AIC 2012 Speakers and Workshop Leaders

Click on a name to review this year's dazzling line-up of astro-photographic luminaries:

  • Eric Blackhurst
  • Adam Block
  • Steve Brady
  • Ken Crawford
  • David Eicher
  • Alan Erickson
  • Bob Fera
  • Tom Field
  • Dr. Don Goldman
  • Sal Grasso
  • Tony Hallas
  • Bernhard Hubl
  • Dr. Geoff Marcy
  • Tim Puckett
  • Dr. Travis Rector
  • John Smith
  • Alistair Symon
  • Ron Wodaski

    Eric Blackhurst

    General Manager of OPT Telescopes,

    Finding the right mount

    With the evolution and diversity of design that has occurred at the hands of telescope mount makers in the last two decades, it can truly be said that there is a mount for every astro-imager. This talk will discuss various aspects of the designs and technologies available today, from structural design and mechanics to electronic features. Considerations related to ultra-light travel systems, portable/field systems, and permanent/observatory environments will be addressed. Whether you are looking for your first mount, or considering a new one, it is well worth remembering that the three most important things in astro-photography are the mount, the mount, and the mount.

    Eric Blackhurst, General Manager of OPT Telescopes, has held a life-long interest in space and astronomy. Fascinated by coverage of the Voyager missions as a young child, his activity in visual astronomy matured rapidly when he began working for OPT in 1996. Upon returning from Brooks Institute of Photography in 2002, with a B.A. in industrial-scientific imaging, deep-sky imaging quickly became Blackhurstís main pursuit in astronomy. As a photographer that had always enjoyed the technical and technological challenges of the art, Eric found astronomical-imaging to be a perfect fit. Today, he enjoys applying the knowledge of both his formal education and practical experience with fellow astro-photographers, helping to assemble systems that will achieve their goals.
    Adam Block

    2012 AIC Hubble Award Recipient, Public Observing Programs Coordinator- Mt Lemmon SkyCenter,

    The 2012 Hubble Award Lecture

    Adam operates the public astronomy programs at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter. Located north of Tucson, this new science facility hosts one of the world's largest astronomical instruments dedicated to public use, the 32-inch Schulman telescope.

    Considered by many to be one of the World's best astrophotographers, Adam's photographic accomplishments are considerable. For example, his images have appeared in hundreds of books and magazines. They have been referenced by professional astronomers working at universities and leading research institutions including the Space Telescope Science Institute, ESO, and Calar Alto Observatory.Over fifty of Adam's pictures have been showcased by the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) web site and his images have also been used to decorate underpasses and signs for city improvements in his native city of Tucson.

    Click here to see Adam's gallery of SkyCenter images.
    Steve Brady
    Co-developer of FocusMax, Astrophotographer

    Precision Focusing with FocusMax

    Steve Brady and Larry Weber undertook a personal challenge in 1999 to develop a method to address a missing link in observatory automation, namely automated telescope focusing. After more than a year of dedicated work, FocusMax was born and a decision was made to share this tool with the astronomy community. FocusMax has evolved significantly with many new features based on user input. The purpose of this workshop is to explore the many options that FocusMax provides the astro-imager, how to configure FocusMax for optimum performance and to share tips and ideas. Steve will also give a quick tour of the next major release with many new, much anticipated features.

    Steve has been an active amateur astronomer for over 48 years and is a member of the AAVSO. He has successfully automated his observatory with off the shelf components and custom code which allows for unattended, all night imaging of the night sky. This has resulted in numerous Ďdiscoveriesí which include supernova, minor planets, CVís and variable stars. His current primary interest is monitoring known and unknown cataclysmic variable stars. In the last 5 years his pro/am collaboration has resulted in over 23 published scientific papers. Steve holds a degree in physics and chemistry and is active writing code to automate data reduction and observatory operations.
    Ken Crawford

    Amazing Masks

    Using Masks and alpha channels you can fully leverage the power of Photoshop to selectively enhance color, contrast, details, and star profiles. Ken will cover the basics of developing and refining Masks only with advanced methods of using them to give you the ultimate control.

