Date: May 23, 2012

Title: Northeast Astronomy Forum

Podcaster: RapidEye

Organization: RapidEye Observatory – a private observatory in rural Lee County, NC


Description: NEAF, a place for astronomy enthusiast and amateur astronomers to get together and share knowledge, learn about new technology, and enjoy the fellowship of people bound together

Bio: I’ve been captivated by astronomy ever since I was a kid, living in NW Colorado where the Milky Way was bright enough to read by. I can be found most clear nights in my pasture with either my 4.5″ SkyQuest, 10″ Deep Sky Hunter, 18″ Obsession, or one of my MANY pair of Binoculars. RapidEye Observatory – a private observatory in rural Lee County, NC

Today’s Sponsor: “This episode of 365 days of Astronomy” is sponsored by – Expanding your horizons in astronomy today. The premier on-demand telescope network, at dark sky sites in Spain, New Mexico and Siding Spring, Australia.


Every industry, profession, and hobby has trade shows, forums, and conventions where people can get together and share knowledge, learn about new technology, and enjoy the fellowship of people bound together by a common interest. Astronomy is no different. There are large conventions where professional astronomers meet to share and discuss their latest discoveries and theories. But more importantly for people like me, there are also astronomy conventions that focus on Amateur Astronomers and their needs: The Astronomical Society of the Pacific has a large meeting every year where professional and amateurs work together to promote Astronomy. The Astronomical League has their ALCon every year where presentations and tours are scheduled over 4 days. And the Rockland Astronomy Club has their annual Northeast Astronomy Forum every spring at the Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY.

To me, what makes NEAF so special is because it is not just focused on a single aspect of amateur astronomy. There is the show floor full of gear, displays, and publications, a lecture hall with world renowned speakers, and a courtyard full of telescopes observing the sun and daytime planets.

So lets start with the show floor. There were telescope vendors showing of their latest models. Televue had an assembly of refractors sporting their various eyepiece lineups. And Al Nagler himself there to show them off and answer any questions. He was especially gracious and took the time to speak with my 12 yr old daughter. I didn’t mention to him most of my eyepieces were from Pentax. Celestron and Meade both had large displays showing their telescopes and mounts, with there tending to be more people at the Meade booth looking at their brand new LX 80, 600, and 800 mounts. Vixen and Takahashi both had nice displays of telescopes and mounts, and Astrophysics used a 50’s retro look to show off their premium equipment. What was probably one of the highlights for me was the telescopes from Normand Fullum. They are dob mounted newtonians exquisitely crafted from wood. Any one of them would make a beautiful piece of wood art that you could display in your home. The fact that they are working telescopes is a bonus. Visit their website listed in the show notes for this podcast and see for yourself.

There was also one section of the floor that seemed to be solely dedicated to imaging equipment. There were several CCD camera manufacturers as well as narrowband filter manufacturers showing their latest offering. Canon was there as well showing off their newly released Astronomy Camera, the EOS 60Da.

Springer Publishing and Willmann-Bell were both there with tables full of books for perusing and buying. Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Amateur Astronomy, Astronomy Technology Today, and Astronomy Now were all there giving away copies of their magazines and various observing guides.

And just to make sure your wallet left lighter than when you arrived there were many retail vendors selling everything an amateur astronomer might need: telescopes, mounts, collimation tools, flashlights, tee shirts, observing hoods, filters, and eyepieces like the new 40mm Pentax XW that kept calling out to me every time I walked by the Astronomics table.

There were also non stop presentations and lectures covering topics like The Venus Transit, Solar Astronomy, The Webb Space Telescope, The European Extremely Large Telescope project, The Hubble Telescope, Astronomy Club Challenges, Meteorites, and Astronomy’s new frontier. And the meteorite presentation wasn’t done by just anyone, Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold from the Discovery Channel’s TV “The Meteorite Men” were the speakers! I got a chance to meet with both Geoff and Steve and found them to be enthusiastic and passionate about their work as well as genuine and nice guys!

And of course no astronomy event can be complete without getting a chance to look through some telescopes! There was a courtyard filled with telescope optimized for solar viewing: everything from white light full aperture filters, to hydrogen-alpha filters, calcium filters, DayStar filters, to Herschel wedges. There was even a 6” Astrophysics telescope showing Venus in the middle of the day.

Most of the day on Saturday was hazy and cloudy and this really hampered the views through the various narrowband filters. The white light filtered telescopes were still able to show a couple of nice sunspot groups on the the sun. But when the skies turned clear on Sunday, the narrowband telescopes really shined. There were a group of 90mm Coronado Hydrogen-Alpha doublestacked telescopes that gave awesome views of the sun – just stunning detail. Then Lunt set up a 232mm Hydrogen-Alpha telescope and a line immediately formed behind it to get a view. The view was worth waiting in line for. There is no way to describe the view besides breathtaking. The amount of detail visible just couldn’t be matched by the smaller telescopes.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at NEAF. The Rockland Astronomy Club’s Alan Traino did an amazing job setting up and running the event – the man never slowed down for a moment on either Saturday or Sunday. I doubt I’ll be able to return every year, but I’ll certainly make an effort to return on a somewhat periodic basis. If you get a chance, you should visit as well!

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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