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NEAF 2019

Now that I’m back in the states again, it’s great to be able to attend the Northeast Astronomy Forum in Suffern, NY.  There are lectures and solar observing, but for me the main attraction is the exhibit floor.  This is where you can see the scope, mount, or whatever that you’ve always wanted, in person.

Floor

All of the usual suspects were there, and it was great to catch up with people and meet a few new astro-friends.  I hadn’t been in over five years, so it was interesting to see how things have changed.  A few observations follow:

  • For scopes, Celestron, Meade, and TeleVue were there with big booths, but it was great to see that Explore Scientific had a booth to match (and probably with more scopes, including some awesome refractors in the 152-165 mm range).  Takahashi had a small booth, as did William Optics.  AstroPhysics had a good size booth with lots of glass to look at.  Omegon had some scopes on display too.

ES

  • For cameras, Atik, QSI, FLI, QHY, and ZWO were all there.  QHY had examples of their high-end scientific cameras, including the much-talked-about QHY600, which he said would be priced at “over $8000” when released.  There was a medium format scientific camera that was “over $50,000” if that’s not a big enough chip for your needs!

QHY

  • One hot item seemed to be Omegon’s new MiniTrack LX2, a mechanical (wind-up) travel mount for wide-field AP; like the AstroTrac, but much smaller (and cheaper, with a NEAF special price of $115).  I thought a cool innovation it had was to use adjustable tension instead of counterweights.
  • There didn’t seem to be as many small vendors as I remember.  Two publishers had booths (Willman-Bell and Springer), and some software companies did too (SGP, Diffraction Limited).  It was great to see the filter manufacturers there (Chroma, Optolong)
  • There were only a few retailers there, but Highpoint Scientific and Woodland Hills had lots for sale.  Some of the non-US vendors couldn’t sell direct, but were giving out coupons to use online or with the vendors on-site.

So did I find some goodies to lust after?  Absolutely.  I decided that maybe a 140 mm refractor could just be handled by my mount, and I really liked the Explore Scientific carbon fiber FPL-53 triplet they had on display.  I also found that the William Optics RedCat was a bit bigger than I expected a 51 mm to be, and not much smaller than my Star71, though the FLT132 behind it looked pretty nice.

ES140

Wo

Overall, it was great to be there and see the people of this hobby in person, rather than just online.  (Does amateur astronomy still skew white, male, and older?  Yes.  But it does seem to be getting better.)  I love that there are new manufacturers coming into the astrophotography space and shaking things up a little.  There was definitely more of a focus on AP than visual, or maybe that’s because that’s what I was looking for.  NEAF is always worth it, and 2019 was no exception.

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