Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show 2008

NEAF 2008 (April 26-27, 2008) was coming and again this year a group of us from Maine decided to travel to New York to take in the show. As is usually the case we departed on a Friday afternoon, spent the evening at a hotel near the site then got up early to spend the bulk of the day at the event. Once everyone’s looked around sufficiently and is satisfied (read spent & broke), we head north arriving home late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. This year our Southern Maine Astronomers club member Ron Thompson was able to attend so our group consisted of Rob Burgess, Ron, George (NMI) Whitney and yours truly. George and I have attended this event for the last six or seven years and Rob’s been along nearly as long. This is always a fun time for us and besides the amazing group of vendors and displays we see many people we’ve attended astronomy events with over the years creating a social and fun atmosphere.

Thanks to the outstanding efforts of the Rockland Astronomy Club the Northeast Astronomy Forum and Telescope Show has expanded to an international event. Vendors and people from all over attend the lectures, workshops and exhibits and in the last few years the event has expanded into the eastern portion of the Advanced Imaging Conference. One of these days I’m going to plan on spending the three or four days required to attend the exhibits as well as the conference as it is clearly worthwhile. It simply doesn't get any better than this in amateur astronomy...

Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope 2008

Hilton Garden Inn - Nanuet, New York This year I decided to carry a camera to obtain an image group of the event. I’d recently received a new Canon model, the EOS 1Ds Mark III and although I’d tested it doing some bird photography, something I’ve been doing a great deal of lately, I haven’t had much opportunity to use it for general shooting. This was a sterling occasion so I packed what I’d need for this endeavor. A decision to employ a camera of this nature isn’t quite the same as carrying a simple ‘point and shoot’ and you don’t drop it in your pocket between shots. I carried the Mark III on a shoulder strap and although it’s the largest camera of the four Canon bodies I own, this prevents the weight from becoming a significant issue. When in the field doing nature/bird imaging I always carry a handheld camera & lens in this fashion so it was second nature in practice. I had no desire to carry a flash unit so selected the Canon EF 24~70 F/2.8L lens for this event, quick enough for digital capture in lowlight conditions. Although I always shoot in RAW format this day I made an exception and photographed only in 8-bit jpeg as I didn’t plan on producing master prints from the exposures. So, without further digression, let's get on with this account...

George on his way to the car as we prepare to depart. We’ve stayed at this Hilton Garden Inn in Nanuet for the last three years while attending NEAF.

My traveling companions and fellow club members from Southern Maine Astronomers – Rob Burgess, George Whitney & Ron Thompson, all astronomers and NEAF veterans.

Traveling Companions

Ticket sales area and people waiting in line for the doors to open.

Waiting for the doors to open

View on the exhibit floor View on the floor – not long after the doors opened people began to pour in to view the exhibits. This year TeleVue Optics didn’t sell any eyepiece blems or seconds. This appeared to curtail the early morning rush and line lengths somewhat but it got busy quickly.

Our First Stop

Link to Astro-Physics

One piece of equipment we all looked forward to viewing was the new 3600GTO mount from A-P – ‘el Capitan’… This is a beautiful and serious piece of architecture; displayed on the 3600GTO they had a carbon fiber 300mm Maksutov Cassegrain mounted as can be viewed here. Howard of A-P can be viewed in the background as the day commences.

Astro-Physics 'el Capitan'

Astro-Physics 3600GTO Astro-Physics 3600GTO

Views of 'el Capitan'

Astro-Physics 3600GTO & Mak-Cas Instrument Astro-Physics 3600GTO

Rob inspecting the goods Rob inspecting the mount & instrument. I didn’t see him standing in line to place an order or reaching for his wallet though…

Rob and Roland posing at the Astro-Physics booth. We had an opportunity to speak with Roland and Marge before it got too crazy... I'm certain they found it to be a busy day. If you’re involved with amateur astronomy there’s a need to go into detail pursuant to the quality of Astro-Physics equipment and optics. Roland, Marge & staff are known the world over for exceptional products and outstanding service. We’re always pleased to see new developments this innovative firm has to offer and NEAF is a great place to check these out.

Rob & Roland

130mm EDF & Mach1 mount An A-P 130 EDF on a Mach1 GTO mount. This was the second set up Astro-Physics had on the display floor.

