After a few years absence, Software Bisque returned to the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) bi-annual conference for their 231st meeting. The AAS meets twice a year at various cities around the country, and this winter's meeting was held in Washington DC. After years of being more closely involved in the amateur community myself, I was very excited to be attending my first professional astronomy conference.
The difference between an event like NEAF or AIC and AAS is… stark. First, there are 3000+ professional astronomers, professors and students in attendance, with a smattering of those who also practice what you might call "amateur astronomy", things like visual (for fun), or astrophotography for it's own sake. When you tell someone they can get a complete research grade setup for around $25,000 it’s quite a different look on their face… more like… “that’s ALL?!?!?” Yeah, we don’t get that at NEAF very often – LOL.
This was the perfect event to be promoting our new services offerings, as most of the people we talked to were either wanting a complete turn key imaging system, or they were gutting an old system and looking for something brand new, with updated capabilities. No one here is shopping for a component at a time, and cobbling together a piecemeal system made of the lowest cost components they can find. They need performance, they need reliability, they want everything designed to work together, and they don’t want to “tinker” with it constantly. Yes, we have your number, and have for years. ;-)
In addition, we showed off for the first time our next generation mount, an Alt-Az offering with direct drive motors. These systems are not that useful for “general” pretty picture people like me, but are very handy for SSA (satellite stuff), people doing things like supernova hunts (faster slews mean more objects per night), or some customers tracking… “other things” that move quite fast ;-) With projected availability in Q3, these systems will start at about $25k. Of course they also reduce our already industry-leading periodic error to zero... but then absolute encoders might be a more effective means of doing that if your location really justifies it.
Another very stark, but welcome difference was the diversity at this conference. There are so few women for example at a typical amateur event, but at AAS, it looked to me to be almost half and half! In fact, there were both men and women here carrying babies, or pushing strollers. I never expected a professional conference to be “family friendly” in this manner, and I certainly was under the impression (from my limited and apparently incomplete exposure), that women were well under represented as they appear to be in most astro-imaging circles. The crowd was also quite young! Much of the concern I hear in the amateur community about “nothing but old men” certainly had no foothold from what I saw last week in professional circles (not to say there is not still progress to be made - just much better than what I've seen anywhere else)!
Finally, of course it was great to see and hang out with some vendor friends who are also cross-over providers of astronomy tools. Gino from our partner Officina Stellare is always great to hang out with, and a few camera vendors were in attendance as well. We had some very productive conversations with FLI, Starlight Xpress, QHY, and Andor/Apogee. I know some of our customers have been very patient on issues with QHY and Apogee/Andor and I can say that they have been heard, and some priorities are being adjusted… on both sides of the fence.
The summer meeting of the AAS in June is being held in Denver… right on our door step, and yes of course we plan to be there!
Next for me is the "Stardust Ranch Invitational", an invitation only star party, which is exclusively imager based. More than half typically have our mounts, and it's a unique opportunity to focus on "marketing" (which means figuring out what customers want, not "sales" as most people think). I will also get some work done, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say... Canon DSLR problems on the Mac, and last loose ends for @Focus3 are at the top of the list. Who knows, I may even get a pretty picture out of the deal!
01-15-2018 7:37 AM