The organizers hold the meeting at Rockland Community College, in Suffern, New York. Unlike the imaging conference held 2 days prior to this event, NEAF is open to the public. That aspect gives the expo a “going to the mall” feel, only this mall is packed with hundreds of astronomy-only shops.
Tele Vue Optics has always been a big part of NEAF because the Rockland Astronomy Club, NEAF’s host, is the home astronomy club of Tele Vue’s founder, Al Nagler. At the 2008 meeting, Tele Vue revealed a brand-new eyepiece — the 8mm Ethos. About a year ago, Tele Vue introduced the 13mm Ethos, the first eyepiece to offer a 100° apparent field of view. You can read more about the 13mm Ethos in the May issue of Astronomy.
But Tele Vue wasn’t the only company unveiling new products. Solar observing was hot this year, and two companies — Lunt Solar Systems and DayStar — introduced new telescopes. And for educators or amateur astronomers who want to take sunlight (or starlight) and break it into its components, Shelyak Instruments had two products at NEAF that attendees were raving about.
Many CCD imagers who attended the earlier conference stayed the 2 extra days to attend NEAF. I talked to many of them about the new cameras introduced by Finger Lakes Instruments, Apogee Instruments, and Santa Barbara Instruments Group. Even this group of high-level astrophotographers seemed excited by the new products, and several told me they might upgrade their current systems.
My last NEAF was in 2005, and, since then, the expo has expanded dramatically. I estimated it was 50 percent larger with easily a third more dealers. Conference organizers beamed when they told me public attendance also was up. So, as I walked around NEAF chatting with vendors, imagers, and the public who stopped by Astronomy’s booth, I wondered to myself, “Where’s the recession?” And that’s a question you won’t hear a lot of other industries asking.
All in all, NEAF was valuable and fun. Sign me up for next year!