President’s Message – September 2006

Posted On September 1, 2006

By Barbara Toy

September used to be the month when everybody started a new school year – I guess it still is for a lot of people, but there seem to be more students all the time who start their school year in August, and there are those year-round schools that have their school years starting in different months for different groups of students…for us old-timers, though, “September” and “start of the school year” are almost synonymous. And I seem to recall too many years when the start of the school year also coincided with a major heat spell. Given that we’ve had so much heat this summer, I’m sure I’m not the only one who won’t feel deprived if we skip our usual heat spell in September or October – though my real wish is that we make up for all those cloudy skies during the summer monsoons by having clear, dark, mild nights for the next several months, at least around the new moon weekends.

We Really Do Need a Refreshment Person for the General Meetings…

As I said last month, Leonard Stein has asked for help with the refreshments for the general meetings each month. When he first talked to me about it, he mentioned that carrying the coffee urns when they were full of water from where he had to fill them was becoming too much for him physically. At that point, he thought he would be able to continue helping out regularly, but couldn’t continue doing the entire job alone. Since then, however, he has found that he will have to bow out of the position of Refreshment Person more completely, much to his regret.

So, we now have an urgent need for a new Refreshment Person – someone to bring the donuts, soft drinks and ice, make the coffee, collect the money paid for donuts and drinks, monitor the refreshment area during the general meetings, and clean up afterwards. Whoever takes this on doesn’t need to do it alone – it’s perfectly acceptable to recruit help, and having a team deal with refreshments would make it easier to have backup when the primary person isn’t available for a particular meeting. It’s a great position for meeting fellow club members – almost everyone at the meetings makes it to the refreshment area at some point during the meeting.

Leonard has done a great job with the refreshments for the last few years, and we will truly miss him in that position. He’ll be available to help whoever follows him learn the ropes and to make the transition a smooth one. Knowing his generous spirit, I expect he’ll continue to help out to the extent his health allows.

If you’re a regular at our general meetings, you know what an addition the refreshments are to the festivities. Please consider stepping forward so we can continue to have refreshments regularly available at the meetings – believe me, your fellow club members will be very grateful!

AstroImage 2006

For those who weren’t able to come to our AstroImage 2006 conference in August, it was a great success. We had an unexpectedly large number of walk-in registrations, which brought our total number of registrants above 90 – with our sponsors/vendors, speakers and volunteers, I think we had around 120 people total. Everyone I talked to was very enthusiastic about the talks and said they learned a lot, and I saw a lot of animated discussions going on during all of the breaks

The major question for me as the event approached and we had a better idea of how many people were coming was – how much would all these people eat? Lunch and dinner on Saturday were pretty easy, as I just had to give the correct numbers to the caterer. But I also had to come up with appropriate food and drinks for the reception Friday night, for the early morning and midmorning breaks Saturday morning, and the break Saturday afternoon, and estimating the needs proved to be more of an art than a science. Coffee was a “must” and the club’s coffee urns were in constant service during the entire conference (we had decaf, too, but most people wanted the “high octane” brew. I guess it wasn’t just planning committee members who were short of sleep that weekend!). Water, it turned out, was also a “must,” even though it was a lot cooler the weekend of the conference than it was two or three weeks earlier. Then there were soft drinks and snacks, including some reasonably healthy vegetables and fruit that proved to be refreshingly popular, though the cookies, donuts, crackers, cheese and nuts also vanished with reasonable speed.

Not that I mean imply that the most important aspect of the conference was the food. There was a lot going on Friday night and all of Saturday, as we had the reception and two classes Friday night, talks all day Saturday along with vendor displays, the print gallery, the electronic image gallery, exemplar equipment displays, a nice, very tasty catered dinner in the evening for those who signed up for it in advance, and the keynote talk by Tony Hallas Saturday night, ending with the raffle for the door prizes. Fortunately, we were able to break up responsibility for various areas between planning committee members, which was why my particular part of the conference was focused on the refreshments and related matters. Dave Kodama was the person mainly responsible for the speakers and the electronic gallery (along with the conference pages on the club website, the conference programs, and the Proceedings CD), Garth Buckles worked with the sponsors and moderated events in the theater, Jim Windlinger took care of the print gallery and the astrowear, and Tom Kucharski helped Liam Kennedy and the other video volunteers with the videotaping and web streaming of the conference and was our liaison with Palomar for the Palomar tour on Sunday as well as one of the docents who assisted with the tour. Charlie Oostdyk, the club treasurer, was essentially an ex officio member of the planning committee, and handled registration, production of the nametags, sales of the extra shirts and other astrowear, and other financial and administrative aspects of the event.

I’m told that the talks all were excellent – unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend many of them myself, though I did make it to Chris Butler’s entire talk, which provided a nice finish to the series of talks during the day. As always, he was entertaining and informative, and he made a lot of good points about the artistic aspects of what photographers, including astroimagers, do in producing their images. I was only able to see parts of some of the other talks – I’m really looking forward to seeing them on the video CD when it’s available!