    Since 8th grade Ken Crawford has been pointing telescopes toward the night sky. In 1978 he married his lovely wife Lisa and moved to the foothills of Northern California where he found dark skies. He built his Rancho Del Sol Observatory in 2002 and started taking images of the deep sky. In 2004 Ken was one of the principle founders of The Advanced Imaging Conference held every year in San Jose and has served as President since 2007. In 2008, Ken was invited to sit on the NASA "Astronomy Picture of the Day" advisory committee to participate in the future planning and funding efforts of this amazing web site. Ken is also the Chief Docent for the Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory in Placerville, Ca. Also in 2008, Ken sold his floor covering business, allowing more time to pursue his imaging interests.

    Ken Crawfordís images have been featured in numerous magazines, books, web sites, movies, and public displays. To date, his images have been featured 26 times as the NASA "Astronomy Picture of the Day". In 2008, Ken joined a professional, international research team headed by Dr. David Martinez-Delgado of the Max-Planck Institute, searching for galactic tidal streams which are the remnants of galaxy mergers. Kenís images and contributions to this research resulted in being a co-author on two Astronomical Journal publications. This Galactic Archaeology shows that real science can be done by amateurs with modest equipment, clear, dark skies and dedication.

    Ken loves to show how amateurs achieve professional results combining art and technology by giving invited talks throughout the country. You can see Ken Crawfordís images at his web site
    David Eicher
    Editor, Astronomy Magazine

    35 Years of Amateur Astronomy

    This discussion will cover the span of Eicherís involvement with the hobby of amateur astronomy, from a unique perspective. It will look at the state of the hobby and science in 1976, when he began his interest, and describe some of the many events in both the hobby and science that have transpired over the past 35 years. The talk will touch on Eicherís experiences at Astronomy and Deep Sky magazines, as well as giving a "state of the hobby" summary of the present day. Moreover, Eicher will provide a vision of where the hobby of astronomy is going in the future.

    David Eicher is one of the most widely recognized astronomy enthusiasts in the world. He has been with Astronomy magazine for 29 years, beginning as an assistant editor and working through associate, senior, and managing positions. He has been the magazine's editor since 2002. Dave has spoken widely to amateur astronomy groups, logged hundreds of hours at the eyepiece, and written seven books on astronomical observing. Among the most used by amateur astronomers are The Universe from Your Backyard (Cambridge University Press), Deep-Sky Observing with Small Telescopes (Enslow), and Stars and Galaxies (Kalmbach Books).

    A native of Oxford, Ohio, Dave grew up around Miami University, where his father was a professor of organic chemistry. Rather than turning to chemistry, however, Dave was attracted to the stars as a 14-year-old, when he spotted Saturn through a small telescope at a star party. Comet West really turned him on to observing, and Dave soon went far beyond to explore clusters, nebulae, and galaxies from his dark backyard ó he soon was hooked on viewing deep-sky objects.

    In 1977, Dave founded and began editing the magazine Deep Sky Monthly. Five years later, the publication moved with Dave to Milwaukee, turned quarterly, and was renamed Deep Sky, which was issued regularly until 1992. In addition to his book writing, Dave has written or edited hundreds of articles on all facets of astronomy, science and hobby. In 1990, the International Astronomical Union named a minor planet, 3617 Eicher, for Dave in recognition of his service to astronomy.

    Dave has appeared on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, National Public Radio, and other media outlets to promote the science and hobby of astronomy.

    He lives in Waukesha Township, Wisconsin, near Big Bend, with his wife, Lynda, and son, Chris.
    Alan Erickson
    Senior Computer Scientist, Adobe, Astrophotographer

    Using Photoshop to Adjust Astronomical Images

    Tips and Tools for image enhancement. Alan will present various Photoshop topics related to astro-imaging, from the viewpoint of a developer and astro-imager. Topics will include import, adjustments, masking, and fixing defects

    Alan Erickson has been a programmer at Adobe since 1996. He has developed features for Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom. Photoshop feature areas include animation, video, image selection, and image adjustments.

