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DSLR Photometry Software

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I'm creating a tutorial on DSLR photometry that will eventually be posted on the CitizenSky website and was wondering what software people use for DSLR/CCD photometric reductions.  I would like to compare and contract the software.  If you have a favorite reduction program, could you post it with the following information:

Product Name
Manufacturer URL
Operating System(s) on which the software runs
Cost
Features (i.e. input formats)
Your likes and dislikes.

Thanks,
Brian

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Hi Brian,As you know I'm a fan of developing my own data reductions software. I have several versions as I have found different types of photometry require different software. I use FileMaker Pro software which is a database development application. It is very powerful and has all the math functions of Excel and more. Plus it lends itself to astronomical applications nicely. I think the cost is around $250. You might be able to pick up an older version cheaper. There is a learning curve, but it is not bad. It works on Mac and Windows. I have some programs I made and would be happy to share them. Observers would need to modify the program to work for their site location, however.I also am working on a Tutorial for CCD/DSLR Photometry and should have it posted shortly.I look forward to what you comeuo with.JeffCounting PhotonsHopkins Phoenix Observatoryphxjeff@hposoft.com


From browsing the forms it appears that most people use one of the two packages:API4WIN http://www.stargazing.net/david/aip4win/MaximDL http://www.cyanogen.com/maxim_main.phpAny other options? Anything free?

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Hi!IRIS is free:http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/us/iris/iris.htmThe user interface can be counter-intuitive sometimes, but it has a very neat scripting engine that allows batch processing even for rather complex workflows.CUHeinz

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Is this tutorial for AIP4WIN already available? I have got AIP4WIN today. I have problem's getting the green channel.regards, Huberthttp://www.vvs.be/wg/wvs/

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Hi Hubert,Here is how I obtain a green channel image:1. Take images in the RAW format.2. Open AIP4WIN, select “Preferences” / “DSLR Conversion Settings”3. Choose the “No conversion” radio button.4. Select the “Save” button at the bottom. 5. Open your image.6. Select “Split Colors” / ”Color->RGB”This should produce three new images, one each in red, green and blue. Also, for some reason, I have to repeat step four above every time I open AIP4WIN.Good Luck!Tom

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Hi Tom,I do have some doubts that this works as intended, at least for the version of AIP4WIN that I'm using (2.3.0):The "no conversion" setting means that the raw image is imported as a grey-scale Bayer-image: half of the pixels encode the green channel, one fourth of them red and blue respectively.Splitting this grey scale image in three RGB channels should result in three completely identical images, because the color-splitting is unaware of the Bayer-matrix encoding of the colors in this image. When zomming in on e.g. zeta Aur, you should be able to see Bayer-matrix pattern in the supposedly green channel image. This should not wreck the photometry too much tho, but effectively you are doing photometry on the sum of Green + Green + Red + Blue Bayer-Filter images, not just the green one, if I'm correct. You can easily check my hypothesis by comparing the three RGB channel images you get after splitting: if they are identical, I'm right :-) CUHeinz

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Hello, thanks for the advice but meanwhile I have searched AIP4WIN and found it this way.I open my raw images en go to :Color -Split colors - color RGB and I get three separate images. I close all but the green one. The green one I save as FITS and use for the measurement.I hope this is the way to do it.regards, Huberthttp://www.vvs.be/wg/wvs/

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Hello Heinz,You are quite right. I did the test as you suggested and, sure enough, all three color separated images were exactly the same.I'll go back to simply color separating the raw image without using the "No conversion" setting.Thanks very much for the tip.Tom

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I am using maxIM DL 5 to process images. After calibrating with bias, dark and flats, I have the opportunity to extract the individual bayer planes. I have a few questions about that and would appreciate the comments of others. First, how can I be sure that the two planes out of 4 are actually both of the "green" filtered channels? Second, how can I be sure of the exact mapping of 1 2 3 4 to a specific color (red and blue as well as green)? Third, does it make sense to save and stack multiple "green" frames, consisting of both dual green planes from multiple DSLR images? Fourth, how "close" are the filter colors in a one shot color CCD camera (not just DSLR, but also something like Starlight Express sxhc-9c? Is the data useful for photometry? Fifth, is there a way to "calibrate" one-shot color CCD camera to be more useful photometrically?I would appreciate the thoughts of others and maybe pointers to papers that may have addressed these questions.Thanks,Randy

