AIC 2011 Speakers and Workshop Leaders

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

  • Adam Block
  • Dr. Steve Cannistra
  • Dr. David Martínez-Delgado
  • Dennis DiCicco
  • Bob Denny
  • Dr. Alex Filippenko
  • R. Jay GaBany
  • Dr. Don Goldman
  • Joel Hagan
  • Paul Jones
  • Peter Kalajian
  • Dr. Steve Leshin
  • Mike Rice
  • Nick Risinger
  • Dean Salman
  • Richard Simons
  • John Smith
  • Ron Wodaski

    Adam Block

    Public Observing Programs Coordinator- Mt Lemmon SkyCenter,

    ABC's of Image Processing

    Adam will strengthen fundamental processing steps of initial image reduction using CCDStack and highlight powerful ways to transition into Photoshop. In Photoshop he will explain the essential ideas of layers and masks. These, and other techniques, will be used to create an LRGB image well on its way to a polished picture.

    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.
    Dr. Steve Cannistra

    Wide Field Image Processing

    This presentation will review the basics of widefield imaging, from the aesthetics of framing the target, to the best methods for combining photon-limited subexposures. We will then review several techniques for revealing structure and detail in such images, without introducing excessive artifacts from noise or oversharpening. A combination of images, including narrowband as well as conventional RGB data, will be used to illustrate the workflow that I follow to get the most out of hard-earned, widefield data.

    Dr. Steve Cannistra has been performing deep sky imaging from a rural suburb in Rhode Island for over a decade. A native of Massachusetts where he currently lives, he travels over 50 miles to an imaging site that is reasonably dark, although still plagued with light pollution from nearby Providence, RI. A physician and cancer researcher by day, at night he enjoys tinkering with optics, computers, and setting up his portable imaging system for each session.

    He has concentrated his efforts on equipment and post-processing techniques that lend themselves to widefield and moderate focal length targets. He has published widely in the medical literature but is quick to admit that some of his proudest publications also include those involving his amateur astrophotography work. He has several APODs, has developed novel techniques such as the bicolor method using data from Ha and OIII filters, and has published several technical analyses relevant to CCD camera characteristics.

    More details may be found on Steve's website at
    Dr. David Martínez-Delgado
    Astrophysicist- Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg

    Stellar Streams

    An international team of astronomers, led by Dr. David Martinez-Delgado,has identified enormous star streams on the periphery of nearby spiral galaxies and, for the first time, obtained deep images of galactic cannibalism- a process also believed to be occurring between the Milky Way and the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy.

    The team was joined by amateur astrophotographers who were responsible for obtaining the images that detected the streams. The collaboration demonstrates the potential for twenty-first century amateurs, armed with the latest technology, to participate in competitive international scientific projects.

    This presentation will provide an update on the team's progress.

    Dr. David Martínez-Delgado (Cordoba, 1970) is the principal investigator of the Stellar Tidal Stream Survey at the Max-Planck Institut fur Astronomie (Heidelberg). For the past several years, he has focused his attention on the tidal destruction of dwarf galaxies in the halos of the Milky Way and other nearby spiral galaxies.

    In particular, he has searched and characterized the Sagittarius tidal stream and studied this satellite interaction with our Galaxy using theoretical simulations. His main accomplishments include the discovery of a tidal tail in the Ursa Minor satellite galaxy, the detection of the Sagittarius North stream, the association of the Palomar twelve globular cluster with the Sagittarius stream, his study of the Monoceros tidal stream, the nature of Canis Major galaxy and his participation in the discovery of three new dwarf galaxies in the Local Group.

    Dr. Martínez-Delgado has published more than sixty refereed papers in professional scientific journals and magazines. He has also given presenations at several international conferences and organized international scientific meetings on the topic including the 2008 Canary Island Winter of Astrophysics.

    Currently, he is leading a project devoted to the search for stellar fossils of dwarf galaxy accretion around nearby spiral galaxies in collaboration with a team of American astrophotographers. He also has a large number of international collaborations with leading groups in Europe and USA.

