I'm sorry to say that NEAF 2011 is behind us and it's time to start thinking about 2012. I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed looking forward to this year's NEAF and I'm going to miss the anticipation that I've felt everyday for the past couple months. Anyway, before moving on to other things, here are some random thoughts about NEAF 2011 (please feel free to add your own comments below):
- Alan Traino is an amazing guy. In case you haven't heard his name before, Alan is the Chairperson of NEAF. Every year he outdoes himself and this year was no exception. NEAF 2011 had about 140 vendors, probably around 15 speakers and almost 6,000 attendees. NEAF is the largest astronomy expo in the world. Organizing an event of this size can't be easy but Alan makes it look easy. We all owe a big thanks to Alan for a job exceptionally well done.
- The diversity of exhibitors and the wide range of products at NEAF 2011 was amazing. We were able to see:
- A wide range of telescopes including Big Dobs (40"), little Dobs (6"), refractors, newtonians, mak-cassegrains, mak-newts, mass-produced telescopes, wooden hand-crafted telescopes, Ritchey-Chrétiens, Corrected Dall-Kirkhams, solar and Riccardi_Honders.
- German Equatorial Mounts and Alt/Az mounts from a wide variety of vendors. Just to put it in perspective, we saw an beautifully engineerd Alt/Az mount designed to support 18 pounds and another massive Alt/Az mount capable of supporting a 24" Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescope that weighs 240 pounds.
- CCD cameras and DSLR cameras.
- Scientific instruments ranging from simple and relatively inexpensive diffraction gratings to high resolution spectrographs, low resolution spectrographs and Echelle spectrographs.
- Dome observatories and clamshell observatories.
- A wide variety of software designed to: control telescopes, plan observing runs, create sky charts and provide real-time spectroscopy.
- Laser collimators.
- Every conceivable astronomy accessory.
- Magazine and book vendors.
- A vendor who specializes in vinyl banners, table throws, scope wraps, and very large prints all with astronomical themes.
- A vendor selling land for an astronomy enclave in New Mexico.
- And a whole lot more.
- Once again NEAF did a good job of providing activities and exhibits for children of various ages. My favorite was the "Talons! Birds of Prey Experience". Of course, this exhibit wasn't just for children – adults loved it, too.
- I have spoken to several vendors about NEAF 2011 and all of them were very excited about this year's show. They all indicated that business was very good.
- NEAF 2011 was, once again, a great place to meet some of the "big names" in the amateur astronomy world. Where else could you meet Al Nagler of TeleVue, Vic Maris of Stellarvue, Olivier Thizy from Shelyak Instruments, Steve and Tom Bisque of Software Bisque, David Ho of Hotech, Gino Bucciol from Officina Stellare, Rick Hedrick of PlaneWave and more all in a single day? What great opportunity.
If you haven't been to NEAF before, you really should submit a vacation request tomorrow and start saving your money. You should also plan on attending both days. Why two days? Because it will take you two days to see and do everything. As Alan pointed out to me before the conference, if a person spent 5 minutes at each exhibit it would take her/him more than 11.5 hours just to see all the exhibits. That 11.5 hours wouldn't leave any time to attend workshops, presentations, or the solar star party. In my opinion, one day is better than nothing but two days would be best.
That's it for our NEAF coverage this year. See you at NEAF 2012!