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Hi!I hope this is not too off-topic....1,2) Do a daylight shot with some green and red objects (say, a rose). The two layers that assign the brightest gray scale values to the green objects must be the green one, same for a red object, remaining channel must be blue ... you get the idea3) I'd say yes, combining two green channels should result in a lower SNR than taking just one. 4) one shot digital camera: should be fine, but only if the camera has all of the following features: a) a way to get a reproducible focus, or even the ability to de-focus slightly but reproducible, at night. Autofocus will not work most of the time b) raw image extraction with a color depth of 12 bit. 8 bit would be quite limiting. JPEG images are not great for photometry because the brightness values are derived in a non-linear fashion from the raw sensor input. So RAW images are a must (also to avoid the effects of "auto-Whitebalance" and other on-the-fly image manipulations by the camera. c) long time exposure : you must be able to set the exposure time to a value that will prevent saturated (burnt-out) pixels, but OTOH you want to collect enough photons to get a high SNR. 5) If all of the above conditions are met, then calibration would be exactly the same as for a DSLR (as described in this forum). Expect more noise from the smaller sensors of a one shot digicam, but the resuults should still be better than from visual observationHope this helps. If there are more questions concerning one shot digicams, I guess we should open a new thread :-)CSHeinz

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Hello Heinz, Well, I’ve gone back and tried processing my images using the different options in “DSLR Conversion Settings” but I can’t get any of them to work as well as the “No Conversion” option. I’ve attached an Excel spreadsheet, which summarizes my method and results. I think the “No conversion” option may work because I defocus my lens slightly and spread the star image over a larger number of pixels. When these images are stacked, I get a consistent sampling for each star across the entire field. As you said, I’m sampling all pixels, not just the green. This probably explains why my Transformation Coefficient (TC) is so large. I also perform a “Standard Calibration” with AIP4WIN for each set of images. Calibration is essential when using an array of stars across the field. The final magnitude for eps Aur has been in reasonable agreement with others in Jeff Hopkin’s campaign. I guess I’m not quite sure why this method is working but, so far, it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with. Tom

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eps mag 2009-11-7.xls 21.5 KB
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Hi!Indeed, the data looks rock solid to me. As strange as it may seem to do photometry on a Bayer-matrix image as with "no conversion", it does seem to work. I would expect that it works equally well, tho with a different TC, if you used a fixed whitebalance setting in the conversion dialog (e.g. red=blue=2.0) and then extracting the green channel. But if it works now...why change it?CUHeinz

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I use AstroArt 4.0 for automated data collection. I am also writing some software to try and automate more of the data reduction. The idea is to spend less time processing than I do currently. For each 'Project' (e.g. eps Aur) I would have a project entry for the ref stars and basic RA and Dec and V mag. The process will produce a list for AA4 which can be started in AA4 scope, focus and camera control software. The resulting images can then be processed using Perl and MySQL to store the raw data on ADUs and corrected values of I mag in the database. This will include calculations of atmosphere and corrections for the cameraand scope. This data will then be stroedin the database. I will then be able to run checksof quality on the data and report say monthly.Great plan but I am having trouble with any form of automated ADU measurement. So it may come down to a dual screen and manual selection of the listed ref stars. Measurement can possibly then be automated. However, the software could put all the data in the correct place on the screen for each image. If someone already has this software I would be happy to use it...

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Hi! Cool idea! > but I am having trouble with any form of automated ADU measurement. So it may come down to a > dual screen and manual selection of the listed ref stars I wonder whether a software like http://www.astrometry.net/use.html might be useful for your project, to replace the manual selection process. Ihaven't tried building/using the software myself, but given what this software does on flickr (you can make their "robot" annotate your astronomy photo on flickr to include the names of bright stars, galaxies, Messier objects etc), it ISworking very well already, even as an alpha test version. CS Heinz

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Hi Group, I just had a look at this Freeware and this one is looking like it can do all what you want it to do, here is the link: www.aerith.net/misao/pixy/index.html Cheers, Rolf


Very slick software. A key advantage over any other program: "star detection, matching with star catalog, astrometry and photometry are all automated." The source code is there too so one could integrate these featuers into a different program if the programmer so desired. The only downside is the software doesn't explicitly support DSLR RAW image formats (RAW, CRW,CR2). The software is also written in Java so perhaps the VStar team could roll these features into their software somewhat easily. Good catch! Brian

