Living in Southern California sure has its benefits – plenty of sunshine, good surf and of course, close proximity to the annual summertime Oceanside Photo and Telescope's Southern California Astronomy Expo! Each year, OPT Boss, Craig Weatherwax and his staff, continue a tradition of going "over-the-top" to host one of the biggest and most exciting astronomy extravaganza events in town. Celestron's Director of US Sales, Ben Hauck and myself, arrived early to beat any traffic gridlock stemming from "Carmageddon" (temporary closure of the 405 freeway in west LA) but luckily, we did not encounter any traffic mess during the two hour drive south. While the marine layer greeted early arrivals, the beach clouds quickly dispersed by midmorning – gifting everyone with clear, blue skies and plenty of warm sunshine – just a perfect day to hold SCAE.
Throughout the day, Celestron's booth had a steady flow of guests as we exhibited our latest products, met with customers, fielded/answered questions and immersed ourselves in a friendly atmosphere with people who all shared the same interest – the love of astronomy! This year, we added new products to our display which included a must have for the deep sky astroimager – an 80 mm GuideScope Package; products for the recreationist and outdoorsman – TrekGuide, reTrace and CoursePro; as well as captivating products for children and hobbyist – HandHeld and LCD digital microscopes. Our goal is simple and straightforward – to engage people with fun, interactive learning tools. Many guests noticed Celestron is no longer just a telescope manufacturer and have been expanding its product lineup with more products geared towards educational and outdoor recreational markets. But of course, we were just as excited to demonstrate our current popular telescope models – CGEM 925 HD, CPC 800 XLT and NexStar 6SE, along with our exciting new automatic aligning SkyProdigy 90 and 130 models. While many other telescopes on the lot were conducting solar observing, we decided to do something different and mix things up a bit. We commanded our CPC 800 to locate and track the planet Jupiter in broad daylight instead! Many guests who came by were quite amazed and surprised that our CPC 800 could find Jupiter in bright blue skies. Who would have thought? We're always eager to share operating tips and pass them along to our customers, so they could use their own Celestron equipment to their full potential.
One of SCAE's main attractions and draws were the great raffle prize drawings held throughout the day. This provided guests with many opportunities to take home wonderful prizes donated by the exhibitors and OPT. For 2011, Celestron donated an Anniversary FirstScope for the children's drawing and a NexStar 8SE with an Eyepiece and Filter Kit for the online drawing. It was great to learn that proceeds from raffle ticket sales went to the NHAS Library Telescope Program. This will enable library patrons to check out scopes and enjoy the wonders of astronomy. Now that is a great way to help educate and engage people, especially youngsters, so they could learn more and become inspired by the hobby. It is no surprise that more children and families were seen at SCAE this year, so let's all continue to help spread the joys of astronomy and get the word out.
Thank you Craig, Leigh, Penny, Eric and to the entire OPT staff for hosting another fabulous SCAE event. It just keeps getting better and better. Let's see what new surprises you'll have in mind for 2012. One thing is for sure – Celestron will be there and perhaps with a few surprises of our own.