Speaking of which – if you have any interest in imaging at all, especially if you weren’t able to attend the conference in person, you should order a copy of the video CD and the CD of the proceedings, both of which should be available shortly (and the copies may already have been delivered to Charlie by the time you see this). The Proceedings CD will have all of the notes and other information provided by the speakers, and the video CD will have video of all of the Saturday talks, including the keynote talk Saturday night on preparing images for printing, Alan Smallbone’s beginners’ session from Friday night (which covered the basics and included using DSLR cameras and lower-cost cameras such as Meade’s DSI, the Orion Starshoot, and others), and (I believe) the advanced Photoshop session with Tony Hallas from Friday night. Besides Tony Hallas and Chris Butler, our speakers were John Laborde on creating mosaics from multiple images, Ron Dantowitz on video astrophotography, Rob Gendler on hybrid imaging (such as combining images taken at different focal lengths or with different telescopes), Robert Reeves on webcam imaging (which, from the portion I saw, included some very interesting sequences that demonstrated the capabilities of the technology even if they weren’t strictly astronomical), and Chuck Vaughn on going digital from the perspective of a film photographer – as you can see, it was quite a varied program that provided a lot of good information, and I think you’ll find the two CDs are a worthwhile investment.

You can order the two conference CDs for 2006 (as well as the conference CDs from 2004 and 2002) through our website, though orders received after August 31, 2006, will be limited to stock on hand. The URL for the webpage for orders is: /astroimage/2006/reg/index.asp.

Our Sponsors

Not too surprisingly, the costs to do this conference went up since 2004, and we had some new costs this time, such as the cost of the second room we needed Friday night so we could have two presentations simultaneously, one for beginners and one for more advanced imagers. Although the increased costs meant that we had to raise the registration fees this year, we were able to keep them significantly lower than other comparable events (such as the one that was going on the same weekend back east), thanks to our sponsors.

Due to the efforts of Garth and others, we had some new sponsors this year (Quantum Scientific Imaging, Yankee Robotics and Diffraction Limited), and we were also glad to welcome back our past sponsors (Hutech Astronomical Products, Oceanside Photo and Telescope, Advanced Telescope Systems, SoCalAstro and Western Amateur Astronomers). I noticed that those who had booths at this conference were kept very busy during all of the breaks, and there were even people who took a few minutes out from one of the talks to visit the sponsor booths when they wouldn’t have to contend with crowds of other people.

I’d like to introduce you to our 2006 sponsors, and I hope you’ll help show our club’s appreciation for their help by looking into their products whenever you’re thinking of buying something in their area:

Universal Sponsor:

Quantum Scientific Imaging (QSI) [website:]. QSI is a new company, but it has people with many years of experience working with CCD technology who want to use that expertise to build high quality CCD cameras for astronomical use; to quote from their website: “The QSI 500 Series is a new generation of medium format, thermo electrically cooled CCD cameras designed to produce high quality images with extremely wide dynamic range, excellent linearity and very low noise. Five different models are available employing a comprehensive range of scientific grade CCDs.” We are delighted that they chose our conference to debut their new line of cameras, especially as QSI is centered in Orange County, and they definitely attracted a lot of attention from the conference attendees! If all goes as planned, they will be able to start shipping their cameras around October – we’re all looking forward to seeing what kinds of images people will get from these new cameras!

Galactic Sponsors:

Hutech Astronomical Products (Astro Hutech) [website:]. Ted and Mia Ishikawa of Astro Hutech have been long-time supporters of our club’s imaging conferences and other activities, and many regulars at Anza are familiar with Ted’s setup in the Lower Pad area and use the fact that he’s out there as a chance to see some of Hutech’s equipment in action. If you see club members with Borg telescopes and associated equipment, chances are excellent that they came from Hutech. I’m told by those who have them that one unique aspect of the Borg telescopes is the many connectors and other parts available that allow them to be easily adapted for use with a lot of different cameras and other equipment. The company has a lot of other interesting products, as you can see by cruising its website. Besides being a Galactic sponsor, Hutech generously donated a 77ED OTA as the grand prize among the door prizes for the conference – it was won by Alan Smallbone, who, as I write this, has already tried it out in a successful imaging session at Anza and is looking forward to using it again at the second August star party.

Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) [website:]. OPT, supplier of a full range of telescopes and other astronomical gear from a lot of different manufacturers, is another long-time supporter of our club’s activities, and we really appreciate their regular participation in these events. A lot of us have spent many happy hours over the years browsing through the stock in OPT’s store (both the old, extremely overcrowded store and their great new facility), at such places as RTMC, and at our AstroImaging conferences, and talking to the very helpful people on their staff. Besides product information, their website has a lot of useful general information on using and caring for equipment and other topics of interest to amateur astronomers, and is well worth visiting. I’m told that what they brought to the conference this year included a good stock of books by several of our speakers, and that those pretty much sold out – I’m sure that there were a lot of conference attendees who were very happy to get one of those books while what that author had to say was fresh in their minds and at a time they could also get it autographed, making it a winning situation for all concerned.