    David has a long experience in the production and interpretation of precision photometric data and the study of stellar populations in the galactic Local Group using synthetic color-magnitude diagrams (Martínez-Delgado, PhD thesis 1999, awarded with a recognition by the Universidad de La Laguna).

    Dr. Martínez-Delgado in an expert observer and has participated in a large number of observation campaigns at the Roque de los Muchachos (La Palma), Calar Alto (Spain), Las Campanas (Chile), La Silla (Chile), VLT (Chile) and Paranal (Chile) observatories and with the Hubble Space Telescope.

    He was also support astronomer for two years at the Teide Observatory (Tenerife) and serves as the coordinator of Spanish Pro-Am Collaboration for the Spanish Astronomical Society since 2009.
    Dennis DiCicco
    Senior Editor- Sky & Telescope Magazine, Astrophotographer, Author, Journalist

    The Hydrogen Sky (or having fun with 6 billion pixels of light exposure)

    During the winter of 2009/2010 the speaker and his colleague, Sky & Telescope Imaging Editor, Sean Walker, undertook a deep hydrogen-alpha survey of the Milky Way from Perseus to Canis Major. After more than 120 hours of accumulated exposure and a similar amount of time processing the data, the result is an 800 megabyte mosaic spanning 85 degrees on a side, showing the sky as few have ever seen it.

    Dennis di Cicco joined the staff of Sky & Telescope in 1974, bringing with him an educational background in mechanical engineering and experience as a telescope maker, astrophotographer, and observer dating back to the early 1960s. Among his credits, he is particularly proud of his involvement with the creation of S&T's popular Test Reports and Gallery. He has also led expeditions to view solar eclipses around the globe and astrophotography workshops in Australia's Outback. His photography, well known to S&T's readers, has appeared in hundreds of books and magazines and includes the award-winning, year-long photograph of the Sun's analemma made in the late 1970s.

    Dennis started working with astronomical CCDs in 1990, and he did pioneering work in tricolor imaging. He was the principal force behind the creation of Sky Publishing's quarterly CCD Astronomy and served as its Senior Editor until the publication was folded into Sky & Telescope in early 1997.
    Bob Denny
    Founder- DC3 Dreams
    Principal Developer- ACP Observatory Control

    The Next Generation of Observatory Automation

    If you have an observatory that can be automated, you probably already know that you can get more sleep by setting up your night's observing ahead of time, then sleeping while your raw data is acquired. What if you could just request the objects, and the images you want for each, without worrying about timing? And what if you could make such requests months into the future? Imagine if your observatory could run itself day after day, imaging when the weather is "good enough", pausing for poor skies that may only last an hour or two, and grabbing images when the opportunity presents itself, all without you being involved. Now add the possibility of conducting scientific observations, time series, monitoring of stars, along with your astro-imaging activities. You set up the "what" and "under what conditions", and the rest is done for you.

    In addition to covering dispatch-scheduled observing, Bob will also reveal the first details of a project that DC-3 Dreams is working on to support collaborative astronomy.

    Bob Denny has been involved full time for over ten years developing new- generation astronomy software, focusing on astronomy automation as well as remote observatory operation through a web browser (for which automation is a prerequisite). He is also the originator and still a primary evangelist for the ASCOM Initiative, which has freed astronomy software developers from having to write low-level control code for the myriad of computer-controllable astronomy instruments and devices that have appeared in recent years.

    Bob is quick to say that he is not an astronomer; he is an engineer and software designer. However he has a thorough knowledge of the needs of both science and art astronomers and their technologies. Software has been his real love for most of his life, having written his first program in 1963. Since then he has worked on a wide range of machines using a wide variety of languages. In addition, he is an expert with the latest web technologies and browser-based scripting in Java script.

