AIC 2010 – Conference Highlights

PlaneWave at AIC 2010If you are an astrophotographer you've probably heard of the Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC). The AIC is the largest astro-imaging conference in the world. This year's edition was held in Santa Clara, California from October 22-24 and it was great. I attended for the first time this year and I learned a lot and I had a great time. It's always difficult to recap an event of this size (more than 25 unique workshops and sessions including sponsor updates and about 30 vendors exhibiting in the Technology Showcase area). Inevitably, someone (probably someone who did a great job) is going to be left out. For one thing, I couldn't attend all sessions since some were held concurrently. In addition, summarizing all aspects of this event would take more space than should be used for a blog post. So, let me apologize to everyone who wasn't included here. With that said, here are my highlights:

  • Conference Organization.  The Advanced Imaging Conference was very well organized. The Board of Directors (Ken Crawford; Frank S. Barnes, III; Al Degutis; R. Jay Gabany; Keith Allred; and Bob Fera) should all be congratulated on organizing and executing a flawless conference. The board was supported by Hope Gabany and her fiance who did an excellent job. (I apologize for not remembering the name of Hope's fiance. If someone could post his name in the comments below I'd appreciate it.)
  • The Conference Venue.  The AIC 2010 was held at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Aside from a disturbing lack of hot water in my room from time to time, I thought the venue was excellent. Meeting rooms were nice and our meals were very good. The hotel staff worked hard and did a great job. As an aside, our conference wasn't the only conference at the hotel. The 2010 FAR-West conference was being held simultaneously. As I understand it, FAR-West is a folk music conference. It was interesting having folk musicians mixing in the bar and elevators with astro-imagers. I think everyone liked the vibe.
  • Networking Opportunities.  There were approximately 250 attendees at the 2010 AIC. Some of these people are among the best astro-imagers in the world. Almost everyone who attended has extensive experience as an astrophotographer. The opportunity to meet imagers of this caliber and to be able to discuss telescopes, mounts, cameras, software, image processing techniques, etc. was really special.
  • The ABC's of Narrowband Image Processing by Neil Fleming.  I have seen Neil speak before (at the Midwest Astro Imaging Conference) and he is a very good speaker. He lives in Boston under light polluted skies and has therefore focused on narrowband imaging. This well-organized presentation was filled with a lot of detailed information and advice. I came into the session not knowing much about narrowband image processing and by the time I left I had learned a lot.
  • The ABC's of Image Processing by Don Goldman.  Don Goldman is the President of Astrodon Filters. This presentation was advertised as an overview of basic image processing which may seem like a strange topic for the Advanced Imaging Conference. However, the presentation was excellent. Don is a very good speaker and his presentation was exceptionally well organized with lots of good examples. I liked it a lot. Friday evening I heard several people say it was one of their favorite presentations of the day.
  • Russell Croman's 2010 Hubble Award Lecture.  "The Hubble Award is presented to those individuals who have demonstrated significant and sustained contributions to the astrophotography community over a period of years." Russell was the 2010 Hubble Award winner and he spoke on "Successful Imaging Techniques". I thought his presentation was very interesting.
  • Wide Field Astrophotography by Rogelio Bernal Andreo.  I think this was a highlight for everyone at the conference. Rogelio has been featured on Share Astronomy before. He is an amazing astrophotographer and believe it or not he only started astro-imaging three years ago. This informative and often very funny presentation was totally captivating. It was also unique. This was the only presentation that I saw with image processing examples done in something other than Photoshop. Rogelio uses PixInsight. I don't think I'm just speaking for myself when I say that I hope the board has more PixInsight-related sessions at AIC 2011.
  • The Frequency Domain and Future of CCD Technology for Astrophotography by Kevin Nelson.  Kevin's talk was a little different than most of the others in that he didn't demonstrate image processing techniques. Instead Kevin started out talking about possible future developments in CCD technology and CCD cameras and then spent the bulk of his presentation discussing Fourier transforms. It was a good presentation and I learned a lot.
  • John Smith's Presentation on Alsubais's Project.  This presentation was one of the "AIC Spotlight Presentations" and was consequently only 20 minutes long. This was unfortunate, in my opinion, because this was a very interesting presentation. Alsubai's Project is a search for exoplanets using the transit method. The project is named for Dr. Khalid Alsubai who is the founder of the project. John Smith is the author of CCDAutoPilot and the person who set up all the equipment for the project in New Mexico.
  • High Resolution Image Processing by Martin Pugh.  This presentation was very interesting in a couple of respects. First, the technical content was topnotch. Second, it was fascinating to see how Martin "works". To say that he approaches astro-imaging with military precision would probably be an understatement and not surprising; he's in the military. It was great to get some insight into how a world-class astrophotographer works and the best practices that make him so successful.
  • The Technology Showcase.  The Technology Showcase was the place where about 30 vendors and sponsors could tempt us with the latest and greatest telescopes, CCD cameras, mounts, filters, software, etc. There weren't a lot of "announcements" at AIC 2010 but there was one new telescope that really caught my eye. Officina Stellare was showing a new 200mm f3 Veloce-series Riccardi-Honders astrograph. The price is estimated at about 6,000 USD. It was amazingly compact (235mm long) – and beautiful. It's going to be very interesting to see how it performs.

If you are an astrophotographer and you've never attended the AIC, I would recommend going next year. AIC 2011 will be held November 4-6, 2011.

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