Astronomical Image Processing Software

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picture might be worth a thousand words, but if it is impossi-

ble to clearly see what is trying to be communicated, then the vocabulary might be insufficient. While astronomical image processing software might seem to be strictly in the domain of those fortunate enough to have a CCD camera, in fact there are many uses for such software. For example, a broad selection of CD-ROMs containing raw image data from the Voyager flights through the outer Solar System are available, and image processing software can reveal an absolute wealth of information and allow even the novice to view previously unpublished images from this material. Other sources of raw astronomical image data exist on the Internet, and this material can be analyzed and processed by anyone willing to take the time to download the material. While several of the "Swiss Army Knife" planetarium software programs include limited image processing facilities, none offer the depth of features and capabilities of the stand-alone applications discussed here.

AstroArt (Fabio Cavicchio, [email protected], http://www.sira.it/ msb/Astro_en.htm) is a relatively new image-processing and analysis application for Windows 95, 98, and NT systems. One of its really nice features is the incorporation of the GSC catalog so that it is possible to perform astrometric and photometric calibration of images (Figure 14.16). AstroArt supports both the 8- and 16-bit FITS file formats produced by commercial CCD cameras and can import generic file formats of up to 4,000 by 4,000 pixels. A wide range of preprocessing and postprocessing filters are available for getting the most from an image, and a customizable macro function simplifies repetition of complex tasks. AstroArt also includes tricolor imaging capabilities, and it can be used as a blink compari-tor to quickly shift back and forth between two images to look for

FIGURE 14.16 Identifying M57 and nearby stars in a CCD image using AstroArt

moving or changed objects. The full feature set is listed at the AstroArt Web site, and a demo version is available.

CCDSoft (Software Bisque, 303/278-4478, http://www. bisque.com), formerly known as SkyPro, combines both CCD camera control functions and astronomical image processing functions in one application. CCDSoft has virtually every feature you could imagine in such an image processing application, and then some (Figure 14.17). You can use CCDSoft in combination with TheSky (described earlier in this chapter) to control both CCD cameras and computer-driven telescopes—a powerful combination for the advanced amateur astronomer. Another great feature for those having both these applications is the ability to use TheSky in tandem with CCDSoft to easily identify celestial objects in your CCD images. CCDSoft lets you control everything from your CCD camera's focus to its resolution and temperature. The pre- and post-image processing functions are easily the most complete available in any astronomical image processing software targeted for the amateur market. For a full listing of the features of CCDSoft, check the Software Bisque Web site. If you're serious about astronomical imaging, this is one application you should investigate.

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