2009 AIC recap: “Advanced” doesn’t begin to cover it, part one

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Monday, November 09, 2009

Renowned astroimager Adam Block of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter presented a pair of workshops at the 2009 Advanced Imaging Conference. Michael E. Bakich photo
As part of my duties as photo editor for the world’s most popular astronomy publication, I attended the sixth annual Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC) October 30 through November 1 at the San Jose, California, Doubletree Hotel. If you’re one of our many readers who love the “eye candy” that top-level astroimagers produce, future issues of Astronomy will be required reading for you.

Organizers of the conference break it into two parts: They devote day 1 to workshops. Day 2 is the general session. In this blog, I’ll tell you about day 1.

Registration, which features a continental breakfast, began at 7 a.m., and the first workshops started at 8:30. AIC wasted no time or space. Some 300 registrants filled four workshops that all started at 8:30 a.m. Then, at 10:15 a.m., 1:45 p.m., and 3:30 p.m., four more workshops began. That’s 16 1.5-hour presentations in one day!

Most of the imagers I talked to attended four sessions, with a break only for lunch. Attendees raved about the talks. Listeners took detailed notes or photographed every slide. I can sum up the only complaint with this statement: “I had to miss such-and-such’s workshop because I was in so-and-so’s presentation.” Thoughtfully, AIC’s organizers will put all the workshop presenters’ PowerPoint talks online for the registrants to review at their leisure.

These talks were not for the faint of heart. For example, renowned astrophotographer Tony Hallas presented a workshop entitled “Image Processing with a Master.” He wasn’t kidding. I was in and out of all the workshops to sample their flavors and get some pictures. At one point I heard Tony talking about manipulating an image’s individual pixels to produce superior results. And he wasn’t the only one to get into that kind of detail. It’s those kinds of post-processing procedures that make today’s celestial images superbly detailed, rich in color, and accurate in what they show.

In the short time between workshops, during breaks, and before and after meals, AIC encouraged attendees to visit a large exhibit hall called the Technology Showcase. There, more than 30 of our hobby’s top vendors showed off their best telescopes, cameras, filters, software, and accessories. The Technology Showcase was open until 9 p.m. each night, so everyone had a chance to spend quality time there.

Tomorrow, we'll recap day 2.

Editor's note: Watch videos from the 2009 Advanced Imaging Conference Michael took with a handheld camera, including interviews with AIC President and astroimager Ken Crawford, Steve Cullen of LightBuckets, and Adam Block of Mount Lemmon SkyCenter.

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