Day 1 at the Advanced Imaging Conference 2011

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Friday, November 04, 2011

I’m at the Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC), which for the second straight year is being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara, California. The 2011 version is the conference’s eighth incarnation. November 4–6. For the third straight year, Astronomy magazine is proud to be an editorial sponsor.

Jay GaBany, one of the conference organizers, confirmed to me that this year’s event is the largest so far. “We have more than 300 attendees,” Jay said, “including eight that arrived and registered just this morning.”

I’m writing this just before lunch, but after the first morning session. Seven speakers have already given talks in two concurrent sessions, one that started at 8 a.m. and the other at 10 a.m. In the earlier session, Adam Block from the University of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon SkyCenter presented a two-hour talk titled, “ABCs of Image Processing” to an enthusiastic, packed house. Mike Rice spoke about “The ‘Hands On’ Challenges of Building and Operating an Imaging Observatory and How to Deal with Them,” Steve Leshin presented “Image Processing with PixInsight,” and John Smith spoke about “Complete Image Acquisition Automation with CCDAutoPilot.”

The 10 a.m. speakers were R. Jay GaBany (“Awakening Your Images”), Bob Denny (“The Next Generation of Observatory Automation”), and Don Goldman (“Narrow Band Imaging”). All seven speakers will present their talks again this afternoon.

I thought registration was fun, but that could have been because, in addition to the conference agenda, each attendee’s packet contained both Astronomy’s special issue Spectacular Universe and our November themed “Photo Issue.” Could any two publications be more suited to an imaging conference? And all went inside a plastic bag that proudly displayed the magazine’s name. It’s fun to be a sponsor.

In the vendor area (before it opened), I followed astroimager and Astronomy Contributing Editor Tony Hallas around as he interacted with various CCD manufacturers. Tony told me he already has several new ideas for his monthly “Imaging the Cosmos” column. And, from what I saw in the vendor area, there may be a few new reviews ahead as well. He’s planning to write a guest blog (that will appear here) after the conference concludes.

I talked to several vendors about new products. Paul Hobbs from Meade Instruments was happy to show off the company’s new LX800. Meade aimed this line of telescopes straight at astroimagers. Among many high points, the scopes feature the StarLock full-time automatic integrated guider. This unit assists with polar drift-alignment, finds and centers targets, and then automatically locks onto a field star as faint as 11th magnitude for guiding with an error no greater than 1". You don’t need a separate computer, you don’t have to select a guide star, and you don’t even have to focus. Just set up your camera and image. Paul and I sat at the same table at lunch, and he was telling me how happy he was with the comments he’d already received. And the conference is barely four hours old!

The folks at Fishcamp Engineering also are busy readying new products. In fact, by the first of the year, the company plans to have four new CCD cameras available. Each will contain a different CCD sensor, so you’ll be able to pick your chip size, resolution, and price.

You'll find more about the AIC at the conference website. To see more than 100 images by many AIC members, visit Astronomy magazine's AIC online photo gallery. And watch for more blogs throughout the weekend.

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