    In the past, Bob has worked as a broadcast television engineer (while attending University), ten years in aerospace engineering and flight test, consulting for EMM and Xerox on special projects, then founding and operating a medium sized software business as CEO for fourteen years. Following that, he developed the first web server on Windows, made Visual Basic a web back-end programming language, and created the first Java based web server back-end.

    Bob holds a BSEE from the University of Arizona, an FAA pilot's license with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and numerous certifications related to his volunteer law enforcement work with the Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff's Office. Bob is enthusiastic about almost everything!
    Dr. Alex Filippenko
    Professor of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley

    Hearts of Darkness -- Black Holes in Space

    Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape! No longer confined to the fertile imaginations of science-fiction writers and theoretical physicists, numerous black holes have recently been discovered by observational astronomers. Stellar-mass black holes can form during the deaths of some types of massive stars, and supermassive black holes are found at the centers of galaxies. Come learn about the remarkable properties of these bizarre objects.

    Alex Filippenko received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Caltech in 1984 and joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1986, where he is currently the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences.

    Elected to the National Academy of Sciences and one of the world's most highly cited astronomers, he has coauthored more than 670 scientific publications and is the recipient of numerous prizes for his research. He was a member of both teams that discovered the accelerating expansion of the Universe, voted the "Top Science Breakthrough of 1998" by Science magazine.

    Voted the "best professor" on the UC Berkeley campus eight times, and winner of the ASP's 2010 Richard H. Emmons Award for undergraduate teaching, he was also named the Carnegie/CASE National Professor of the Year in 2006 among doctoral institutions. He has appeared in numerous television documentaries, coauthored an award-winning textbook, and produced five astronomy DVD courses with The Teaching Company (including a 12-lecture course on black holes, chock full of information).
    R. Jay GaBany

    Awakening Your Astronomical Images

    This workshop will discuss and demonstrate simple techniques that will help improve the dramatic impact and increase the interest of both new and previously completed images.

    R. Jay GaBany is a San Francisco, California Bay Area astrophotographer whose home is in San Jose. Jay's interest in astronomy began at a very young age when he watched Sputnik pass overhead while perched on his father's shoulders. An active visual observer for over thirty years, Jay traded his oculars for a CCD camera shortly following the turn of the 21st century.

    His initial attempts at imaging from a light polluted backyard were abandoned in favor of a remotely controlled observatory situated high in the south central mountains of New Mexico under pristine, clear, dark skies. For the past several years, Jay has been collaborating with an international team of professional astronomers, led by Dr. David Martínez-Delgado (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy), in search of stellar streams around nearby galaxies in addition to producing interesting deep sky images of familiar subjects.

    GaBany is a member of the Board of Directors for the annual Advanced Imaging Conference and a former member of the Kitt Peak Visitor Center Advisory Board. He has presented to American and European audiences, been interviewed on live radio, written almost fifty articles for the daily web magazine/blog called Universe Today, been featured in Wired and Discover magazine articles and received an award from the industry's leading astronomical camera manufacturer, SBIG. Over 90% of his astronomical images have been published in leading domestic and international magazines, books and television productions.

    In 2011, Jay was awarded the 2010 American Astronomical Society (AAS) Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award for his ongoing contributions to an international team of professional astronomers.

    Visit Jay's website: Cosmotography
    Dr. Don Goldman, Ph.D.
    Astrophotographer, Founder- Astrodon Astronomy Filters

    Narrowband Filter Selection and Image Processing

    This 90 minute workshop will cover narrowband filters, filter selection and imaging processing. Image processing will include using the clipping layer mask method to construct a narrwoband image with H-a, SII, and OIII filters. Emphasis will be placed on creating a 3D-feel using mutliple high-pass filters, showing how easy it is to convert from the Hubble color palette to a more "natural look", and adding natural looking stars from short RGB data.