    In 1998 Alan moved from Minnesota to Colorado. Inspired by the clear nights in the more arid climate of Colorado, Alan took an interest in astronomy. After attaching a DSLR camera to his telescope in 2004 he was hooked on astro-imaging.

    Since 2008, Alan has combined his hobby with his profession, representing Adobe at astro-imaging conferences. Alan has presented Photoshop topics at the Midwest Astro-Imaging Conference, Advanced Imaging Conference, and Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference.

    Click here to visit Alan's astrophotographic image gallery.
    Bob Fera
    Renowned Astrophotographer

    The ABCs of Image Processing

    This workshop will focus on the basic steps necessary to produce high quality CCD images, including image calibration and combination using CCDStack and further processing using Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop topics will include layers and layer masks, levels and curves, selective sharpening, color saturation, gradient removal and noise reduction. I will also address several common processing pitfalls and explain how they can be easily avoided.

    Bob was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles and moved to the Sierra Foothills in Placer County with his wife and son in 2003. He is an Information Technology Manager for a small computer services company based in Los Angeles.

    His interest in astronomy began at an early age, including a few mostly unsuccessful attempts to photograph the heavens as young teenager in the mid 1970ís. Though life took him in different directions for several years thereafter, he rediscovered his love for the night sky in the early 1990ís, and he decided to pursue astrophotography seriously. Bob was fortunate to be able to learn from several of the finest astrophotographers in the world and will be forever grateful for their guidance and ongoing friendship.

    Bob spent the next ten years photographing galaxies and nebulae with a 35mm SLR camera. Many of his images were published in Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines, including two cover shots in 1996. In 2003, he discovered the wonders of CCD imaging and never looked back. His photographs continue to appear regularly in magazines, advertisements and other print and digital media.

    Bob currently takes his images from his home observatory under the dark skies of Foresthill, California.

    Click here to visit Bob's website
    Tom Field
    Developer- RSpec Real-time Spectroscopy software

    Easy Spectroscopy

    Even if you wanted to touch a star, they're impossibly distant. But despite these great distances, researchers have learned a great deal about quite a few stars. How? The most common method used to study the stars is called spectroscopy, which is the art and science of analyzing the colorful rainbow spectrum produced by a prism-like device.

    Until recently, spectroscopy was too expensive and too complicated for all but a handful of amateurs. Today, though, new tools make spectroscopy accessible to almost all of us. You no longer need a PhD, dark skies, long exposures, or enormous aperture! With your current telescope and FITS camera (or a simple web cam or even a DSLR without a telescope) you can now easily study the stars yourself. Wouldn't you like to detect the atmosphere on Neptune or the red shift of a quasar right from your own backyard?!

    This talk, with lots of interesting examples, will show you what itís all about, help you understand how spectroscopy is used in research. And, it will show you how to get started.

    Frustrated by the software tools that were available for spectroscopy, Tom wrote his own, which is now in use on six continents. Tom says, "My goal is to light a fire under the butts our amateur community, most of whom have no idea how easy and incredibly exciting spectroscopy can be."

    Tomís article on spectroscopy appeared in the August 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine and his software was included in that magazineís Hot Product 2012 list.

    For more information, visit Tom's web site at
    Dr. Don Goldman, Ph.D.
    Astrophotographer, Founder- Astrodon Astronomy Filters

    Imaging Planetary Nebulae

    Planetary nebula (PN) mark the end of life in the evolution of smaller stars. Their structural diversity make them interesting and beautiful imaging targets. Often these objects are bipolar, but their appearances vary so widely because of their orientation towards us. Many are quite small or faint that pose imaging challenges. However, once you get beyond the popular PN (Dumbbell, Ring, Helix, Little Dummbell) there are many more that are interesting and accessible to image. PN emit light from emission lines and hence, are excellent candidates for narrowband filters that bring out structure. Narrowband filters also help to bring out faint, extended halos surrounding PN that make these objects even more interesting.