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That would be really good if that could be done, but I have no idea about programming or development of software. Cheers, Rolf

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Wow, the feature list of this software is sooo impressive. Will try it as soon as possible. Thanks for the link CS HB

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Hi Brian, As you probably noticed I do use my own software. What particular is the fact I develop it in APL language under the classical APL "workspace" environment. APL is a kind of algebra and apowerfularray processor. It's particularly concise and effective in processing large data arrays like our images. My software is made from a set of APL "functions" that form a kind of toolkit. I use dcraw.exe for decoding the raw files of the DSLR as an external function. Processing a session of observation is fully automated, it takes about 10 sec per imagefrom raw to final storage and presentation. Included are:preprocessing, background synthesis, noise evaluation, star detection,photometry, astrometry,V-Johnson synthesis, extinction correction and reporting.I dofocus on a dozen of stars of the field but severaltens of others are also recorded. Thissoftwareis madeat minimal effort (onereason to use APL)just to supportmy own experiments. Itis not "user friendly" (no graphicaluser interface... needs to setnumber of parametersspecific to the used instruments... ) It works under the specific APL"workspace" consol mode, by the wayneeds also to know a few of APL (easy). APL environments with the right power arefar to befree ( $$$$ ! ), but specific licenses for "education/ personal experiment" could beobtained at acceptable cost, one free APL is probably usable (needs further testing). If some are interested in such experiment I will be very pleased to sharewhatI am doingand help to find a working solution. Yours truly, Roger

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Roger, I wonder how big an environment this is? Maybe I could also just take the pre assembled code and conver to something like Perl or C++? I must say it seems to do exactly what I am trying to do with scripting AA4 and AIP4WIN. What I need is for say Eps Auriga variable, a set of reference calibrated stars from AAVSO to be compared to the ones on one or more images. The images start of as Canon 350D raw a dark raw and a flat raw. Normally a stack of 10. Then need to calibrate for B-V and convert from Raw to monochrome Green channel. Stack then photometry against the calibration stars as per the AAVSOprocess. Seems like you can do that. My problem is that I have a massive backlog of images taken in automated sessions where AA4 goes and gets all the Images. Not enough time for the time consuming processing.. Regards, John

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Hello John, This is certainely possible to setup the processing you need under APL. APL enables us to write specific processing in a very short time and minimal effort (this is its present object in professional applications..) but it's very difficult to translate APL to other language. That has been considered in the past with little success, in fact it would need a full rewritting (remember APL is a specificarray processing algebra far from classicalstructures) AsimpleAPL executive engine / workspace like APL2C is not large, few MB.A developmentenvironment like Dyalog APL including many other functions in particular to interface other tools (we do not need)is about 50 MB if I remember well.But okthis is the environment !The application workspacecould become very large. Our images, linearly coded on 16 bits, could resultin something like several100 MB if an operationimplies flotting point types ! Imagine two operands (full arrays in APL)and the space for the result in memory ! The choices I made for my present processing result from a lot of experiments and don't follow the AAVSO usual ways but should give similar (or best ! ) results. I do not stack images but evaluate each of them, this enables an SD survey, eliminating anomalous images, also avoiding any questionnable interpolation (I use the raw Bayer data from end-to-end) I also use a combination of the B and G channels to synthesise the V-Johnson filter response. At end the sessionresults are integrated with the extinction correction using a set of reference stars. Typical sessions include from 10 to 24 images depending sky conditions. The DSLR is usualy a 450D (but also a G9or a D70) From my experience of fully automated process the star detection phase is the most critical, things are simple when the sky is ok, when extinction increases with higher background, faint nebulosities...things become much more difficult. Thatneeds a robust technique and accurate settings. I am not sure a single setting would work for all. A fully automated process also implies astrometry that could also be critical. The distorsion of the lens is an issue but there are other problems, including catalog accuracy (I think, I have no other explanation of errors Igot !) Settings of that phase also need care. My software is not designed for large fields astrometry ( 6~7 deg max) If you like to explore further the possibilities, please, let me know. Yours truly, Roger

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Roger, I had a look at APL2C and it seems to be free after you register. I have a quad core Vista system and I will go ahead and see if I can install it. Does your APL code have any comments? I am quite familiar with many languages and APL seems like ahigh level AP language. If the file is not too bigyou can send it to my email and I can see if I can understand it and the process. But it sounds very ggod. John@astro.me.uk Regards, John