    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 regarding mineralogy and glass research ,is a regular speaker at popular national astronomy conferences, has published two articles in Sky and Telescope, received the 2009 Clyde Tombaugh award from Riverside Telescope Makers Conference and is a member of AAVSO and SAS.
    Joel Hagan
    Professor- Computer Graphics, Modesto Junior College

    Photoshop Tips from a NASA image processor

    Joel will demonstrate a few quick tips and techniques in PhotoShop that would be of general interest to the AIC community.

    Joel Hagen is a computer graphics instructor at Modesto Junior College. For many years he has worked with NASA Ames processing images for their science teams on the Pathfinder, MER and Phoenix Mars missions. Joel also designs extra-terrestrial life forms and biomes for television. His work has appeared on PBS, BBC, NHK in Japan, Discovery and National Geographic channels. Joel is an award-winning artist and animator and one of the founding members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. His paintings have hung in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum and the Gagarin Center in Moscow.
    Paul Jones
    Founder- Star Instruments, Optician

    Interpreting Interferograms and Collimating Ritchey-Chrétien Optics (with Richard Simons)

    Paul Jones of Star Instruments will explain how to interpret interferometric test data and how to achieve optimum collimation of Ritchey-Chrétien telescope optical systems.

    Paul’s interest in astronomy dates back to junior high school in Denver, Colorado where his parents purchased a 3" Newtonian telescope as a Christmas present. The family moved to Boulder, Colorado where he and his high school friends spent many hours observing through a 10" Cave Newtonian telescope at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Astronomy Department. During this time he tried to grind his own 8" mirror and it was finally completed in 1976 by Cave Optical in Long Beach, California.

    Star Instruments was established by Paul Jones in 1976 in Irvine, California, primarily supplying setting circles to Edmund Scientific, Cave Optical and Star-Liner and fabricating 8" Newtonian primary mirrors for Edmund Scientific. Paul took a class in optical fabrication offered through the California Department of Education’s Regional Occupational Center in Anaheim and ending up teaching the class! Paul briefly worked for Perkin-Elmer Inc. in Costa Mesa, California and Celestron International in Torrance, California that afforded him invaluable experience in testing and fabrication of professional telescope optical systems. In 1980 Star Instruments relocated to the dark skies of Flagstaff, Arizona and in 2006, relocated to Newnan, Georgia, 30 miles southwest of Atlanta.

    Star Instruments is the leading manufacturer of Ritchey-Chrétien optics. Customers include manufacturers of quality tube assemblies and complete telescopes, universities, government agencies including NASA, aerospace companies and discriminating amateur astronomers throughout the world.
    Peter Kalajian
    Educator, Astrophotographer, Founder- Alnitak Astrosystems

    Taking the Mystery out of Flat Fielding

    Flat fielding is an indispensable calibration step, but much misunderstood by the imaging community. Pete has investigated the topic extensively as part of his work to develop a line of electroluminescent panels for flat fielding. His talk will delve into the details of flat fielding, with some basic mathematical background, as well as practical tips for getting good flats.

    Pete is an avid amateur astronomer and astro-imager who is also a science teacher at a local small high-school. He has a Master’s degree in Astronomy from the Swinburne Astronomy Online program. Pete graduated from Cornell University in 1981 with an electrical engineering degree, but has since sworn off electrons for mechanical design. He’s much happier drawing in 3-D space than looking at schematics. He did all the mechanical design for Alnitak Astrosystems electroluminescent panel products. An avid amateur telescope maker, Pete’s bowling ball telescope won a first place in the special category in 2006 at Stellafane Convention. He is interested in spectroscopy and photometry.
    Dr. Steve Leshin

    Image Processing with PixInsight

    This will be a "How to" workshop focusing on PixInsight(PI) basics. Geared towards new users and those unfamiliar with the software, the unique and powerful features of the user interface will be explored. PI's image processing tools will be demonstrated as we go thought a processing work flow. The goal of the workshop is to help shorten the learning curve and get you more comfortable using PI to process your images. If you are new to PI and want to become more familiar with the software before attending the workshop, check out the excellent video tutorials by Harry Page on his web site at:

