Sunday, November 2, 2014

Astronomy Expo Weekend!

Well the 2014 edition of the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo is in the books!  I made it for a least a little of both weekend days, making 5 days in a row including the 3 days of the  SouthWest Astro-Photography Seminar (SWAP).  All told, it was a lot of fun - lots of vendors, lots of friends, lots of information to glean about new products, projects and techniques.  At left is shown a 2-frame mosaic looking down into the exhibition hall about noon on Saturday.  This was after the likely attendance peak as folks started scattering for lunch, solar telescope displays, and the hall where the speakers were located.  If you are into astronomy and couldn't find anything that interested you, you might need to re-evaluate your interests!

Starlight Instrument focusers
I'm working on a 14" telescope, so need to research a focuser and there were a couple vendors that could satisfy me.  There were a multitude of telescope manufacturers there, from the highly commercial to the local niche markets.  I'm not currently in the market for a digital imaging camera - my DSLR is still keeping me happy, but there were at least 6-8 specialty vendors selling cameras, making me very confused about which might be considered the "best" for my potential needs.  I hope when the time comes to upgrade to an astronomy camera the decision is easier!  There was also an aisle of local groups involved in public outreach, including our very own Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, Lunar and Planetary Labs, the OSIRIS-REx space mission and others.

Scott Tucker at right
As mentioned above, the local boys were there too.  Frank Lopez of Stellarvision was there with an backyard observatory setup, and Dean Koenig of Starizona was there as well with their 12" and 16" Hyperion telescopes on display.  At left, Hyperion designer Scott Tucker talks to a visitor about some of the features of the telescope, and at right is the pair of telescopes they had on display.

Phil Plait - The Bad Astronomer
Edward Gibson - now and then
The talks I attended were great!  Unfortunately, I was having so much fun in the vendor area that I only made it to two of them.  Of course, I couldn't miss astronomy blogger Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer!  He is one of the must-read blogs I read every day, and after corresponding with him a few times and getting at least a couple mentions on his blog, I had to hear him speak in person for the first time.  He talked about the Curiosity mission on Mars and gave a rousing and very interesting and entertaining presentation.  He talks with his hands a lot, and I happened to get a pair of photos that seemed to be shouting to be mounted together.  When explaining about the size of the universe, speaking with your hands is very useful!

The other talk I saw today was with Edward Gibson, an astronaut on the Skylab 4 mission in 1974.  He talked about foresight and leadership in the "golden days" of NASA from the Apollo missions through the Skylab days to his retirement from the astronaut corps exactly 40 years ago.  He showed a picture of a fresh-faced mission scientist undergoing training in the "olden" days and a picture of the 78 year old presenter today is matched with it at right.

Peter, Deb, Roger
But the best part of these large amateur events is seeing friends old and new.  Again, from the "olden days", Peter Ceravolo, wife Debra, and local telescope maker Roger Ceragioli gathered for a photo today.  Peter and I go back a couple decades to various amateur astronomy conventions.  We "worked" together when he came to Arizona in 1996 to image Comet Hyakutake, taking some of the first high-temporal resolution images of comet structures!  He used my van for the couple weeks of his stay and was surprised to see that I'm still using it every day...  At right are buddies Tom and Jennifer Polakis from Phoenix.  They are taking a "selfie" in the reflection of an 18" telescope!

I'm a bit numb after 5 days, but it was a blast!  Fingers crossed that vendors and attendees are all happy and that it will happen again next year. It is nice being in the astronomical center of the Universe for a few days!

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