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April 11, 2016

The Big’s Public Debut

The Pedaling Astronomer Project made its public debut at NEAF/NEAIC 2016, where I represented one of its primary sponsors, Astronomy Technology Today – my day job. NEAF is short for Northeast Astronomy Forum and is the largest astro-tech expo in the world. It and its sister program, NEAIC, the Northeast Astro Imaging Conference, are held each April in Suffern NY. NEAIC attracts several hundreds of hardcore astrophotographers, while NEAF draws thousands who range from those for whom astronomy represents just a casual interest to those for whom it is a central preoccupation.

One thing all who attended NEAF and NEAIC 2016 have in common is that none had ever seen a bicycle carrying a telescope ready for solar viewing … or night-sky viewing, for that matter. ATT’s exhibit neighbors declared it the most photographed bit of astro gear at either show.

Which wasn’t a complete surprise. It has gotten similar reactions at other astronomy and cycling events. What was surprising, though – even eye opening – was that folks didn’t just take pictures of the scope-equipped Big, they took photos of each other posing with The Big.

When I mention this to daughter Rachel, who manages the project, she replied, “Of course they did, Daddy-O. They identify with the project. It resonates with everyone.” Which, if indeed true, is humbling.

We mounted a telescope in place of the bike seat for purely pragmatic reasons – it eliminated the need to carry a separate tripod for that telescope. Tripods capable of that payload are heavy and bulky. The hardwood dowel and block that replace the seat and its post are much less so. It wasn’t until we first set The Big up in that configuration in public that we realized, “Okay, there’s something you don’t see everyday.”

Rachel continued: “People get the whole story at first glance. Some will ask why, but only to confirm what they already realize. It just makes sense. You don’t need to explain it.”

And so, I’ll let The Big speak for itself.