Below left - another view of the 300mm Mak-Cass. Bottom right - Astro-Physics 130mm EDF packed in a ScopeGuard travel case. I use ScopeGuard cases when traveling with my telescope systems. They serve exceptionally well to protect the equipment in transit and because you can have Don Holcombe customize the cases if you wish, I included storage space to organize the many accessories required for use in the field. This has significance because taking my primary system out of the observatory for a field trip can be a daunting task with everything required to image remotely. You leave something behind – an adapter, cable, etc., it can quickly ruin what should be an enjoyable and productive week in the field. I would recommend ScopeGuard cases to anyone seeking the best in protection and I was pleased to learn the Astro-Physics folks agreed.

300mm Mak-Cas Instrument 130mm EDF packed to travel

Takahashi America was represented again this year by Land, Sea & Sky – Texas Nautical Repair out of Houston - it’s always a pleasure to see Art in New York. My good friend Steve Roffo displayed his Takahashi EM-500 mount and FRC-300 with his FSQ-106N and FS78 piggybacked and focuser/camera mounted. This assembly really draws folks in to visit their display... I was looking forward to talking to Steve in person after many telephone calls and emails to stay in touch. We share the same equipment in many respects, particularly with each of us owning an FRC-300, there aren't that many of these instruments in the United States, I also employ the other two Takahashi telescopes mentioned as well. I can never seem to convince Steve he needs a Astro-Physics 1200GTO mount though… Steve ably assisted Texas Nautical in their booth again this year and displayed some of his outstanding astronomy images. One of my first photographs of the morning, Steve and his system, can be viewed below:

Steve Roffo and his FRC-300

Steve adjusting a focuser FLI PDF focuser/filter wheel & Apogee CCD camera on Steve's FRC-300 RC

Art & Steve in front of the display… Want to talk Takahashi equipment? There’s nobody more knowledgeable than Art in the United States as far as I know. I look forward to seeing both these guys whenever I have an opportunity and hope to do some imaging with Steve soon.

I sometimes refer to Steve as ‘Superman’s Pal’… Laugh if you wish, but I’ve seen him mount his FRC-300 alone more than once. I’m certain I could do this as well but am far from comfortable with doing so as one mishap could get expensive quickly.
Art & Steve

Some of the SMA crew at the Tak display with Steve Little Robbie Burgess, George and Steve posing for the camera at the Texas Nautical booth. All of us have Takahashi equipment as well as Astro-Physics products. Both firms have simply outstanding optics & mounts.

Last but far from least of this group, this photograph includes Lisa, Steve’s ‘significant other’… This shot was taken in early afternoon after Lisa arrived. I indicated how pleased I was about her showing up stating it was about time they got some class in their exhibit… Lisa was kind enough to share some photos of their girls - yikes, they certainly are growing up. Lisa & Steve

Doug George and members of our group The next booth over from Takahashi was the Diffraction Limited display. Doug George and his associate were present and we talked with them for quite awhile about the version five release of Maxim DL expected next month. Being Maxim users, George, Rob and I were duly impressed with the upcoming changes and looking forward to the new release. If you’re a user of Maxim DL you may wish to get on their website and check out the pending changes.

As I was walking around the exhibits I came across a Mountain Instruments MI-250 GTO displayed on one of their MI-8P piers. I used one of these with great success before changing to the Astro-Physics 1200GTO because of the payload available for heavier instruments. I looked this mount over carefully to see the various changes since mine had been constructed and was impressed. I used my MI-250 mostly in the days of film imaging and found it to be outstanding with uncanny accuracy and tracking. My MI-250 GTO was so precise I never had to pull my 6X7cm camera to check centering on an object or make certain of the composition – it always slewed to exactly where I’d planned the exposure. If you were/are a film imager you'll know what I'm talking about. I would recommend this mount and the exceptional service provided by Larry Myers to anyone. If you’re seeking a new mount don’t overlook this firm! Give Larry a call and tell him I referred you... Mountain Instruments MI-250 GTO

MI-250 GTO MI-250 GTO

MI-250 GTO MI-250 GTO

As George indicated when we walked into the exhibit area, ‘this is our candy store’... He is correct and it’s always a pleasure to make the rounds and talk with people we see sometimes infrequently. Astronomy really does bring together an interesting and diverse group of individuals.

