What impresses me about The National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) is that it demonstrates how much can be achieved with sufficient motivation and relatively few resources.
NACAA is convened every 2 years. I attended first in 2002 when it was held in Adelaide. In 2004 my family came with me to Hobart, and in 2006 to Frankston. This year the event was held in Penrith, Sydney.
Some of the highlights this year from my perspective were:
- “Probing Pluto’s Atmosphere with a 10 inch Telescope” by Dave Gault. Along with others in Australia (including Blair Lade at Stockport) and New Zealand, Dave’s observations yielded a light curve from which Pluto’s atmosphere — with a pressure measuring in microbars — could be discerned, using only a 10″ SCT and Meade DSI imager.
- A workshop on light curve analysis using data from automated surveys to look for contact binary star systems. Surjit Wadhwa who ran this excellent workshop also won the best paper award for his work and peer reviewed publications over several years, revealing previously unknown contact binary star systems.
- Ragbir Bhathal’s “45 Years of SETI”, including an overview of recent optical SETI developments. Whether or not you think that SETI is ever likely to lead to positive results, the technology involved is interesting and potentially useful elsewhere. Not to mention the philosophical questions it prompts us to ponder.
- Encouraging words from Arne Henden, Director of the American Association of Variable Star observers, about being an amateur scientist in the 21st Century.
- Entertaining talks such as: giving astronomy lectures on the final voyage of the QE2 (by Ray Johnston), the current state of planetaria worldwide (by Martin George), and examining the possibility that Australian Aboriginals were the world’s first astronomers (by Ray Norris).
- Useful and interesting ad-hoc conversations during breaks and in the corridor.
There were workshops and sessions to suit a wide variety of interests. You can read more about NACAA 2008 here: http://nacaa.org.au/2008/
In short, a very worthwhile event. I plan to be in Canberra for NACAA 2010.