    Don is the founder and president of Astrodon Filters and the founder and past president of Optical-Solutions, a designer- manufacturer of sold fiber-optic chemical analyzers for on-line, real-time chemical monitoring of manufacturing processes. Education

    He holds both a B.S. in geology and an MBA from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in analytical spectroscopy from CalTech.

    Don has been awarded 14 U.S. patents (including several that are classified), has published over 25 peer-reviewed papers in mineralogy and glass research, is a regular speaker and gives image processing workshop at popular astronomy conferences, has published three articles in Sky and Telescope, received the 2009 Clyde Tombaugh award from Riverside Telescope Makers Conference and is a member of AAVSO and SAS. In addition to operating Astrodon Imaging, he is an avid imager with a new remote setup at Siding Springs, Australia.
    Sal Grasso
    Ascendant Astrophotographer

    Astrophotography Under Light Polluted Skies

    Sal will share his methods of imaging and processing Astro-Images from light polluted skies. He will discuss techniques that will improve the Color,Contrast and Clarity of your images. The techniques discussed will directly help imagers create works of art from data acquired at either light polluted or dark skies.

    Salvatore Grasso has been interested in astronomy from a young age. After many years of visual observing, he turned to CCD imaging as an artistic way to illuminate the deep sky objects he saw through the eyepiece. Using an 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien, and SBIG CCD, Salvatore images under light polluted Florida skies. He is a Junior at Florida Gulf Coast University where he pursues a Biology degree with a Pre-Med concentration. He also works at Florida Gulf Coast Universityís Egan Observatory, where he has control of a 16-inch Ritchey Chretien and numerous CCD Cameras. Salvatore has been published in Astrophotoinsight Magazine, and is the co author of a scientific paper in the minor planet bulletin.

    Visit Sal's astrophotography web site at: http://
    Tony Hallas
    Renowned Astrophotographer
    2009 Hubble Award Recipient

    Advanced Image Processing with an Artistic Eye

    Tony's astrophotographic career can be summarized as a series of firsts. For example, starting out over 25 years ago, he was one of the first to produce film-emulsion images using an autoguider. Tony was also one of the first to champion the use of stacked astronomical images as a method that improved the final picture's signal to noise.

    Particularly during the early years of digital astrophotography, Tony's pictures were the reference to which digital imagers compared their images. Finally, to many in the community, Tony's images remain the first among equals in their aesthetic quality, composition and color! Tony's pictures have been published in countless magazines, television productions and books. He is a highly regarded speaker and the recipient of numerous, prestigious awards including the 2009 AIC Hubble Trophy.

    Visit Tony's web site
    Bernhard Hubl
    Acclaimed European Astrophotographer
    CEDIC organizer

    Wide Field and Long Focal Length Imaging

    Bernhard Hubl will provide deep insights in his way to produce wide field and long focal length images simultaneously. In addition to a comparison between both data gathering techniques, the workshop will offer many practical tips on maximizing your astrophotographic output using imperfect equipment from a less that ideal location on a low budget.

    Bernhard Hubl is an accomplished Austrian astrophotographer who studied technical physics and astronomy in Vienna. After completing his studies, Bernhard decided to focus his career on engineering and while pursuing astronomy as a hobby. Bernhard lives in a flat valley on the north side of the Alps. Most of his photographs were taken from his backyard using a 4" refractor or a 12" Newtonian telescope under moderate skies. The main goal of his image processing philosophy is to create images with a "natural" appearance that shows fine stars.

    In addition to his astrophotographic work, Bernhard is a co-organizer of CEDIC (Central European Deepsky Imaging Conference), the largest astrophotography conference in Europe. CEDIC's next meeting is scheduled for Spring 2013.

    Visit Bernhard's image gallery at
    Dr. Geoff Marcy
    Adjunct Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the San Francisco State University, Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley,Director of Center for Integrative Planetary Science and popularizer of astronomy

    Hunting Exo Planets

    Dr. Marcy will discuss his personal journey to find planets around other stars and understand the chances for habitable planets similar to Earth.

    Geoff Marcy is an American astronomer, who is currently Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, famous for discovering more extrasolar planets than anyone else, 70 out of the first 100 to be discovered, along with R. Paul Butler and Debra Fischer.

