2009 AIC recap: Heavenly images abounded, part two

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Longtime astroimager and Astronomy magazine contributor Tony Hallas thinks about his upcoming acceptance speech. The Advanced Imaging Conference committee awarded Hallas its most prestigious award, the Hubble Award, for his service and the advances he brought to astroimaging. Michael E. Bakich photo
In my previous blog, I described the first day at the 2009 Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC), which occurred October 30 through November 1 at the San Jose, California, Doubletree Hotel. Day 1 revolved around imaging workshops.

Some of the workshops dealt with equipment, and some focused on imaging techniques, but the majority assumed the attendees could get good images. The rest of the workshop presenters, therefore, offered image-processing tips.

Day 2 was the general session for this, the sixth incarnation of this event. Registration and a continental breakfast took place between 7 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. Then, at 8:15 a.m. sharp, the conference’s opening remarks began. Ken Crawford, AIC’s president and long-time image contributor to Astronomy magazine, welcomed some 300 attendees and introduced AIC’s founder, Steve Mandel, who talked about the early days of the organization and new projects he’s working on.

Some of you may know the name Mandel from the Mandel-Wilson Unexplored Nebula Project. (Michael Wilson was the project sponsor.) This survey searched for low surface-brightness interstellar clouds in the Milky Way that appeared on some wide-field photographs of deep-sky objects.

Astronomer Beverly T. Lynds first noticed the phenomenon — dubbed “galactic cirrus” or “integrated-flux nebulae” — in 1965 on photographic plates taken at Palomar Observatory. But it wasn’t until December 2004 that Mandel recorded them on a wide-field image of Bode’s Galaxy (M81) and the Cigar Galaxy (M82) in Ursa Major. Astronomers now know that these nebulae are primarily thin dust clouds located at high galactic latitudes, that is, away from the Milky Way’s plane.

Michael E. Bakich photo
Next on the agenda was the presentation of AIC’s Hubble Award, the highest honor the organization bestows. This year, AIC president Ken Crawford handed the award to renowned astrophotographer Tony Hallas for the many ways Hallas has advanced astrophotography through the years.

Regular readers of Astronomy magazine will recognize Hallas’ name from his numerous images that have appeared through the years. Most recently, Tony won top honors in our 2009 Astroimage Contest, the results of which ran in the September issue. After receiving the award, Hallas presented a high-level, entertaining lecture on — what else? — astroimaging.

As with day 1, 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 conference continued through Sunday morning, November 1. Two imagers offered workshops, and the AIC staff presented door prizes. The Technology Showcase closed at 11:30 a.m., and AIC 2009 was over.

This was a great conference for me. During the entire event, attendees said nothing but great things about Astronomy magazine. Lots of astroimagers thanked me for running their work in the magazine. Actually, I’m the one who continually needs to thank you, the many celestial photographers who send in such great images. Without you, we wouldn’t be the world’s most beautiful astronomy magazine. So, please, keep sending me your stuff. And the more, the merrier. See you next year!

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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