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Ok I have the APL2C running. I can try running your APL code. Regards, John M

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Hi John, Regretfully APL2C is no more maintened, his developper doesn't respond to e-mail for a couple of years. But the worspace doesn't need registration, it is not limited at all. Onlythe "C" translator is limited (anyhow I would not engage anyone to try that way ! ) APL2C should work under Windows 98 compatibility mode, I think you saw it, if not the " )SAVE " and ")LOAD" commands doesn't work. I do not use APL2C on a regular basis,I tested it a couple of years ago making astro image processing with it. But images at that time were smaller and, as I said, I have to do some test to ensure the compatibility with my present application.My present code works under Dylog and some functions could need some adaptations (APL is normally very portable but there are few specific functions dependingon system implementation) You also need dcraw.exe from Dave Coffin, I use it to decode the Canon's proprietary .cr2files. http://www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/ http://www.rawness.es/dcraw/?lang=en My software is normally well commented but not always in english, part is in french, is it ok with you ? To work properly I propose to make a first test with a limited part of the application that Iconsider easier. This section includes the raw decoding, preprocessing,the star detection, the primary photometry. I will test it under APL2C, makeneeded adaptations and send it to you for a test. Leave me a couple of days to prepare it. Yours truly, Roger

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Wow, I have never seen this software before. If it has the abilities as in the description and screen shots it seems as a very usable pice of software with many functions I have looked for.

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thank you

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Hi every body Some body can help me for these steps???(on AIP4WIN tutorial)

On the “Settings” tab, adjust the “radii” so that the aperture size is slightly larger than the star image.

Adjust the annulus size as appropriate for the aperture.

Also on the “Settings” tab, enter a “zero point” that gives a reasonable value for the instrument magnitude. Click the “save” button.

Now, click on the “Results” tab. Shifting to your image, click on the variable star, calibration star and selected TC stars in turn. Record the Instrument Magnitudes of each for later use in the spreadsheet program.

1-Radii has 3 parameters which of them should be changed?

2-What is "zero point"? Is it different for each observation place?

3- Is differential magnitude mean instrument magnitude?

tanx a lot

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Hello Ichi, Let me try to answer your three questions: 1. The first parameter is the radii of the aperture. The second is the inner radii of the annulus. The third is the outer radii of the annulus. For a complete explanation see figure 10.1, p. 273 in the AIP4WIN book. I currently have my settings at 15, 20, 30. 2. Zero point is a more or less arbitrary number that you select to give reasonable values for your instrument magnitudes. It does not affect the final results. I choose a number that will produce positive values less than ten for my instrument magnitudes. 3. Differential magnitude is the general name for this method of determining the magnitude of an unknown star. It is based on measuring the "difference" in magnitudes between a known comparison star and the target star. Instrument magnitude is the intermediate value that is obtained in this process. The instrument magnitude is not the true magnitude.We are interested inthe difference in instrument magnitudes between the target star and comparison star. I hope this helps. Tom

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Hi Tom, Thanks for the advice,but still i have some questions, i want to create short period vstar's light curve(likeU Cep),but i don't know how to complete it .i follow all steps on AIP4win tutorial but i don't know Can i use differential magnitude on light curve? tanx a lot ichi

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Hi again ichi, I'm afraid I'm not too familiar with Vstar. You might try posting your question with the Vstar Software Development Team. I would think the results you get for V magnitude using the differential method in AIP4win should be fine for generating a Vstar light curve. Sorry I can't tell you more. Tom

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Hi! maybe if you told us what exactly you have done so far and at which point exactly you are stuck, we would be able to assist you. CS HB P.S.: The Vstar software will only come into the game when you have completed the measurement (to actaully draw and analyse a lightcurve).

