A big day at the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, November 18, 2013

Tim Ferris immediately after delivering his lecture on cosmology, the Big Bang, dark energy, quantum weirdness, and the meaning of it all at the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo. // Credit: David J. Eicher
Sunday, November 17, 2013, marked the second day of the second annual Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo, organized by Alan Traino and featuring more than 100 exhibitors, many interesting talks and presentations, and hundreds of amateur astronomers flocking to the Tucson Convention Center in the middle of the city. The day began a little more slowly than Saturday had but soon picked up, and the booths of telescope manufacturers and dealers were crowded with those who wanted to shop, talk, and celebrate their hobby.

Sunday’s ceremonies were opened by well-known astroimager Robert Reeves, who did a great job of coordinating the festivities. The day’s first talk was a thorough exploration of spacecraft missions in the solar system, present and future, delivered by the ever-enthusiastic Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society. Following this, I joined several experts on comets for a panel discussion that was moderated by comet scientist and discoverer Carl Hergenrother of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL). The panel also included Steve Larson and Jim Scotti, both of LPL, and comet discoverer and astronomy popularizer David Levy. We each spoke about various aspects of comets and fielded questions delivered by Carl, and also took questions from the audience. The 90-minute session of course covered Comet ISON and what’s going on with it, but also lots about comet observation and science of the past and present. It was great fun, and afterward I signed copies of my new book, COMETS! Visitors from Deep Space, which is just out from Cambridge University Press.

The convention floor was a flurry of interesting and experienced astronomy enthusiasts. I had great fun chatting with Adam Block of the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon Sky Center, who will start writing his monthly column on astroimaging beginning with the March 2014 issue of Astronomy. (Tony Hallas is retiring from the column — still contributing to the magazine but taking a break from the monthly grind.)

I had a wonderful time catching up with the always entertaining Meteorite Man Geoff Notkin, who has a new television show project underway — more on that to come shortly.

Quite a number of telescope manufacturers have some exciting and surprising ideas in percolation, which you’ll hear about in upcoming months. They included old friends Vic Maris of Stellarvue Telescopes, Rick Hedrick of PlaneWave Instruments, and Jeff Simon of Skywatcher Telescopes. Keep your eyes open for some interesting developments coming up in the future.

One of the truly great folks in the field, Tim Ferris, delivered the keynote address on cosmology, dark matter, the Big Bang, cosmic evolution, quantum weirdness, and the whole rest of that story, enthralling the audience. Unfortunately, quite close to the end of Tim’s lecture, a building alarm went off and the whole structure had to be evacuated. It was a strange ending to a magnificent talk.

This event is now a solid success after two years and will no doubt be even bigger and better next year.

To view more images from my trip, check out the "Trips and Tours" section of the Reader Photo Gallery.

Related blog: Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo kicks off in Tucson

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