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You're two days early mate :)
talking about "photon gathering" is pretty legitimate, so long as you're shooting RAW, you're literally counting photons. For a normal daytime exposure where there are billions hitting the sensor per second, big deal. But for astrophotography where there are so far fewer, it's a pretty big deal.
Think of each photosite as a bucket. Each time a photon hits it, it fills a little more, and the recorded exposure is a little brighter for that pixel.
Electronically, each photon disrupts the electric field present on the photosite, and the amount of disruption is the # of photons, and thus exposure level.
So yes, photon gathering is something to think about indeed, you just have to be super nerdy. Not that there's anything wrong with that ;)
Nope, no idea who they even are honestly. I only found this website (which seems pretty nice) through the traffic sources function of blogspot. Seems pretty nice, like a reddit circa 2007 or something, though I don't think the format could handle getting too huge.
Author here, it's a whole shitload of work, but going through it lets you do the bigger DSOs (M42 or Andromeda for example) without spending a boatload on a mount, tele, tracker, etc.