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Hello Tom, Hello Heinz, Thank you for your comments and posts. i want make light curve for simple objectsby short period time.for exampleU Cep . totally how can i measure period time for variable stars?(that is my goal ) tankx ichi

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Hi ichi, Well, in simplest terms the period of the variable star is the time between peaks on a magnitude plot. I put the time and magnitudes of my observations into an Excel table and then use the graphing tool to make a simple x-y scatter graph of the data. You can do this by hand on graph paper, too. Plot magnitude on the y-axis and time on the x-axis. Collect enough data to construct a complete cycle of the variability. Your graph should approximate a sine curve. The peak to peak distance (time) is the variable'speriod. Tom

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Hi Tom, Thanks for the reply. i will try as soon as i can. ichi

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There is another (free!) option, available at sourceforge.net, called C-Munipack, just updated in Apr 2011 (https://sourceforge.net/projects/c-munipack/). I know nothing about it, but users seem to like it. Of course, it's written for Windows users (which I'm thankfully not). Cheers, Robert


Sadly it only mentions support for CCD cameras. I suppose if someone wanted they could join up and help David Motl add support for DSLR Bayer Arrays. It would be nice if we could get David Benn to add support for photometric reduction in VStar (instead of just data analysis).

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In the meantime, I think one could use Fitswork4 (which has excellent support for DSLRs via use of the DCRAW library) to batch convert DSLR raw images to FITS images with only the green chanell used (by choosing a whitebalance that ignors red and blue channels). CS HB

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I cannot wait , have been searching for a tutorial for some time. I could not get the program to load certain file extensions, and this tutorial should provide the answer.

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You're so right! I agree that being able to do photometric work in the context of VStar would be awesome. Well, I suppose we can hope. ... Thanks much! RK

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Great idea. Thanks for this! Best, RK

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I was trying to view instructions on AIP4WIN tutorial and the pop up with wiki ? intructions at bottom right corner obscures the instructions. It says something about if your camera has automatic noise reduction you dont have to do darks and flats..but I cant read it all. Can anyone help? Mike Miller

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Brian, I am still trying to figure my way around within the Forums..I can not figure out how to email someone directly about something that may not have anything to do with a particular response or question on the forum. I noticed that the most recent positings are posted at the Bottom . It seems to me that it would be easier if the most current posting were at the top. I posted a question about the instructions on AIP4WIN. The box at right bottom says something wiki...obscures some of the instructions? Mike Miller

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Hi Mike, I believe the note youasked about says, "Note: If you are taking images using your camera’s automatic noise reduction feature, you only need to process flat frames in this step." I should add to that note, also make surethat the box at the bottom of the calibration window that says,"SubtractDark Frame", is not checked. I'm not sure why you have a window obscuring thenote. It may have something to do with the path you follow to open the tutorial. Here's what I do. 1. Go the the CS home page. 2. Click on"Tutorials" at the toporange bar. 3.Select the "DSLR Photometry Tutorial" from the list. 4. Scrolldown to the bottom of the page and click "Starting Analysis". 5. Scroll down tothe programs section and select "AIP4Win". I hope this helps. Tom

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Brian: I am following the turorial for AIP4WIN and when I get to step 7...open images to be stacked I go to my star field images that I have converted to fts format, hold mouse down and highlight all of the images in numerical order, and open them. When I go to Click on the Alignment tab, I get message that "calibration not initialized". Also Tom sent me a copy of directions for tutorial and he mentions in one part set 2 #1 says that your images may be black, but not to worry. Mine are green. Can you help? Mike Miller


Hi Mike, It almost sounds as if you missed all of step 2 in the tutorial: http://www.citizensky.org/content/aip4win-beginner Can you confirm that you did this step? Brian

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ka5sma
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Heinz: I cant seem to find tutorial for DSLR photometry using IRIS..is it on Citizen Sky website? Mike Miller

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Rebecca
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Hi Mike, Is this what you are looking for? http://www.citizensky.org/content/iris-beginner

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I am attmepting to process some images with AIP4win and everything goes well and get through the alignment and stacking. Then when I try to access the single image photometry tool. it is grayed out?? I have completely redone everything and continue to have the same problem. anyone have any ideas? Mike Miller

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Tom Pearson
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Hi Mike, Did you save your stacked image as a FITS (.fts) file? If not, restack your images and go to "file" and select "save as FITS..." and save the stacked image. Open this saved file with the single image photometry tool. Tom

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Hi! There is one more way to make SIPT greyed out: More recent versions of AIP4WIN consider SIPT kind of legacy stuff, and you will sometimes get a "warning" dialog that will tell you this and will ask you whether you still want to use SIPT. Guess what...one day I accidently clicked on "No" (don't use SIPT). From then on, SIPT was permanently greyed out. IIRC, I then reset all customized settings by clicking on a button in Preferences, and this reanimated the SIPT. CU HB

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