Technical Helpline: +44 (0) 7919 280957
Customer Services: +44 (0) 1525 852696
We're now back from the annual AstroFest 2020 event. It usually takes a few days to get back into routine as we often have many enquiries, requests, emails and more to follow up on. Overall AstroFest 2020 was a great event. It was nice to be able to meet our previous customers as well as new attendees, and be able to discuss all things Celestron, Baader, PlaneWave and 10Micron to a large number of people.
Although the event started on Friday 31st January, for us it began many months ago when we all discussed what we wanted to exhibit. Once we had our "shortlist", it then involves Daniel (our technician) bringing together all of the demo stock and over a period of weeks making sure that all the items are present, cleaned and are fully tested. The items are then repacked and stored ready for the show. We also liaise with Baader Planetarium on what items we can show on their behalf and then Baader sends these products to us from Germany. We then check these over and store them with the rest of the AstroFest product range. In addition to the astronomical items for display, we also make sure we have product information sheets to attach to items, leaflets, brochures, tablets, TV screens with product videos, pens, notepads......the list goes on!
Like previous AstroFest events, we, like other exhibitors, arrive the day before the event opens to the public in order to set up our booth. We arrived at the Kensington Conference and Events Centre in London around midday, parked up the van...and made a bee-line to get an all important - coffee! We inspected our booth and made sure what we planned for our layout (months ago) was what we wanted and would work in practice. We then started to unload the large Luton van with tail lift that was full of boxes and get the items moved to our stand. This took about an hour and then we then could begin to set up our booth. We made a few minor changes to the stand layout but overall our planned approach seemed to work and everything went smoothly. It took us until about 6pm to finish setting up our booth and then it was back to the hotel for food and a good nights sleep.
Below is a timelapse spanning two and a half hours showing the set up of our stand. For some reason the camera decided to switch off so we didn't record the rest of the afternoon :-(
Up at 630am, breakfast at 7am and taxi to the venue for just after 8am. We all did a few last minute changes and had a short team meeting. Not long afterwards the queue outside the hall started to form. We felt it was going to be a busy day! Just before 9am, the announcement came that the event was about to start....and then the doors opened.....the crowds came in and AstroFest 2020 was underway!
We always like to have a "feature" telescope on our stand placed prominently to catch people's eye (and attention) as soon as they walk into the room....
This year it was a PlaneWave L-350 mount which carried Celestron's RASA 36cm AND RASA 8" astrographs, with a SX-46 and Trius imaging camera from Starlight Xpress. The L-350 mount can carry ~45kg of payload and can slew at a staggering 50 degrees per second! A short video of the mount and telescope in operation is shown below.
The mount was "live" during the two day event, slewing to various points in the sky via demo mode using the PlaneWave PWI software (on which Celestron CPWI software is based). The software was run from a nearby laptop which was connected to one of our TVs which showed the PWI software in action. From the doors opening to the end of the event, this telescope and the software created a great deal of interest and lots of discussion.
Along the front of our stand was the Celestron CGX-L mount which had an EdgeHD 11" telescope sitting atop. Mounted on the EdgeHD 11" was a Celestron CGE dovetail accessory bar with a Baader Stronghold Tangent Assembly carrying the Baader 60mm Multi Purpose Vario Finder showing how such a system could be used for guiding. A lot of people commented that a CGX-L with an 11" EdgeHD was a set up they would love to own!
At the end of the front row sat the amazing 10Micron GM2000 Ultraport high precision German equatorial mount on its Centaurus II tripod. It easily and effortlessly carried a PlaneWave CDK12.5 with an FLI imaging camera and filterwheel attached. We received lots of enquiries about the GM2000 mount (as well as the "baby" GM1000 too) as to its capabilities.
Keeping with the 10Micron theme, sitting alongside the GM2000 mount was the Leonardo BM100 binocular and small telescope parallelogram mount with a Geoptik Hercules wooden tripod. We had attached a pair of Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 binoculars, which we regularly swapped with a Celestron C5 spotting scope to show how the mount could be used for different applications. A lot of interest was shown in this mount which lets you point your binoculars/spotting scope at a target and then lower or raise the height of the optic (to allow people of different heights to observe through) and yet keep the target in view! People were very impressed with the build quality and the silky-smooth motion of the mount. Not surprising that, alongside the Celestron 20x80 SkyMaster Pro binoculars, it received 4.5/5 in January's BBC Sky at Night magazine's First Light review.
Moving further around our booth, we had a small selection of accessories on special offer including SkyMaster binoculars, Skyris 236M cameras, Baader Hyperion Zoom eyepieces and Optical Wonder Cleaning Fluid set.
Next to our "on offer" products, we had our new set of Baader accessory display cases. These four cases contain the Steeltrack and new Steedrive, a range of their M68 system and ClickLock adaptors and the popular Universal Filter Changer (UFC) system. These demo-case sets are ideal as they allow us to easily demonstrate these products to people - not only the range of parts that are available but also how they all fit together too. There were plenty of enquiries and discussions about these accessories over the two days.
Near our Baader display cases, in the middle of our booth, we had a display stand showing the new Baader Flip Mirror II and its many configurations. A display cabinet next to this stand housed the actual Flip Mirror II unit with a ClickLock adaptor and a DSLR attached. Baader also kindly loaned us a QHY CCD camera attached to a prototype Filter Changer and Camera Tilter (FCCT) specifically designed for use with the Celestron RASA 8". We also had the new Celestron Twist Lock diagonal and new version of their Focus Motor that now fits the (9.25" EdgeHD telescope) on show too. These accessories were accompanied by a selection of Baader Morpheus 76 degree flat field eyepieces, a ClickLock mirror diagonal and Q-turret eyepiece revolver. Both the FCCT and the Flip Mirror II did receive a lot of interest, with plenty of discussion on how they could be used and people commenting on how well engineered they were.
Next we had our "Celestron quadrant" with a range of Celestron telescopes which received a great deal of interest: Celestron CPC800 alt-az GOTO telescope with a StarSense unit attached; a wifi controlled Astro Fi 6" SCT, and the relatively new Evolution 5" SCT. Planetary observation and imaging is still a firm favourite activity with amateur astronomers, and Celestron's 7" Maksutov-Cassegrain planetary scope mounted on the popular Advanced VX German equatorial mount received a lot of attention. We were also pleased to have the newly released StarSense Explorer 70mm refractor telescope on display. Using the new StarSense App installed in your smartphone (attached to the telescope), you can quickly and easily find celestial objects. We showed several videos of this new technology on one of our large TVs along with other Celestron, Baader and 10Micron videos too.
Walking past our Celestron/Baader/10Micron/PlaneWave "product showcase TV" took you back to the "start" of our booth - with our PlaneWave L-350/RASA36/RASA8 telescope which still had people congregating around it and people taking lots of photos.
The first day of AstroFest flew over very quickly and our voices were becoming a little croaky having spent a lot of time talking about all things astronomy...and telescopes. At 6pm the show closed and we got drenched walking to our chosen restaurant for a well deserved meal and a few drinks.
Saturday morning came and at 9am the visitors once again piled in and we had lots more conversations throughout the day about Celestron, Baader, PlaneWave and 10Micron. The show ended at 6pm and we started to dismantle our booth. It took nearly 6 hours to set it all up but only took just over 2 hours to pack it all away!
From the hustle and bustle of the two days, when we finally left the hall there were only a handful of people left packing up and the place was eerily quiet...and that was AstroFest 2020 over with.
We can't wait for AstroFest 2021!