    Marcy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Summa Cum Laude with a double major in physics and astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1976. He then completed a Doctor of Philosophy in Astrophysics and Astronomy in 1982 at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

    He has held teaching positions, first at the Carnegie Institution of Washington as a Carnegie Fellow from 1982 to 1984. Marcy then worked as an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy from 1984 to 1996 and then as a Distinguished University Professor from 1997 to 1999 at the San Francisco State University. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the San Francisco State University and a Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of Center for Integrative Planetary Science.

    In the early 1980s, his research into stellar magnetic fields had reached a dead end.

    Marcy confirmed Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz's discovery of the first extrasolar planet orbiting a Sun-like star- 51 Pegasi b. Other achievements have included discovering the first multiple planet system around a star similar to our own (Upsilon Andromedae), the first transiting planet around another star (HD209458b), the first extrasolar planet orbiting beyond 5 AU (55 Cancri d), and the first Neptune-sized planets (Gliese 436b and 55 Cancri e). As of June 8, 2012, Marcy is the Watson and Marilyn Alberts Chair for SETI at the University of California at Berkeley.

    He is a familiar face and trusted expert to viewers of documentaries and science oriented television programs such as History Channel's "The Universe" and the Public Broadcasting System's "NOVA".
    Tim Puckett
    Acclaimed Supernova hunter, astrophotographer

    Citizen Science Supernova Survey

    Tim Puckett has been an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer for over 30 years. Experienced in the field of amateur CCD (digital) astro-imaging, Puckett has operated numerous CCD cameras since 1989. He has built several robotic telescopes and is currently operating an automated supernova search patrol and comet astrometry program which uses 60-cm and 35-cm telescopes.

    Puckettís photos of comets and deep-sky objects have been published in books and magazines in several countries, including Great Britain, Japan, Italy, Germany, Australia and South Africa. His work has also been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, BBC, The Discovery and Learning Channels and Good Morning America. Puckett is the Astronomy Sales Engineer for Apogee Instruments and a robotic-telescope consultant for professional observatories.

    In recognition of Puckettís contributions to the field of astronomy, asteroid PUCKETT = (32096) = 2000 KO38 was named in his honor.

    Puckett was the 2011 recipient of the American Astronomical Society's Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award. This award is presented for an achievement in astronomical research made by an amateur astronomer. The award citation reads: "To Tim Puckett for his Puckett Observatory World Supernova Search program that has discovered more than 200 supernovae".
    Dr. Travis Rector

    Astrophysicist, University of Alaska Anchorage

    Making Color Composite Images with Research-Class Telescopes

    Dr. Rector will give a presentation on how color composite images are made with research-class telescopes such at Hubble, Kitt Peak and Gemini. He will discuss the practicalities, as well as the philosophy, that go into making these images. As part of his talk he will outline the workflow and go through the process of assembling an example image. He will also discuss the similarities and differences between amateur and professional observing.

    Dr. Rector is a professor in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He also makes color composite images for Gemini Observatory, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory. In 1998, Dr. Rector earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Colorado. He has also worked at Kitt Peak National Observatory as a postdoctoral research scientist and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico as a Karl Jansky Research Fellow.

    His interest in astrophotography began while he was a graduate student at Colorado. Once at Kitt Peak, Travis produced images with data from the 0.9 and 4-meter telescopes, a practice he continues to this day. In 2007, to assist other professional astronomers, Dr. Rector published a ground-breaking paper in the Astronomical Journal on techniques and philosophy about the production of color composite images from research data.

    View his gallery of astonishing deep-sky images on his web site at
    John Smith
    CCDWare, Ltd.

    Getting the Most from your Imaging Equipment

    This presentation will share tips and techniques to get best quality data from your equipment. Methods of system evaluation will be discussed to set expectations for your equipment. Correct and reliable assembly and electrical interconnection is important and both will be discussed in detail. Critical aspects of setup and alignment will be discussed. Some representative systems will be described.

