Back-to-back meetings in the picturesque resort communities near Big Bear Lake in California's San Bernardino Mountains attracted hundreds of amateur and many professional astronomers this past Memorial Day weekend. While the majority came from the southwestern United States, others traveled from as far as the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Mexico, and South America.
From May 22nd to 24th the Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS) held its 26th annual conference at Northwoods Resort & Conference Center in Big Bear Lake. If you need proof that the line separating amateur and professional astronomy can sometimes be blurry, you need look no further than this gathering. Presentations covered a range of topics involving photometry and spectroscopy as applied to programs as diverse as exoplanet discovery and mapping sky conditions at American's national parks and monuments.
The 39th annual gathering hosted by the Riverside Telescope Makers immediately followed the SAS meeting from May 25th to 27th. The late amateur Clifford Holmes began this event in 1969 as a small meeting of telescope makers at Riverside Community College. He quickly added a star party to the annual gathering and relocated in the nearby mountain community of Idyllwild. In 1975 the rapidly growing event moved to its present venue at the YMCA's Camp Oaks on the outskirts of Big Bear City. While telescope making and observing are still featured, the main attraction has become scores of astronomical vendors, and the name has changed from the Riverside Telescope Maker's Conference to the RTMC Astronomy Expo.
Attendance this year approached 1,500 according to event registrar Robert Stephens, which was a bit lower than previous years, in part because of a bright, waxing Moon and California's record price for gasoline. More than two dozen speakers covered topics from public outreach in astronomy to advanced image processing for astrophotographers. The largest vendor by far was Meade Instruments with its crew of nearly 30 people presenting lectures and demonstrating the company's extensive line of telescopes and accessories.
Whether your interests centered on astronomical books and artwork or the latest in advanced telescope designs and astronomical imaging, this year's Expo had something for everyone. As always, next year's event is planned for Memorial Day weekend.