Now one of the largest annual gatherings of amateur astronomers in the world, NEAF is a unique showcase for new astro-gear
by Todd Carlson, SkyNews assistant editor
This year’s event, held on April 17 and 18, was larger than in 2009, with over 110 vendors displaying their astronomical wares. Attending the show on the Sunday has an advantage: It isn’t nearly as busy as Saturday, so you have the opportunity to talk to manufacturers and vendors for longer periods of time.
With the number of manufacturers in attendance, it is nearly impossible to give an account of all the new equipment that is showcased, so here is a brief synopsis of some of the things that caught my eye.
Canadian telescope maker Normand Fullum was on hand with his beautiful wooden handcrafted telescopes. His booth always attracts a great deal of attention. Fullum, in partnership with Orion, is currently involved in the creation of a 40-inch Dobsonian.
The Canadian company SkyShed had a Personal Dome Observatory (POD) on display. Many attendees were seen testing the ease of movement of the observatory’s dome and pacing off the inside dimensions.
Canadian optical guru Peter Ceravolo demonstrates a 300mm astrograph. If you are serious about astro-imaging, Ceravolo is the man to see—he has probably forgotten more about astrophotography than I currently know!
At NEAF 2009, Carina Software introduced SkyFi, an adapter designed for wireless telescope control using an iPhone. SkyFi has now been expanded so that it can also be used with an iTouch or iPad. I was so impressed with how easy the program is to operate on an iPad that I brought back a sample for review. Although I’ve yet to use the program at night with a telescope, I have downloaded Carina’s SkyVoyager planetarium program onto my iTouch and found it to be an excellent tool. And the best part? SkyVoyager costs only $15 (U.S.). A planetarium program on an iTouch at that price is a bargain!
Tele Vue announced another addition to its Ethos lineup: the 3.7mm Ethos-SX. The difference between it and a regular Ethos? The 3.7mm SX is 110 degrees! The view of a simulated star field was tack-sharp. Tele Vue states that this focal length will be the only one made at 110 degrees.
After a two-year hiatus, Tele Vue also had a “blem sale.” Although the eyepieces or filters are classified by the manufacturer as blemished, there are only minor cosmetic flaws—no optical problems. As you can see, the prices were pretty good.
Software Bisque, known as much for its software as its mounts, introduced a new mount: the Paramount MX. Priced at $8,500 (U.S.), the mount is capable of handling 90 pounds of equipment.
William Optics always attracts a great deal of attention with its high-quality refractors, and this year, it introduced a digital focusing display called the Digital Display Gauge.
Vixen’s AXD Atlux Deluxe mount includes a new high-definition Star Book Ten, a handheld device that controls the mount, has a display screen and contains a planetarium program. The mount will be available this fall.
With a 20-inch Advanced Coma Free telescope riding atop, the Meade Max Mount—capable of handling 500 pounds—is an eye-catcher. The scope and mount cost $65,000 (U.S.).
Explore Scientific recently added a 20mm and 9mm to its lineup of 100-degree eyepieces. Also on display were its new 82-degree eyepieces. More competition and options for those of us who enjoy wide-field eyepieces!