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Advanced Imaging Conference


The first Advanced Imaging Conference was held in San Jose, CA on November 6-7, 2004 at the Doubletree Hotel near the San Jose airport. A group of volunteers put the conference together led by Steve Gelman. Approximately 140 people attended this conference. The day and a half long conference consisted of about a dozen presentations.

Attendees came from the UK, Italy, Germany and Canada as well as the U.S. Sponsors included Software Bisque, SBIG and RC Optical Systems. This was not a group of youngsters pointing their webcams toward the eyepiece of a 6 inch Dobsonian. More than 50% had access to a Ritchey-Chretein telescope. At least among the speakers, SBIG's ST10 camera is the base model. So we are talking about people who are into their "hobby" for at least $25K.

Besides the sponsors, the big stars of this conference were Ron Wodaski and Tony Hallas. Wodaski's book on CCD astrophotography is considered the main source of information because it is highly focused on software and hardware that amateur astronomers have. Tony Hallas is famous for his fantastic photos. You can see his work in the December '04 issue of Sky and Telescope and the October 2004 picture in the RASC calendar.

There were some interesting things I learned (other than the ubiquity of Ritchey-Chretein telescopes among alleged amateurs).

1. With mathematical formulas blazing across the screen we were shown that when taking pictures in compromised skys (say, mag 4) it is better to keep each exposure small (like 2-3 minutes) but stack up more total exposures than you would under dark skys (we are talking 30 minutes and up).

2. SBIG is developing a camera that uses a techonology called Time Delay Integration or TDI. They showed a picture from the model 402 that was created with a 3 minute exposure using the Orion Star Blast. Long exposures on a Dob will be a reality. The model 402 is scheduled to be available in January but no price was announced.

3. Color is a problem that will be with us forever. For starters, infrared, ultraviolet and other "light" has to be mapped to some color other than the black that we would see. And we can't say the color is natural because human eyes have never seen these things. It comes down to either aesthetics or science (and often both).

This conference cost $150. It was worth it particularly when the CD containing all of the PowerPoint slides is sent to the attendees. But the focus is deliberately very narrow. Lunch and dinner were served on Saturday and the conference ran as smooth as any professionally managed conference (this effort was strictly volunteers).

The conference was set up by Steve Mandel, a Santa Cruz-based amateur astronomer. He has a very nice setup but you may wonder how he deals with being fogged in so often in Santa Cruz. Steve set up his own consortium of four fellow amateur astronomers and they set up Steve's Richey-Chretein (of course) at the astronomy retreat called New Mexico Skies. The group fills out a calendar with observing dates parceled out to each member.

The conference is likely to be repeated next year, possibly near the time of the October full moon. Announcements are made in the SBIG Yahoo group and similar places.


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