Astronomical League staff at work One new addition we noted this year was a display set up by the Astronomical League a non-profit federation of astronomical societies. I’d never talked with any of these folks in person and it was interesting to meet them and do so. Our club is a member of the league and we’re familiar with their publications. We were interested in obtaining some of their observing information and indicated before the day was out we’d be back to prevent having to carry around even more stuff gathered during the day.

We had a great discussion about things with John, Carroll & Terry and learned some interesting aspects about the Astronomical League and their support efforts for various clubs. A portion of this included new ways to promote our organization to become more active in our local area – a point we all have an interest in I’m certain.

Rob explained that he is a Solar System Ambassador from Maine and an active member of the Maine Space Consortium. He’ll be traveling to Arizona soon for an event with this group where John indicated he would be speaking, so they’ll be seeing each other in the immediate future.

At right: John Goss, Carroll Iorg and Terry Mann of the Astronomical League with Rob Burgess.
Astronomical League staff

Waren & Al My longtime friend Warren Keller provided several lectures at the imaging conference this year. He recently relocated and I was pleased to see him as it’s been some time since we’ve done any field time together. I learned that Warren has an exceptional memory and we had a few laughs about some of the shared experiences we’ve had in various remote places seeking out dark sky conditions.

Warren, along with Peter Proulx, formed IP4AP – Image Processing for Astrophotography. They are a resource for learning the art of astrophotographic processing. Their concept commenced with creation of streaming tutorials using Photoshop for image enhancement and grew from there. IP4AP was named a ‘Hot Product’ in 2007 by Sky & Telescope, which is pretty cool... This year they’ve moved forward from one-on-one sessions online to a DVD format. Several vendors will be carrying their work so keep an eye out.

Warren with Al Degutis of AstroPhoto Insight Magazine.

Pentax Instruments The Celestron Exhibit

Telescopes and more telescopes on display...

Refractor on a Losmandy G-11 Mount Lightbridge Truss Dob

Vixen Refractors Mathis Instruments fork with PlaneWave Corrected Dall-Kirkham instrument

Floor Displays Floor Displays

Mathis Instruments had an exhibit with a 20" PlaneWave Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) telescope mounted. These mounts are massive and designed for permanent installations. Besides the fork mount, this firm also offers German Equatorial mounts in a similar design to the MI-250 but in larger versions - in the case of some models these are much larger.

A closer view of a Mathis Instruments Fork Mount.
Mathis Instruments Fork Mount

PlaneWave CDK on a SBIG Paramount The PlaneWave Instruments exhibit included multiple carbon fiber Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) telescopes. This 20” is mounted on an SBIG Paramount and Monolith pier.

Meade Instruments Exhibit

Observing Tent New York Skies Display

Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) booth

Astrotech Engineering booth

We had a lengthy discussion with Philip Jackson of Photonic Cleaning Technologies. This firm provides non-toxic, inert polymer systems designed to remove dust, fingerprints, residues and other contamination from surfaces without scratching or otherwise damaging the material. Phil provided an interesting demonstration and we were intrigued by how well his products worked. We’ll be checking into this further as collectively we all have lenses and telescopes to keep clean.

Rob & Ron check out the cleaning materials while Philip speaks with another NEAF attendee.
Photonic Cleaning Technologies booth

George and a new SBIG camera design NEAF would never be complete without representation from Santa Barbara Instruments Group... Here’s George graciously serving as a model to display a prototype camera SBIG has been developing as David Morrow of the firm looks on. Our understanding was this camera is not yet in production. An STL-11000 similar to mine is on the table to the left.

I should point out that George is a walking encyclopedia of telescope accessory knowledge. I don’t bother looking anything up on line when seeking adapters or whatever without asking him first as there’s a high probability he can indicate exactly what’s required off the top of his head. I have many adapters for my different telescope types and cameras – so many it is difficult indeed to keep everything straight about what goes where and when it may be required. That being said, I virtually have none when compared to the plethora of parts and pieces George has assembled for the many mounts, cameras and telescope systems he owns and uses. We think George should hire out as a kind of a ‘telescope valet’ for budding imagers...

