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Software and Tips for Astrophotography? 18

Neotrantor asks: "I'm a college student in an advanced astronomy class and i need to find out how nasa compiles all their little pictures into those big pretty ones like the hubble deep field. does anyone know what software they use or where i could find it. furthermore, is it an operation that any kind of workstation (sparc, alpha, x86, g4) when left on and trashing for a while, could get the job done?" As I understand it, Picture Window (and the Professional version) have become valued tools in the amateur astrophotography world, what other pieces of software would aspiring Astrophotographers find useful in their toolkits? What other tips and trickscan you use to produce stunning visuals of the sky?
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Software and Tips for Astrophotography?

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  • IRAF (Score:3, Informative)

    by RCO ( 597148 ) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @10:48AM (#4373482) Journal
    We always used IRAF for analyzing the images that we had. It would allow you to put different filters etc. on the images, and overlay them but I couldn't tell you what it is capable of at this point. IRAF runs under various UNIX flavours, but I don't think there is a version for windows at this point. You can look at this site for more information; tml

  • TIps. (Score:1, Funny)

    1Take off lens cap.
    2 Point camera up.
    3 Big profits!!!
  • by mockojumbie ( 303033 ) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @11:31AM (#4373750) Homepage
    NASA's main software page: []

    QCUIAG has links to some excellent software, some free, some not: [] []

    A new method used by STSI and others: []

    A HUGE collection of links: []

    My own astro pages 8^) []
  • IDL (Score:4, Informative)

    by teridon ( 139550 ) on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @11:35AM (#4373769) Homepage
    I'm not an astronomer, but I sit near some! :)

    AFAICT, serious image manipulation/analyzation is done with IDL. Check out The IDL Astronomy User's Library [].

  • I don't know what NASA uses to compile those images, but I do know that the GIMP can read and write FITS, the standard format for astronomical images. Many of the Hubble images, in FITS format, are available from the links listed in the other posts.

    For amateur astrophotography, some of which rivals the NASA shots, much of the image processing is done with Photoshop. Most of the tools used to process those images are also available in the GIMP.
  • by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Wednesday October 02, 2002 @11:57AM (#4373932) Homepage Journal
    The deep field is a single image, it was not compiled from smaller ones.

    The stealth bomber shape of the picture is the actual shape of the CCD that took the photos. That chip was replaced in the last servicing mission, so they'll not be batwing shaped in the future.
  • Sweetcode has an entry for some *fantastic* tools, one of which is the Panorama Tools set available here:

    Looks like it might do the job ...
  • On a related topic, I'm wondering what do you
    people use for image stitching?

    Image stitching is taking a bunch of low-res
    images from, say small cam and aligning them
    automatically to produce large hi-res image.
    Good program would have to compensate for lens
    distortion and tries to balance color between
    different sub-images.

    There are Panotools which is GPLed but I've
    never made it to work for me (I just need to
    stitch one image every two months :) ), another
    one is PanaVue, commercial Windows-only SW
    available as shareware (but adds nasty logos
    all over if free as beer version is used).

    Any other suggestions/projects? (this is that
    time in 2-month cycle when I need it...)

    Paul B.
    • I'd second the use of panotools [] for stitching images together (website currently down). I couldn't immediately get it to work on Linux, but had it running on Windows without problems.

      It does all sorts of lens corrections, as well as full translation/rotation and transforms between different projections, so you can get the alignment pretty accurate. It also has an 'almost perfect' sinc function interpolator.
  • What you probably want to do is combine lots of images one on top of another to increase the signal to noise ratio.
    I doubt that your problem is that the field of view is too narrow. The reason people use bigger telescopes is to get a wider aperture not a longer focal length.

    A recent Slashdot story [] has a lot of links to information you are looking for.
  • I'm an X-ray astronomer. Optical astronomers often use IRAF to create the images, but other software like GAIA can be used. SAO's ds9 and saoimage can be used to view the data. Professional astronomers normally use the FITS format to store observational astronomical data.

    I personally (after using CIAO to make the basic images from my X-ray data) combine them using Gimp (it reads FITS files) and then use it to manipulate the colours.

    Sorry for the lack of links. Google will find most of those.

  • I listen in on the Java Advanced Imaging discussion list and there are regularly posts from Bob Dean of JPL. It really sounds like they rely on the JAI package for much of their programatic image processing.

    Sun has a story about the JPL's use of JAI here: ti on/jpl.html
  • During my Astrophysics degree, we used the Starlink [] software suite, it comprises numerous data-reduction and analysis tools, and is freely available. It is used by a large proportion of UK academic institutions.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!