The lengthy trip was a pleasant one, with no shortage of discussion among the three of us about the world of astronomy. This being my first trip to NEAF, I was astonished by the size and professionalism of the conference. Over 120 vendors in the large exhibition hall and the availability of several lecture rooms at host Rockland Community College provided a variety of opportunities for over 4000 amateur and professional astronomy and space enthusiasts during the four days, which also included an astro imaging conference on Thursday and Friday before NEAF. . . While I busied myself, in between fascinating lectures, with every telescope and imaging vendor I could talk to, John and Ray wowed the crowds outside most of the days at the NEAF Solar Star Party with John’s impressive 7 inch refractor. Bright blue skies and a silvery daytime quarter moon viewed through John’s massive scope attracted lines of curious and amazed visitors as they experienced live views of “secondary solar light”. “Wow! I didn’t know you could see that in the daytime!” was a frequent outburst.
We also met up with fellow RAS member Ryan Goodson, who was exhibiting his innovative New Moon Telescopes, including a show-stopping 13 foot tall, 36 inch Dobsonian—probably the most photographed item in the exhibition hall. .
Numerous lectures by world renowned speakers in space exploration and astronomy (NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Space X) updated attendees on latest developments. I particularly enjoyed Dr. John Mather’s keynote presentation (he is NASA’s Nobel Laureate and Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)) on the evolution of cosmic science and the status of the JWST (won’t be launched before 2020). . It was also an opportunity to bump into fellow star party friends often seen at Staunton River State Park SP, East Coast SP, Stellafane and Cherry Springs SP. . NEAF is considered one of the largest trade shows of its kind in the world, and certainly a must see event for any amateur astronomer or space enthusiast who can manage the time and travel there. I look forward to next year! (more at: www.rocklandastronomy.com) Mearl Balmer