    With degrees in Physics, Electrical Engineering and MBA course work completed, I worked in various positions in businesses from aerospace to commercial electronics to personal computers and systems engineering. I ended my professional career in 1999 as a senior executive in a high technology aerospace company.

    In 2002 I started a second career, which consisted of consulting on all aspects of private and academic observatories from design through installation, setup, alignment and instruction for over 30 clients, writing astro-imaging automation software (CCDAutoPilot) and starting a software publishing company (CCDWare Ltd.) My personal astro-images have been published many times, both domestically and internationally.

    John is the co-founder of CCDWare and author of CCDAuto Pilot.
    Alistair Symon
    Creating Wide Field Mosaics

    This presentation will describe the techniques I use to create large scale images of the night sky by combining several widefield images together in a mosaic. Using a 10 image mosaic of the Cone Nebula to Rosette as an example we will review a number of key steps involved. We will start with how to plan the individual images and acquire the data. We will then look at key steps in the processing regime for each image (e.g. gradient removal and color saturation). Next we will look at techniques to register and blend the images together to form a seamless large single image as well as how to integrate H-alpha data. We will conclude by discussing finishing touches that can be applied to the image, ways to get the impossible done night in and night out. Oh: and learn about the Foundation's new one-meter telescope, and how we're making it broadly available for research, for serious amateurs like you.

    Alistair Symon is an Executive with IBM's Systems and Technology Group. He has had a passion for astrophotography since CCD cameras were introduced in the late 1990s, but began imaging much more regularly when he moved from the UK to the clear skies of Tucson, Arizona in 2005. Between 2005 to 2009 he worked on imaging all 110 Messier Objects. Once that was completed he concentrated on improving his techniques for acquiring and processing widefield images, then combining these images together to produce large vistas of the night sky. Alistair has had number of his images published in popular astronomy magazines and is an active member of his local astronomical society. He is also a volunteer astronomer at the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center where he operates a 16 inch Cassegrain telescope that is open to the public.

    Visit Alistair's web site gallery of incredible imagery at
    Ron Wodaski
    Director- Tzec Maun Foundation, Astrophotographer, Author
    2011 AIC Hubble Award Recipient

    PixInsight for the Merely Mortal (or The Simppel, Troo and Elaborit Guide to PixInsight)

    PixInsight is a powerful processing tool that enables imagers to produce stunning results rivaling or surpassing pictures processed with traditional applications like Photoshop. This workshop will first explore the PI workflow then move into advanced PI techniques.

    Teacher, writer and astrophotographer, Ron was an early CCD evangelist who left his successful career as a Seattle-based software designer to became one of the hobby's leading experts.

    Published in 2002, Ron's seminal book, The New CCD Astronomy, is considered the hobby's bible by many enthusiasts. Between it's covers, Ron discusses virtually every aspect a budding astrophotographer needs to know- from telescope, mount and camera selection to in depth image processing tutorials. Although now out of print and only available through second hand sources, this tome continues to offer relevant information and has been responsible for providing the confidence many needed to embark on personal voyages of discovery only accessible with an astronomical camera.

    His follow-up manual, written in association with AIC's 2010 Hubble recipient, Russ Croman, The NewAstro Zone System for Astro Imaging picked up where the first book ended. It offered advanced processing techniques based on a ground breaking concept that identified three fundamental histogram regions, or zones.

    Many of today's best imagers owe their humble beginnings to the information Ron crammed into these books.

    Today, Ron is Director of the Tzec Maun Foundation, a non-profit organization offering students and researchers free access to a variety of high quality astronomical instruments located in New Mexico and Australia. The long anticipated centerpiece of the Foundation's optical collection will be a state of the art, one meter telescope located in a refurbished former government tracking station. Tzec Maun co-sponsors the annual award of two scholarships covering the cost of travel, lodging and registration to attend AIC for one selected student and educator.

    Ron also hosts, moderates and shepherds the discussions of the ccd-newastro list group on Yahoo. With over 4,000 members, Ron's list is one of the Internet's largest astrophotography communities.

    In 2011, Ron was the recipient of the Advanced Imaging Conference's Hubble Award.