A younger crowd and fascinating talks at the 2013 Northeast Astronomy Forum

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, April 22, 2013

Activity tables for kids allowed young space and astronomy enthusiasts to follow their dreams, NEAF, Suffern, New York, April 21, 2013. // all photos by David J. Eicher
Sunday always starts a little later at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), the largest telescope trade show in the United States. But by 10 a.m., the show cranked up after a successful day Saturday, and 100 exhibitors showed off their wares — telescopes, binoculars, CCD cameras, books, filters, accessories, meteorites, and practically everything astronomical you could imagine. It was a day again filled with many hundreds of visitors in the Eugene Levy Fieldhouse at Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York. This year it seemed clear that larger numbers of younger visitors were at NEAF, signaling a bit of a change in the hobby.

Talks on this day began shortly after noon with my presentation, “Astronomy’s New Frontier,” which summarized the great advances in cosmology, astrophysics, and planetary science over the past decade. The talk lasted more than 45 minutes, and then I fielded a superb range of questions from the enthusiastic audience, which included several smart and inquisitive kids. It was a refreshing exchange with the audience, and we covered everything from the fate of life on Earth to the distance scale of the universe to the probabilities that comets delivered significant amounts of water and organic molecules to early Earth.

Kids really enjoyed seeing the sky inside this inflatable planetarium brought by the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center, NEAF, Suffern, New York, April 21, 2013.
My good friend and our popular columnist Bob Berman also delivered a talk on Sunday afternoon, this one centering on the prospects for Comet ISON but also describing Bob’s travel to eclipses, his ideas on cosmology, his experiences with writing various astronomical books, and many other topics of great interest. The audience loved the talk, and we shared many funny moments during that hour thanks to Bob’s wonderful sense of humor.

I was also privileged to see Caltech astronomer Mike Brown’s talk, “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.” Mike was involved with the demotion of Pluto in 2006 in the sense that several of the Kuiper belt discoveries and the discussion and summarization of small icy bodies in the solar system came in part from him and his team. His superb discussion of the solar system and of his research on small bodies laid out a fine understanding of the Pluto problem.

Along with the talks came another full day of exploring the exhibitors. Exciting things are cooking this year, with Astronomy magazine, with the Astronomy Foundation, with several partners of ours in the telescope industry, and with the approach of Comet ISON. Expect to hear more about all these subjects soon.

For all images from this trip, visit the Online Reader Gallery.

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