Deep thoughts at the 2014 Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, April 11, 2014

The opening session of the Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference gets underway on Thursday morning, April 10, 2014, with a presentation by astronomer Benjamin Mazin of the University of California, Santa Barbara. // Credit: David J. Eicher
The Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference (NEAIC), one of the nation’s two great conferences for sky photographers, kicked off yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Suffern, New York. Some 200 dedicated skyshooters were on hand for a day of talks, vendor displays, workshops, and informal chatting about the rapidly evolving field of astroimaging in a two-day event that precedes the huge Northeast Astronomy Forum, which takes place this weekend.

Many old friends were in attendance. The talks are intense at these meetings — not for the faint of heart as they sometimes feature more than an hour of incredible detail, which is necessary for those who want to master equipment, techniques, and especially image processing to produce stunning astrophotos — wide field, solar system, and deep sky.

The talks were sensational. Astronomer Benjamin Mazin of the University of California, Santa Barbara, opened the meeting with a description of several projects he is involved in, including creating a new camera, ARCHONS, that is being used at Palomar Mountain and Lick observatories. He described an array of equipment and technologies in development that finished off with the possibility of imaging alien worlds using the Thirty Meter Telescope, now in development on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

An old friend, Jerry Lodriguss, delivered a great talk on the top 10 secrets of planetary imaging using a DSLR, with many great examples shown. Concurrently, in other rooms, Jerry Hubble described how observatories can obtain an IAU Minor Planet Center code by which amateurs can submit data on asteroids and allied objects while Jay Ballauer delivered an introduction to astroimaging for those who are intrigued beginners.

Following lunch, Jason Ware — another well-known skyshooter — described his involvement in Meade Instruments’ StarLock automated guider, which is a nifty accessory for telescopes. Doug George also described the imaging software Maxim DL6; Dan Llewellyn spoke about high-resolution planetary imaging; and Dave Snay delivered an introductory session for beginners.

One of my favorite folks in the imaging field, Ken Crawford, then delivered the bible on an important and technical aspect of image processing — using masks in Photoshop. Dressed initially in a Darth Vader mask just to goose the crowd, Jim Moronski of Finger Lakes Instrumentation then provided a discussion of “the truth about the untruths” of astroimaging, highlighting what can go wrong and how to avoid pitfalls.

Evening workshops covered tone mapping by J. P. Metsavaino and operating a remote observatory by Preston Starr.

It was a very busy first day of NEAIC, and great to see Richard Berry, former editor of Astronomy, and pals Al and David Nagler.

The meeting has already cranked up again this morning. Lots to come.

For all images from this trip, visit the Online Reader Gallery.

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