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NEAF 2012: this astronomical extravaganza in Suffern, New York, is an annual rite of spring for amateur astronomers in the Northeast.

Now entering its third decade, the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) easily lays claim to being the largest annual gathering of amateur astronomers in North America. Every April several thou-sand astronomy enthusiasts flock to the two-day event to hear talks, hobnob with fellow amateurs, and, in particular, wander among the equipment displayed by manufacturers and dealers. And several hundred of these participants also arrive a few days early to attend the popular Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference (NEAIC).

Our Sky & Telescope colleagues also show up en masse for these events, since NEAF and NEAIC are great opportunities for all of us to interact firsthand with many readers. But as the magazine's resi-dent gear heads, we (Dennis and Sean) also spend as much time as possible looking at the latest telescopes and accessories on display at both events, some of it being shown publicly for the first time.

Each year we see more and more digital technology infiltrating the hobby, much of it aimed at automating the collection of data for astrophotography and scientific research. And at this year's events, held April 26-29, the trend was particularly evident in several new telescope mounts introduced by manufacturers.

When film ruled the world of astrophotography, to be considered premium, an equatorial telescope mount only had to be solid with a smooth-running drive and slow-motion controls, because the long exposures that film required always had to be guided. Digital photography, however, has dramatically shortened the duration of individual exposures. And in response, today's mount manufacturers are turning to sophisticated digital control systems that can flaw-lessly track the sky without external guiding for the length of these short exposures. It will be fascinating to watch as this trend continues to evolve in the coming years. The pictures here highlight some of the equipment that we found particularly noteworthy this year.

--Photos and Text by Dennis di Cicco & Sean Walker

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Title Annotation:Astro Gear; Northeast Astronomy Forum
Author:Cicco, Dennis di; Walker, Sean
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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