David Morrow & Alan Holmes of SBIG in the booth

Queststar Corporation had a display established with their distinctive telescopes on hand to view. These instruments have been around for many years. Queststar 3.5 inch Maksutov

Dr. Steve Walters Our good friend and fellow imager Steve Walters was working the CCDWare booth again this year. Steve (aka to us as Herr Docktor or more frequently, Brother Steve) developed a really neat program, CCD Navigator, which is terrific to use when planning imaging sessions. We saw him walking the exhibits and I took this photograph as we congregated around the Astro-Physics display speaking with Roland. If we’re on our best behavior he’ll let us hang out with him from time to time...

Our crew at the CCDWare exhibit

More telescopes...

Domes on display

Looking down the aisle

High Point Scientific booth

Antique 4 inch f/15 refractor, 1878

Gregory Terrance of FLI in discussion with a NEAF attendee.

Another outstanding firm represented at NEAF with excellent products & service is Finger Lakes Instrumentation. I’d been by their booth several times as I wished to say hello to Gregory, but he’s a busy fellow so I kept moving along. Doing business with FLI is always a pleasure and Gregory goes far to make it so. Their PDF focuser is outstanding and works great on my FRC-300. If you’re in the market for a PDF, adapters, filter wheel, camera - any product they carry actually - I would recommend you contact him. Eventually George and I had an opportunity to speak with Gregory and I took the opportunity to capture the image below...
Gregory of FLI at work

Gregory and George

b. crist miniatures - refractor and mount Another firm I’ve seen many times over the years and one I’m always astounded about as I view their work is b. crist miniatures... they produce miniature representations of telescopes that are truly works of art. I took the time to get a few shots of the models and was thinking about how great this would be with my macro lens set up, some lighting and a tripod. These significantly reduced jpg images don’t really do justice to these exquisite pieces, but I believe you can obtain a fairly good idea of the workmanship exhibited in this effort. I mean really – check this out – it’s not just telescopes, there’s even a miniature roll-a-table, observing guides and a laptop in view...

Please find below several more photographs of the miniatures.

all kinds of telescopes

the Dob array

Truss tube Dobs

Our associate Ron is an avid solar observer. I believe he does get out at night from time to time but solar observing (and imaging somewhat) is a great interest to him. George also enjoys this and we’ve been talking about an effort to image the sun with one of my digital cameras. They were aware of a new firm, Lunt Solar Systems LLC, attending NEAF 2008 and this was a major topic in the vehicle heading south. I guess they were pleased about this as both ended up purchasing new solar telescopes before we departed...

You’ll notice that Ron is in just a few of my photographs for the day. This is because he spent a good deal of time outside with Barlow Bob’s solar crew talking with all his solar buds. He did insist that I get a photograph of him with the Lunt Solar Systems group however, so we managed to arrange the composition below. From left to right - Rikki Hocking, Andy Lunt, Russ Tanton of Lunt SOlar Systems with our friend Ron Thompson - a solar observing machine...
Russ Tanton of Lunt Solar Systems with George and Rob

Ron with Lunt Solar Systems staff

‘Barlow Bob’ surely has made the solar Observing portion of NEAF an impact to the event nowadays. What started out as modest effort was quickly organized and expanded into an ‘event within the event’ scenario that has taken on a life of its own thanks primarily to his sterling efforts. People not familiar with solar viewing are in for a treat as a significant gathering of fine optics and excellent filters for solar viewing can be found on the field these days. I’ve never attended a star party anywhere with a finer array of solar viewing equipment and it's staffed by excellent observers more than pleased to share the views. Good job Mr. Barlow!

I’m not going to comment much on this group of images, just provide a visual glimpse of the instruments and people on the field…

Composite image of the solar observation area

Moving outside to the Solar Observing Field...