Solar Sponsor:

Yankee Robotics [website:]. Yankee Robotics is the maker of the Trifid line of digital cameras – you can see their cameras and a number of images taken with different models of their cameras on their website. This is the first time that Yankee Robotics participated in our conference, and I think it was the first time many of the attendees had a chance to see the company’s cameras. This is another local company, and it’s nice to see the level of talent we have here in Orange County. From what I could see, a lot of people at the conference were pleased to have a chance to see Yankee Robotics’ products in person and to talk to people from the company face-to-face – that’s a major benefit of these kinds of conferences for both sides. I’m looking forward to seeing what club members who get these cameras can do with them – the pictures on Yankee Robotics’ website certainly look promising!

Lunar Sponsors:

Advanced Telescope Systems (ATS) [website:]. ATS, maker of portable and permanent piers, is another long-standing supporter of our club and its activities, and one particular pleasure of having them involved in AstroImage 2006 was having the chance to visit with Stephen Eubanks, who handled the ATS booth at the conference. Besides making very stable portable piers (one of which was included in the Yankee Robotics display), Steve was an OCA Board member for several years and was a very active Anza House Coordinator who left Anza House in much better repair than it was when he took on that position. Over the last year or more, he’s been kept so busy with his company that we haven’t seen much of him at club events – I’m glad to know first-hand that he’s doing well, and we’re all very grateful for the continued support he and his company provides to the club.

SocalAstro [website:]. For those who may not know him, Leon Aslan, the owner of SocalAstro, has been an active imager with the club for several years, was co-chair of our AstroImage SIG for a couple years, is a member of the club’s Board of Trustees this year, and is one of the “regulars” out at Anza. SocalAstro produces various accessories that are particularly useful for imaging, and you may have seen his rings, dovetail plates and other devices advertised on AstroMart or showing up on the equipment of fellow club members. We are very grateful for his continuing support of our AstroImage conferences, especially as he wasn’t able to attend it in person this year.

Diffraction Limited [website:]. Those who were involved with the Imaging Boot Camp a few months back may recall that the class was able to use a program free of charge for the duration of the class to capture images and do at least basic processing – that program was MaxDSLR, and the class was allowed to use it courtesy of Diffraction Limited and its president, Doug George. We were therefore doubly happy when Mr. George said that Diffraction Limited was willing to be a sponsor for AstroImage 2006 – the company’s other programs include Maxim DL, which is used by a lot of our imagers, and MaxPoint, which increases the pointing accuracy of a “goto” type telescope, and we knew there would be a lot of interest in the company’s products at the conference. Unfortunately, Mr. George wound up with a conflict, and wasn’t able to attend our conference himself after all, so we didn’t have a chance to see the programs demonstrated as we’d hoped. We have hopes for better luck next time – and, in the meantime, you can visit Diffraction Limited’s website to get a better idea of what their programs do and of their other products.

Special Sponsors:

ImageBeam [website:]. ImageBeam is the company that Liam Kennedy has been building over the last few years, doing a variety of video work for different companies and organizations, including web streaming. For those who may not be familiar with him, Liam is one of our past presidents, he was the webmaster who built our current website, and he was responsible for getting us Internet access from Anza, among his many accomplishments with the club. He worked out a way to web stream the proceedings at AstroImage 2002, but we didn’t have the necessary Internet access for that in 2004. Brea upgraded the system in the Curtis Theatre in time for the 2006 conference, and Liam was able to web stream the conference again for several people who weren’t able to attend in person. He has also handled taking and editing the video for the conferences in 2002, 2004 and 2006 – with his company, he now has professional-grade equipment that he generously made available for the conference as well as ever-increasing expertise in this kind of work, and we really appreciate his contributions to our conference.

Western Amateur Astronomers (WAA) [website:]. WAA is a regional organization of local astronomy clubs, which has hosted conferences and other events itself in the past, and we are delighted that they feel that our AstroImage conferences are worthy of their support. This is the second time WAA has been a sponsor for our conference, and I was pleased to see a number of people at the conference stop by the table where they had information about the organization available. WAA is probably best known these days for its annual G. Bruce Blair Award, given in recognition of extraordinary contributions or achievements by amateur astronomers. Our own Chris Butler was the recipient of the 2006 G. Bruce Blair Award, recognizing the variety and extent of his work in making astronomical subjects understandable to the general public, which includes his artwork, his work at Griffith Observatory and other planetariums, and his talks in many different venues on astronomical topics. Although OCA has been a long-standing member of WAA, we can’t claim any special influence in the decision on who should get this award – Chris won that well-deserved recognition by his own efforts!

In Closing

I am finishing this up just after our first Anza star party in August, which was the clearest, darkest, and had the best seeing of any Anza star party so far this summer. I am happy to report that the Kuhn telescope was running very well, and we had a lot of visitors in the observatory over the course of the evening, looking at all of the available planets (Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus; nobody seriously suggested trying for Pluto), star clusters, various nebulae and galaxies -- it was great evening, and I think everyone was sorry to waste any of it sleeping, though almost all of us did go to bed before sunrise. Hopefully, we'll have a lot more clear, dark nights like that through autumn and as we head into winter!

© Barbara Toy, August 2006