So what’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys? Try acres of telescopes and hundreds of amateur astronomers. If you’re not familiar with NEAF then let me introduce you into some of the fun that’s been going on for almost two decades at Rockland College in Suffern, New York.
When NEAF first began, it was a small affair sponsored by the Rockland Astronomy Club and held in a cozy corner of the college campus. As each successive year passed, the event expanded and grew more popular – drawing ever larger crowds from further distances and encompassing every aspect of astronomy. Today, some 18 years later, the NorthEast Astronomy Fourm’s speaker, vendor and guest list reads like a virtual “who’s who”… Yet, unlike other social events, a gathering of astronomers is, well… a gathering of astronomers. If you’re not wearing your favorite battered space t-shirt and willing to talk about telescopes, imaging techniques, eyepieces, tripods, supernovae and the latest recipe for calamari in chocolate sauce then you just might be in the wrong place.
If you want to know what’s new on the market? Then take a walk around. There’s what seems like endless acres of the latest technology and the best representatives of each company willing to take the time to talk to you about their products. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking or cooking – the point is getting what’s available to the public to be seen, tested, talked about, and drooled on. There are telescopes here that none of us will ever be able to afford – but that’s part of the beauty of NEAF. At least these magnificent instruments are here for us to see, and more than a fair share of equipment we can’t usually find readily available offered at prices that are darn hard to refuse. And if you’re feeling lucky? The vendors who come here are hugely generous and give away thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of merchandise to the guests in door prizes.
But, NEAF is a whole lot more than just a sales floor. Two days prior to the event is the NorthEast Astro-Imaging Conference, where some of the finest minds share their talents and their secrets with all who are willing to listen. During the weekend, guests can enjoy planetarium programs, amateur telescope making workshops, or engage in fine array of guest speakers. Why not step outside and enjoy the sunshine while you’re here, too? Because the courtyard is always filled with a huge array of solar telescopes where you’ll have the opportunity to see our nearest star through every aperture and wavelength you can imagine.
Is it all about astronomy? Yeah. It is. The astronomy family. And nothing makes the astronomy family more happy than to see a smiling face. It can be the smiling face of the fellow you’ve seen at every star party and astronomy event for the last 15 years and never did catch his name – or it might be the smiling face of a child who has a plastic bag filled with tiny treaures accumlated through the day. And sometimes the smiling face you see?
Is your own at the end of a day at NEAF.