    Steve was born and raised in Chicago, Il. As a cardiologist, he settled in Phoenix, Az where he enjoyed a rewarding career in private practice. Now retired, Steve lives in Sedona, Az where he feasts on gorgeous Red Rock vistas during the day and legendary Arizona skies at night. While visual astronomy has been a lifelong interest, Steve became involved with astrophotography only recently. He has an observatory in his home where he images through a RCOS 14.5" reflector and a TEC 140 refractor. Steve's images have been featured on APOD as well as in the inaugural issue of The PixInsight Magazine.

    Visit Steve's website at : Stargazer Observatory
    Mike Rice
    Founder, Proprietor- New Mexico Skies

    The "Hands On" Challenges Of Building And Operating An Imaging Observatory and How To Deal With Them

    Mike will discuss solutions for both on-site (backyard) and remote observatories. The workshop will include significant interaction with the audience to answer challenges they are having with their own projects, interesting anecdotes and "best practices".

    Other topics include:
    • Mount adjustment, repair and regular maintenance
    • Optics care and cleaning
    • Collimation and other optical challenges
    • Statistical modeling (TPoint, etc) Myths and truths about model building
    • Automation Software--how to image and sleep too

    Mikes first telescope, circa 1953, was a homebuilt 6" Newt on a plumbing GEM. He claims it was the last mirror he would ever grind.

    His first serious astro image was Comet West, in 1976, produced on film emulsion through a homebuilt telescope

    Mike's first serious CCD imaging in the early 1990s, using a home made cameras, includined three variations of Richard Berry's Cookbook Camera.

    His first remote observatory, in 1993, was located at Susitna Lake Alaska, about 60 miles from power and telephone lines...It was controled by Ham Radio over the highest mountains in North America. During this time, he conducted extensive testing on Bisque GT1100 Paramount serial No. 1 This venture gave him a real appreciation for the challenges of remote imaging in the remote tundra of Alaska.

    Mike and his wife, Lynn, established New Mexico Skies Guest Observatory in 1998 in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. It started as a "guest" observatory where visitors could use state of the art astro equipment with instructional help. Their business model has changed over the years. Now the primary focus is on hosting remote observatories in the wonderfully dark and clear skies of Southern New Mexico. New Mexico Skies has become a fabulous laboratory for developing "best practices" in the design, construction, maintenance and use of remote observatories. In 2007 opened Fair Dinkum Skies observatory in Australia to host lower hemisphere remote observatories.

    New Mexiso Skies (and Fair Dinkum SKies) hosted observatories have collected more then 80 APODs, discovered thousands of minor planets, discovered comets (including this years Comet Elenin), Super Novas and most recently exo-planets. Their users include Cal Tech, NASA, Rob Gendler, SSRO and other world class imagers. New Mexico Skies has more than 40 observatories under host management and a staff of 5 full-time techs.

    If there is a maintenance problem or operating challenge for small telescopes (under 1 meter) that Mike and his team haven't seen and cured, it would be a major surprise.
    Nick Risinger

    The Night Sky in 37,440 Exposures

    Nick will discuss his internationally acclaimed Photopic Sky Survey project.

    Nick Risinger, a Seattle-based marketing director, began with a simple question, "What's in the night sky?". To get his answer, Nick quit his marketing job, enlisted the help of his father and brother and over the course of a year captured over 37 thousand images from North America and South Africa. Then he painstakingly stitched each one to produce The Photopic Sky Survey, a jaw dropping, seamless, deep 5 gigapixel mosaic image spanning the entire sky.
    Dean Salman

    Processing Tips Learned from the Sharpless Catalog Project

    Dean's talk will cover some of the processing tips that he has used during creation of the Sharpless objects for his project. Some of the areas covered will be colorizing the image when there is very little color to work with within the nebula. Some tips in Photoshop he has used will also be covered.

