Tom Krajci – Citizen Scientist and Wrench Turner

EnclosuresAs I said in my last blog post, there are many ways for people to participate in astronomy-related citizen science activities. On my recent trip to New Mexico, I met a citizen scientist and self-described "wrench turner" named Tom Krajci who is providing a valuable service to the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) and other researchers. Tom provides a hosting site for telescopes used by citizen scientists worldwide.

Situated at over 9,400 feet (2865m) in elevation, Tom's home is located near the small village of Cloudcroft in south-central New Mexico not far from the Apache Point Observatory. The south-central portion of New Mexico has become a mecca for amateur and professional astronomers because of its dark skies, excellent "seeing" and favorable weather.

Tom currently has seven telescope enclosures on his property (they can be seen in the image at the top of this blog post). He hosts four telescopes (soon to be five) for AAVSOnet, one telescope for a Swiss astronomer doing research on eclipsing binaries and a telescope that captures data for the Center for Backyard Astrophysics.
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Pro/Am Scientific Collaboration in Astronomy

On January 2, 2011, 10-year old Kathryn Gray of New Brunswick, Canada become the youngest person to discover a supernova (Supernova 2010lt in the galaxy UGC 3378). Using images provided by family friend David Lane, it reportedly only took Kathryn about 15 minutes to find her supernova. Her discovery should't be much of a surprise; her father has found six supernovae.

In my opinion, Kathryn's discovery is wonderful for three reasons. First, Kathryn is a girl. We all know that astronomy as a hobby and as a profession is dominated by men. It's great to see a girl make a discovery like this and perhaps inspire other girls to participate in citizen science. Second, Kathryn is young. Again, we can all hope that she will inspire other children to learn more about science and astronomy. Third, regardless of gender or age, Kathryn has reminded all of us that this is a great time for citizen science and anyone who is interested can play a part.
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NEAF 2011 – Unofficial Vendor List

One of the most fun activities at NEAF is roaming the exhibit hall. Every amateur astronomer I know loves to see the latest and the greatest astronomy products! To help you keep track of who's exhibiting at NEAF 2011, I have compiled an unofficial vendor list. This document, in spreadsheet format, lists the names of each vendor along with their web site address and a general description of their product line(s). You can access the most current copy of the list by clicking on this link.

I will be updating this document (but not necessarily this blog post) every time Alan Traino (the Chairperson of NEAF 2011) updates his public list so please check back often.

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NEAF 2011 – Alan Traino Interview 1

NEAF LogoNEAF 2011 won't be held until April 16th and 17th, 2011 but if you're an amateur astronomer it's never too early to start thinking about NEAF! For those of you who have never heard of the Northeast Astronomy Forum, it is the largest amateur astronomy event in the world. It is held yearly at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY. And, yes, it is definitely worth the trip if you don't live near Suffern. (You can find a link to the NEAF web site at the bottom of this interview.)

Naturally, Share Astronomy is going to thoroughly cover NEAF 2011. We are starting today with the first of several interviews with Alan Traino the Chairperson of NEAF.

NEAF will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2011. Is anything special planned?
Yes it is our 20th, I am working on this as we speak. One thing I plan to do is invite every speaker we have ever had. I would love to have one of the science type channels get more involved with the show. I think it would be a natural for them. We also plan to have many other exhibitors from groups we have met this year at some of the huge science events in New York and Washington.
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A Visit to PlaneWave Instruments

If you are a fan of big, beautiful telescopes (and who isn't), I bet you occasionally day dream about owning a PlaneWave telescope. I would like to tell you that I bought one, but sadly that's not true. However, I did get to do the next best thing; I got to go to the PlaneWave Instruments headquarters in Torrance, California. For those of you not familiar with PlaneWave, they manufacture Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescopes with primary mirror diameters of 12.5" (.32m), 17" (.43m), 20" (.51m), 24" (.61m) and 28" (.7m). All of their scopes have ellipsoidal primary mirrors, spherical secondary mirrors and a two element corrector. Their Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescopes have no off-axis coma, no off-axis astigmatism and a big flat field. They are primarily used for imaging but a surprising number are purchased for visual use (often outreach).

While at PlaneWave Instruments, I met with Rick Hedrick, President, CEO and co-founder; Joe Haberman, Vice President and co-founder; and Allan Keller who is the systems designer for the CDK700 Observatory Telescope System.

Shown below are pictures and additional details of my visit. (Please click on any image to see a larger version.)

PlaneWave currently does all of their mirror grinding, polishing, figuring and testing on site. The following image shows one of their two optical rooms:

PlaneWave Optics Room
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AIC 2010 – Conference Highlights

PlaneWave at AIC 2010If you are an astrophotographer you've probably heard of the Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC). The AIC is the largest astro-imaging conference in the world. This year's edition was held in Santa Clara, California from October 22-24 and it was great. I attended for the first time this year and I learned a lot and I had a great time. It's always difficult to recap an event of this size (more than 25 unique workshops and sessions including sponsor updates and about 30 vendors exhibiting in the Technology Showcase area). Inevitably, someone (probably someone who did a great job) is going to be left out. For one thing, I couldn't attend all sessions since some were held concurrently. In addition, summarizing all aspects of this event would take more space than should be used for a blog post. So, let me apologize to everyone who wasn't included here. With that said, here are my highlights:

  • Conference Organization.  The Advanced Imaging Conference was very well organized. The Board of Directors (Ken Crawford; Frank S. Barnes, III; Al Degutis; R. Jay Gabany; Keith Allred; and Bob Fera) should all be congratulated on organizing and executing a flawless conference. The board was supported by Hope Gabany and her fiance who did an excellent job. (I apologize for not remembering the name of Hope's fiance. If someone could post his name in the comments below I'd appreciate it.)
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PixInsight – Interview with Harry Page (Harry’s Astro Shed)

In my last blog post, I interviewed Juan Conejero of Pleiades Astrophoto, S.L. Juan is the principal developer of PixInsight. While discussing the learning curve for PixInsight, Juan mentioned Harry Page and Harry's excellent series of PixInsight video tutorials. I contacted Harry to see if he would be interested in talking with us about PixInsight and his videos and I'm delighted to say that Harry graciously agreed to an interview. Included below is our conversation.

What motivated you to create your first PixInsight video tutorial?
Finding that PixInsight helped me transform my images and offered many things that I personally thought were unique or difficult to recreate in other packages, I became a PixInsight Disciple trying to spread the word to others of how PixInsight could help them. But, I soon came across the "too difficult for me" scenario, which I did understand as PixInsight looks different from some other packages (ok I will say it Photoshop) even though given a little time and effort you will soon be wondering what all the fuss was about.
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