ALP International Meeting Report

 ALP AT NEAF 2004

April 17-18, 2004

Article and Images by Jett Aguilar

The first US Pinoy Amateur Astronomer Convention 040417neaf-o.jpg (55105 bytes)(Reunion), was held last April 17-18, 2004 at the 13th Annual Northeast Astronomy Forum in Suffern, New York.  On this historic occasion, the attendees were Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre, Jun Lao, Edwin Gatia, Eric Africa and  Jett Aguilar.  They also met another Pinay from Cebu who was accompanying her American husband to the convention.

Jett went with Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre (representing Sky & Telescope) who drove about 3 hours from Boston to Suffern, New York.  Jun Lao and another avid US-based Pinoy amateur, Mr. Eric Africa came from Ohio by plane.  The ever adventurous Edwin Gatia ("Steve Rogers") drove alone by car all the way from Pennsylvania. 

They arrived at the Rockland Community College, the venue for the convention at about 9:30 AM Saturday.  Entrance tickets were reasonably priced at $25 for 2 days. The convention ground was held at the college gym and there was also a two-day sun viewing session held outside using H-alpha telescopes courtesy of Coronado.  Upon entering the convention site, Jett immediately felt like a little kid let loose in a candy store and was overwhelmed by the sheer number of astronomical goodies on display! He made  an initial quick tour of the display of astronomical equipment and books and noted that the prices are a little lower than online store prices and minus the tax and shipping cost so it's really a bargain to buy there.  There were also a lot of used equipment on sale but you really have to know your stuff and know what exactly you're looking for to be able to get a great bargain.

The lectures and speakers were also very good and Jett was able to attend most of them. Eric Africa, who uses an Astrophysics refractor system and an SBIG CCD camera attended Jerry Lodriguss' "Photoshop for Astrophotographers"  morning workshop.  He also got the CD of the same title for $20 only.

Aside from Eric, Jett also met for the first time "Steve Rogers" of Philastro-forum  mailing list fame, who's really Edwin Gatia, a veteran pinoy amateur astronomer who just migrated to the US recently.  Ed Gatia's jovial and gregarious nature added color to our NEAF experience.  There's never a dull moment with Ed and this must have something to do with his previous job with the Philippine department of tourism.  However, don't be misled by his facade, since Ed is really a very experienced and knowledgeable amateur astronomer.  Ed was also the luckiest among the group by winning a 20 x 100 binocular from the vendor Burgess raffle!

Jett  would like to relate our encounter with Uncle Al Nagler040417neaf-d.jpg (31323 bytes) of Televue.  When they were introduced to Al as Pinoy amateurs by Imelda, Jett was pleasantly surprised when Uncle Al mentioned just out of the blue that he knows James Kevin Ty and that he admires James' solar images.  Jett was sure James will be very happy with this acknowledgement from his "idol".

On the evening of the first day, they had a cozy American dinner together at a restaurant near our hotel.  It was a very happy and memorable occasion with the veterans like Imelda, Edwin, Ed (Gatia) and Jun reminiscing about their astronomical (and non-astronomical) adventures in the Philippines.  It felt like a family reunion, with all of us feeling the bond of being pinoys in a foreign land and at the same time brought together by our love for the hobby of astronomy.

040417neaf-m.jpg (19552 bytes)The following day, all of them took a peek at the magnificent "red" sun thru the Coronado solar scopes which were set up just outside the convention site.  It was Jett's   first time to peer thru a Coronado telescope (and the big apertures at that) and the view of the solar prominences was quite breathtaking!  After viewing the sun, they went back inside to finish their shopping and attend the afternoon lectures.  Tony Flanders of Sky & Telescope  magazine gave an informative and practical lecture on "City Astronomy".  His experiences were a source of inspiration for us city dwellers who had to make do with our light-polluted skies.  William Sheehan gave a very detailed talk on some historical vignettes regarding the coming transit of venus.  The last speaker was Dr. Sun Kwok of the University of Calgary in Canada who talked about "Cosmic Butterflies: The Colorful Mysteries of Planetary Nebulae".   Dr. Kwok's talk was one of the best lecturer Jett had attended, and his masterful presentation of the proposed nature and structure of planetary nebulae was very enlightening even for beginner amateur astronomers.  His use of the term "Cosmic Butterflies" was really very apt in describing the delicate beauty of planetary nebulae.

After the formal closing remarks the end of the convention, the drawing for the raffle winners followed.  They were fervently hoping that Eric Africa, the only one who bought raffle tickets (7 tickets for $10)  would win a price.  The grand price was a 12 inch Meade LX200 scope but Eric was not meant to win anything that day. Maybe it would have been a different story if the lucky Ed Gatia bought tickets too, hmmmm.   They then had an early light dinner together before parting their own separate ways, with their cars loaded with all the goodies they got. They're all hoping to see one another again (and more pinoy amateurs too) during the next NEAF and other astronomy events here in the US.

040417neaf-g.jpg (55240 bytes)


For more images of activities during the 2004 NEAF, click here.

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2003 , 2004 Astronomical League of the Philippines Inc.