    Dean started photography of the night sky in 1972 mainly with black and white film. In 2001, he switched over to CCD Imaging using both conventional color filters and narrowband filters. He has had a number of images published in magazines, books, and journals around the world. He currently operates an Intes MakNewt 8 inch F/4 astrograph and a 14 inch F/5.5 reflector. His camera is the QSI 583 WSG CCD Camera guiding with a Starlight Lodestar auto guider. The telescope is operated remotely at San Pedro Valley Observatory in Benson, Arizona.

    Visit Dean's website at: CCD Images of the Sharpless Catalog
    Richard Simons
    Founder - Deep Sky Instruments

    Interpreting Interferograms and Collimating Ritchey-Chrétien Optics (with Paul Jones)

    Rich Simons of Deep Sky Instruments will explain how to achieve optimum collimation of a Ritchey-Chrétien telescope optical systems.

    Rich became interested in astronomy and amateur telescope making at the hand of his father, an amateur astronomer interested in solar eclipses and planetary observations. In March of 1970, the family headed from their home in Atlanta, Georgia to Marion, South Carolina to escape bad weather and hopefully view a total eclipse of the Sun. Armed with a Tasco four and one-half inch Newtonian telescope and a home-built projection screen, Rich witnessed his first total eclipse. Later in his teens, Rich would attend Camp Uraniborg in the summers of 1972 and 1973 along with such notable personalities as Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    Rich went on to get an advanced degree in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. His professional endeavours in datacomm and telecomm left little time for astronomy. Then in 2006, Rich met Paul Jones of Star Instruments who had moved from Flagstaff, Arizona to Newnan, Georgia. With a natural interest in telescope making and ready for a change, Deep Sky Instruments was created with the goal of producing professional grade astrographs at affordable prices. Deep Sky Instruments produces a ten inch and a fourteen and one-half inch Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph with integrated field flattener.
    John Smith
    CCDWare, Ltd.

    Complete Image Acquisition Automation with CCDAutoPilot

    This workshop will introduce the new features and functions of CCDAutoPilot Version 5, which was rewritten for ease of use, flexibility and power. We will discuss concurrent editing, new session management interfaces, goal oriented imaging with data quality assessment and tools to make your automated imaging run more productive and successful.

    Born in Philadelphia, John Smith spent most of his career in the northeastern US. With degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering, John worked in many aspects of science and technology, eventually ending as a senior executive in a high technology company. Moving to a comfortable Arizona retirement, his time soon became filled with hobbies like astronomy, computers and photography. So, becoming involved in astrophotography became somewhat inevitable.

    John has published many papers on his web site,, regarding image acquisition and noise considerations. Many of his images have been reproduced in both US and international publications. He consults on observatory design and has installed more than twenty systems throughout the United States for both private and academic customers.

    John is the co-founder of CCDWare and author of CCDAuto Pilot.
    Ron Wodaski
    Director- Tzec Maun Foundation, Astrophotographer, Author
    2011 AIC Hubble Award Recipient

    The 2011 Hubble Lecture: Cosmic Wonder

    Every astrophotographer starts with the same basic equipment: a pair of eyes, a dark sky, and a sense of wonder. Gradually or all at once, hardware starts showing up. But the sense of wonder about what's out there is insatiable.

    Without hardware, without a sharp drive to know, without skill and determination and a crazy huge lump of stick-to-it'veness, we're alone against the cosmos on the nights when we image. Often without even meeting each other, we find ways to bootstrap each other toward that perfect image in forums and groups and conferences. Consider this my contribution to sharing knowledge about finding 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.

    Ron Wodaski got his start in astrophotography in the 90s. When he couldn't find the book he was looking for to explain how to do it, he wrote one out of desperation, assuming that if he needed help, so did everyone else. One day, out of the blue, he was offered the job of running the Tzec Maun Foundation by a reader of one of those books, and he said yes. Today, the Foundation offers free telescopes via the internet to students all over the world.