NEAF Report 2015

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In mid-April many NSAAC members, as well as members of other regional clubs, made the annual pilgrimage to the Northeast Astronomical Forum (NEAF) in Rockland NY. NEAF is billed as the world’s largest astronomy and space expo and – as usual – didn’t disappoint this year.

The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos

Our recent guest speaker Dr. Alan Hirshfeld presented on his book Starlight Detectives as part of the official show lineup, and regional expert on all things occultation-related Ted Blank presented in breakout sessions on behalf of the International Occultation Timing Association on the importance of amateur/professional science collaborations.

Matt Penn, Chief telescope scientist at the Kitt Peak McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

Matt Penn, Chief telescope scientist at the Kitt Peak McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

While it was a bit chilly and the occasional cloud decided to make its presence known the weather was cooperative and large crowds assembled for some solar astronomy time between sessions. While there were many informative and entertaining sessions one highlight was the presentation made by Matt Penn, Chief telescope scientist at the Kitt Peak McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. Matt’s presentation focused on the upcoming 2017 total solar eclipse and enlisting public support for The Citizen Cate Project, ‘Cate’ being short for “Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse”. As part of this Endeavour 60 telescopes will be positioned across the continental United States following the path of totality for the 2017 eclipse. The product of this effort will produce a 90-minute movie of the eclipse, providing scientific data on coronal activity not otherwise easily observed. To learn more about this endeavor please visit the project website: https://sites.google.com/site/citizencateexperiment

Having fortunately left (most) of the credit cards at home, hence making the Expo hall a safe place to be, the usual vendors were present with one exception, Jeff Goldstein of AstroGizmos. Jeff passed away earlier this year, but his products were still available at the show and you could hear folks talking about and remembering him as they wandered by the stack of AstroGizmos.

Moving around the expo hall it was impossible to miss the large telescope vendor exhibits. The evolution of Celestron’s Nexstar product line how has each scope with its own built-in WiFi network which allows for remote control of their scope by a mobile device via their free App.  Older scopes can be retrofitted for remote control as well via a connected device. Surprisingly, WiFi and integration with mobile devices does not appear to be part of Meade’s product roadmap. Meade wanted us to know about their renewed commitment to quality in their manufacturing process and that they take their QA and testing processes very seriously. Also, they emphasized that their product availability is now better as they have expanded their inventories and have better management controls in place. Over at the Explorer Scientific exhibit their focus was on the competitive price of their eyepieces, which they assert are the only waterproof eyepieces on the market. Explorer Scientific will be bringing a 6.5 inch refractor made carbon fiber to the market this summer, and stressed their unlimited lifetime “drop, repair, replace” transferable warranty.

Over at the Astronomy Foundation table support for Star Parties is on the agenda for the upcoming year. The foundation is working to make remote imaging telescopes available to clubs running star parties so that clubs can have a ‘computer station’ at star parties where photos can be taken of the objects being observed to capture the interest of kids.

Cheers,
Ed

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