Solar observing section of NEAF

Here he is, the man himself with his trademark yellow observing hat – Barlow Bob doing what he likes best – sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge about solar observing. It’s been my pleasure to have met Bob several years ago when he was only moderately famous. Now he’s the solar observing icon of the known universe - a well deserved distinction I may add… Barlow Bob doing his thing...

solar scope A-P solar set up - Dan Carnevale at the telescope while Eric Baumartner looks on

Solar scope White light filter on a refractor Solar scope with binoviewer

Joe & Janice Donahue with their equipment Mirror scope with filter

The Grand Pooh-Bah No NEAF account could be complete without at least one photograph of our pal Ralph Marantino (aka the great and Grand Pooh-Bah) from New Jersey. Here he stands in all his solar glory on the observing field…

Solar refractor The long view A-P system with piggybacked solar scope

All kinds of solar instruments... Joe Donahue & my friend Lucian Sadowski in discussion

Larry Rand of the solar crew teaching

Oliver Thizy of Shelyak Instruments, a French firm, brought several spectroscopes to the solar event this year. In this image Barlow Bob, George, Oliver and an observer discuss the attributes of viewing the solar spectra. Oliver indicated the instrument pictured here is for use on the sun. However, the spectrograph in the enlargement below is designed for multiple applications. At the spectrograph

Shelyak spectragraph

Final views as we left the field...

Beautifully equipped solar set up Dog walker from above

We were having a great time but realized we’d have to leave soon as we had nearly six-hours on the road back to Maine. There were a few items we wished to buy for the club so it was determined to make one more brief pass through the exhibits before calling it a day. Below are some of the final images I took before we headed north…

Saturday afternoon at NEAF

Exhibit floor from above Exhibit floor from above

Little Robbie Burgess at the Dobsonian We were checking out this beautiful, high-tech Dobsonian in front of the Denkmeier booth when Rob decided he wanted to pilot the device. I was trying to photograph the telescope but it wasn’t as easy as it first appears – every time I got ready to take a shot someone would grab the tube and start moving it around. Smoothness of action on these instruments is an important issue and everyone that meandered by wished to check it out. I was taking some shots when the fellow that tricked out this telescope commented that he was pleased to see somebody noticed… Well we noticed, I’m not a Dob guy by any stretch of the imagination but this was one fine piece of work and fully equipped from what I could see. More views of this instrument can be seen below as well as a few others…

Tricked out Dob Tricked out Dob

Dob Close up

Trussed telescope design Trussed telescope design

Another fine individual that any NEAF account must include to be complete is our friend Jim Burnell. Jim is an engineer, imager, telescope maker, author and an all around good man. We’ve been in the field with or seen Jim at events over the years in various places and it’s always a pleasure to speak with him.

Jim, at left, speaking with Brien Deis of Vixen Optics.
Jim Burnell

A few last shots as the article closes out...

We thought these new piers with power supply were outstanding We thought these new piers with power supply were outstanding

More optics on display

Vixen instruments

PlaneWave carbon fiber Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) As much as we would have preferred to stay until the exhibition hall closed we recognized that we needed to get on the road. After making a few last stops and saying a few goodbyes we headed for the vehicle and the road home. I believe next year we should plan more time in New York and attend the other parts at NEAF to take in the full measure of the event. However, that was the same comment we made last year...

Some Closing Thoughts...

This account provides some impressions of one day on the NEAF exhibit floor and solar field, brief aspects of the overall event. I took over three hundred photographs of which a sampling is posted in this account. There were many other vendors and firms represented at NEAF this year. Although I have mentioned some of these specifically, this in no way should be construed that the balance weren’t deemed worthy for inclusion for whatever reason. Looking back on this aspect as I evaluated the image group I can think of many people and exhibits that I wish I would have photographed, photographed more carefully, or gathered more information about. As an example Don Goldman of Astrodon, a gentleman we’ve done business with over the years and purchase our filters through is not included in this photojournal. However, both George and I purchased a 50mm LRGB set of his Generation 2 Tru-Balance Filters at the event... This account was not constructed to serve as a record of each person and/or firm associated with NEAF or the Rockland Astronomy Club, just as a quick overview of this wonderful event and our time there. One thing is certain though, we'll be returning to New York for NEAF 2009.

Composite view, NEAF 2008 Exhibit Floor

May 2008

A note about the photography...All images in this account are by the author. Any images viewed that are digitally framed and labeled have been added to my collection of works for sale. These are displayed when at shows and events either packaged on foam core, professionally framed or ArtiPlaq™ mounted as a final for purchase. The web versions are nice, but a full resolution print significantly enhances the beauty of these images; all are ©2008 Photography by Kirk M. Rogers - any reproduction, publication or transmission of this content without the written consent of the author is prohibited. Please contact me should you have an interest in obtaining any of the images.

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