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Mike Simmons, AWB President, Dr. Phil Plait aka "The Bad Astronomer", and Peggy Walker AWB US National Coordinator (NC) and manager of the AWB global NC network at the AWB booth.

The Arizona Science and Education Expo (ASAE) held its inaugural edition in Tucson, Arizona on November 10th and 11th at the Tucson Convention Center. Co-organized by Alan Traino and Andy Lunt of Lunt Solar Systems, ASAE focused on science and education, targeting not just amateur astronomers but also families with children. There was a wide range of activities with door prizes and raffles, a public star party, hands-on exhibits, NASA live broadcasts, an imaging workshop, a panel of meteorite experts, solar observing, and the annual meeting of the International Dark-Sky Association held at the same time. More than 70 vendors participated, creating a great Christmas shopping opportunity for attendees!

Exhibitors set up their booths Friday evening in plenty of time to attend a VIP reception held by Celestron that featured great food and plenty of room to talk and reconnect with friends. There was plenty of excitement in anticipation of this new event, too, with no one sure just what to expect.

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Mike Simmons presenting "Starry Skies of China" for Xiaohua Wang.

A great schedule of speakers covered space, astronomy, and other sciences, including astronaut Donald Pettit, retired astronaut Story Musgrave, Dr. Steele Hill of the SOHO solar mission, Dr. Phil Plait of Slate (the “Bad Astronomer”), Geoff Notkin of ”The Meteorite Men”, Dr. Pamela Gay of Cosmoquest, The World at Night founder Babak Tafreshi, and “America the Beautiful at Night” photographer Wally Pacholka. The IDA meeting had its own slate of speakers as well, including AWB President Mike Simmons speaking on “Dark Sky Initiatives in China”, IDA’s Bob Parks, Scott Kardel, and Connie Walker, Christopher Kyba from Freie University in Berlin, and Kevin Poe, a ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Key to family attendance was a huge room full of hands-on activities for children. The kids could learn scientific concepts first-hand through creative exhibits while their parents attended the presentations next door. In addition to raffles and giveaways aimed at kids, a 15-foot planetarium dome ran shows throughout the day.

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Peggy Walker learns about night sky programs for recovery center residents.

The Astronomers Without Borders booth, run by Peggy Walker, was well attended . Many visitors commented that they had seen AWB at other conferences and shows such as this year’s PATS in Pasadena, California, and AlCon in Chicago. There were also those who hadn’t heard of Astronomers Without Borders and thought it was a great concept. One visitor described his astronomy outreach sessions with people in recovery centers, where he finds it allows people to have enjoyable, quiet time, and even life-changing encounters with celestial objects through the eyepiece. It’s an AWB-type idea bringing astronomy into other programs.

It was especially nice to have some of the top executives and marketing staff of Celestron, including Senior VP of Product Design and AWB board member Corey Lee, stop by the booth. Celestron is a major AWB supporter and they attended this new event in force. Scott Roberts, CEO of Explore Scientific and AWB board member, stopped by as well.  Several AWB partner organizations had nearby booths, including CosmoQuest (with Dr. Pamela Gay and Dr. Phil Plait), and the International Dark-Sky Association (with Executive Director Bob Parks and Managing Director Scott Kardel). Wally Pacholka, a member of the team of The World at Night (an AWB project) also had his booth close by where he displayed his usual panoply of gorgeous images. Babak Tafreshi spent some time in Wally’s booth as well.

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Dave Anderson, Celestron President and COO, was one of several in Celestron top management to visit with Peggy at the AWB booth.

Meeting with partners in the astronomy community is always an important part of these events, with so many attending from around the US and other countries.  AWB has big plans for 2013 with several of these partner organizations and there was good progress made in planning.

The morning after the event’s closing, Peggy Walker and husband Rick had a chance to sit down with ASAE co-organizer Alan Traino. Alan was pleased with the many positive comments he’d received from attendees and exhibitors, who especially liked seeing so many families at the show. Even the security guards told him it was the best show held at the convention center, with high-caliber exhibitions and a well-behaved crowd that left them with little to do.

Overall it was a great show that inspired the next generation of amateur astronomers, reconnected people and organizations, and made a great impression not only on attendees but also the city of Tucson. A number of people commented that they already have ASAE 2013 on their calendars.

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Carroll Iorg, President of the Astronomical League (AL), discusses how AWB can help the AL and its member clubs become more active internationally. Babak Tafreshi, director of "The World at Night", visiting from Germany spent some time with Peggy Walker and Mike Simmons at the expo.