NEAF is sponsored by the Rockland Astronomy Club and Sky & Telescope Magazine
at Rockland Community College, Suffern, NY

I’m not an autograph hound—really. But when serendipity drops the autograph of an illustrious, if elusive, fellow leftist, fellow-Mac-using amateur astronomer like John Steinberg in my lap (or, to be specific, leaves it under my windshield wiper at NEAF), I’m naturally going to grab it. No cell phone number, no “I know you’re in there, so I’ll page you,” just this note to hold and treasure. Sniff.
As for having one’s Tele Vue hat autographed by Al Nagler, well, everyone says it’s the thing to do (unless you have your Tele Vue ’scope with you and can get Al to sign the tube), so I did it. Now, of course, I have to retire the hat. And of course Rob Gendler was selling his posters in person purposely so that he could autograph them.

A very big treat for me at NEAF was a one-on-one lunch with the gifted stellar cartographer, Wil Tirion. The very gracious Mr. Tirion, who lives near Rotterdam, The Netherlands, related to me how his life-long love for star charts led him from being a “regular” graphic artist to a stellar cartographer. Sky Publishing Co. rejected his first atlas, which was then published in Britain. Luckily for many of us, Sky Publishing accepted Mr. Tirion’s second atlas. The rest is history (I have three different editions of Sky Atlas 2000). Mr. Tirion creates his atlases on a Macintosh computer using Adobe Illustrator and, less often, Adobe Photoshop. He isn’t the only gifted artist in the family, either; Mrs. Tirion is a quilter.
Another treat was working with Software Bisque’s programmer, Mr. Richard S. Wright, Jr. On the first day of NEAF, 16 April, Mr. Wright had given me the alpha copy of Software Bisque’s upcoming program “The Grand Tour” (for Mac OS X and Windows). I installed it on my 17" PowerBook that evening, but it would not launch. I took my PowerBook to Mr. Wright on Sunday, 17 April, and he was delighted to learn that I had had a problem with it! We tried a few fixes together, then it got technical, which put me out of the game. Mr. Wright took over (while I went off to lunch with Mr. Tirion) and when I returned to the Software Bisque booth a couple of hours later he had it up and running. Mr. Wright was pleased to have learned some things that will help him with the development process (he’s developing on a Mac) and I was delighted to have this awesome program running so that I can put it through its paces and report to Software Bisque on any issues that I may encounter. Mac or Windows, you are going to want this software!
That the Mac is a minority platform in amateur astronomy, as in most other fields, is undeniable, but recent Apple financial results and a growing body of anecdotal evidence indicate that the Mac’s popularity is growing rapidly. As treasurer of Annapolis Apple Slice I am accustomed to welcoming “switchers,” but I was surprised at the number of Macs that I saw at NEAF (I expected to see none), and I was totally unprepared for the number of people who approached me when they saw my PowerBook and told me that they had just bought their first Mac. I held several impromptu seminars in which I answered questions on how to do this and that with the Mac.

Tom and Steve Bisque told me that they are going to renew their support for Mac OS X, first by releasing The Sky 6, then T Point, and, eventually, CCDSoft.
The biggest treat of all for me at NEAF was meeting an incredible array of skilled and friendly amateur astronomers from all over the country, all of whom were willing to share their experiences and lessons learned. Among the wonderful people I met were Mr. and Mrs. Petersen, who live at and observe from the western tip of the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Their problem? Dust from the Sahara Desert! The Petersens really have their act together; from NEAF they will head to Texas to visit family and attend the Texas Star Party.

The Rockland Astronomy Club, Sky Publishing Corporation, and Rockland Community College did a superb job of organizing and hosting this forum.

First NEAF Page

Second NEAF Page