with hints and tips, facts and figures, scientist profiles and trivia that you worry when you’re holding it up to read it that words and pictures will fall out of it. The images (“over 120”, the info on the back declares proudly, “more than any other space wall calendar in the world”) have clearly all been chosen to look striking, and the designer did a fantastic job laying out each page, making them look busy but not over-crowded.
The actual “calender part” of each spread is quite small but not so small it gets lost on the page. Your favourite amateur astronomer will find it useful because the dates and times of astronomical events – eclipses, meteor showers, planetary conjunctions etc – and the Moon’s phases are shown too. A nice touch is a small “Sky Guide” box on each calendar section, giving a one-look thumbnail guide to the major events happening in that month’s sky. If your loved one is more (or also) into space exploration, important dates in the history of spaceflight are highlighted. I was more than a little surprised though that important space missions due to take place in 2015 aren’t noted – it’s baffling, and a major omission in my opinion, that there’s no big fanfare for New Horizons’ July fly-past of Pluto (especially as the calendar was made with support from The Planetary Society).
And inevitably, despite astronomy being perhaps the most international of all hobbies, as it’s a US product the calendar gives the times of astronomical events in Eastern US time, meaning non-Americans will have to do that pain in the neck time conversion thing every time they want to catch something cool happening on the night sky described in the text. But that’s ok, we’re used to that by now; even NASA seems loathe to give the times of launches and space mission events in anything other than ET.
But that criticism aside, it’s an absolutely beautiful calendar, and anyone you buy it for will love it. If you don’t decide to keep it for yourself after buying it…
“The Year In Space” 2015 Calendar
More info: https://www.YearInSpace.com/wall-calendar
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