Processing the Video

Two programs are available to the observer for the processing of webcam AVI files. Registax Version 2 (soon Version 3) and K3CCDTools are the primary programs I use for the processing of webcam images. Both are available free of charge for download.

While both programs offer many features, I would recommend Registax to the newcomer, as its user interface is easier to get to grips with and it offers a wide range of processing features in Version 2. All of my own images presented here were processed primarily with this program.

First, when the AVI has been loaded into Registax, you must sort through all the frames and select the best frame (least distorted by the seeing) as a reference. The program will then sort through all the frames and grade their quality. Before clicking to align the frames, it is important that the correct program settings are used, as indicated in Figure 7.6.

Figure 7.6. The two initial processing screens of Registax. It is essential that both the FFT filter (blue line) and the quality filter (green lines) are set to optimum values.
Figure 7.7. The final master raw image before and after enhancement using the wavelet sharpening routines in Registax.

Once the program has aligned all the frames, you are ready for it to average the raw frames into a final composite image. Typically anywhere between ~50 frames for the Moon to more than 1000 frames for Saturn will be used during this stage to create a final master raw image that can then be sharpened. When the stacking stage is complete, you will be left with a much smoother (though still rather blurry) master raw image. You can then use the wavelet sharpening tools in Registax to enhance the image further (see Figure 7.7). Caution must be exercised here, as it is very easy to get carried away and oversharpen the image (a very common occurrence among amateur astro-imagers). If the image doesn't respond well to sharpening, the data are not good enough and you must try again on a better night. No amount of post-processing will make up for mediocre raw data, so attention must be paid to previous stages!

Once processed, one must label the image with the appropriate data (such as date/time/telescope/seeing). Once completed, it is well worth submitting the images obtained to organizations that run planetary observing programs, such as the BAA and ALPO. Large amounts of data are collected from amateur work today, and with the resolutions now being obtained, it has become possible to follow the activity of planets such as Mars and Jupiter in tremendous detail, producing work valuable to professional researchers.

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