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The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing

Author / Publisher : Richard Berry
File Letter : Blue dot - colour code
Comments : published 2005


This second edition of the Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing (HAIP) and its integral AIP for Windows 2.0 image processing software (AIP4Win2.0) addresses many important changes that have taken place in astronomical imaging since the publication of the first edition. Today’s affordable astro-imaging capable digital single-lens-reflex cameras (DSLRs), the growing power of personal computers, and the proliferation of telescopes and imaging accessories has brought imaging capabilities within the reach of practically every amateur astronomer – and this second edition of the Handbook plus AIP4Win 2.0 is ready, willing, and able to assist every observer in making great astronomical images.

In the Handbook, we amplified the original chapters on astronomical equipment and imaging techniques, revised our discussions of astrometry and photometry to reflect the steady growth in these scientific fields, and expanded tutorials in the back of the book to help you get up to speed quickly. On the accompanying CDROM (found on the inside back cover) you will find hundreds of megabytes of sample images you can use to learn techniques such as image registration and stacking that guarantee good results even from those living with suburban and urban skies. Also new are comprehensive chapters on color imaging with astronomical CCD cameras and processing color images from digital cameras, and photon-counting fundamentals every serious astro-imager needs to know. Detailed chapters cover these fundamental topics:

  • Basic imaging: How the light that falls on your CCD becomes an image. Covers image formation, cameras, telescopes, detectors, sensor geometry, image capture, field of view, and angluar coverage.
  • Counting Photons: “Astronomy is about counting photons….” Covers signal, noise, the signal-to-noise ratio, the Poisson and Gaussian distributions and why they matter, making better pictures by summing images, and how dark frames and flat frames effect the signal and noise in your images.
  • Digital Image Formats: Covers the file formats that astronomers use, including FITS, TIFF, BMP, and JPEG. Learn file format basics, how your image data is arranged inside the file on your computer’s hard disk.
  • Imaging Tools: All about sensors, optics, cameras, and telescopes. Explains how to calculate the field of view and resolution of your system, telescope optics for imagers, auxiliary optics, mounts, drives, tracking, filters, and how to recognize and correct common equipment problems.
    Imaging Techniques: “Good equipment is only half the story!” Covers the techniques that experienced imagers use to obtain high-quality images. Includes polar alignment, good guiding, critical focus, correct exposure, darks and flats, light boxes, and special considerations for DSLR cameras.
  • Image Calibration: Examines the nitty-gritty details of image calibration. All about bias, dark noise, flat-fielding, standard and scalable darks, cosmic rays, making master dark frames, flats, standard calibration protocols, and defect mapping and correction.
  • Image Analysis: “Locked within the numerical values that make up a calibrated CCD image is a staggering amount of information.” Covers pixel coordinates, pixel value, image statistics, the image histogram, feature analysis, the centroid, distances, and image profiles.
  • Measuring CCD Performance: How to measure the performance of your CCD camera. Discusses goals in measuring CCD performance, how to shoot test images, and the determination of bias level, dark current, gain, linearity, and readout noise.
  • Astrometry: Asteroid hunters measure the postions of new-found objects using astrometry. Covers the theory behind finding right ascension and declination from a CCD image, practical astrometry, and the uses of astrometry.
  • Photometry: Amateur observers now work side by side with professional astronomers to measure the variations of variable stars, supernovae, asteroids, and comets using the CCD to capture precise measures of brightness.
  • Spectroscopy: An emerging area for amateus astronomers brought to you by the CCD camera. Covers spectra and spectrographs, gratings, prisms, slit- and slitless systems, and the properties and meaning of stellar spectra.
  • Geometric Transforms: Covers translation, rotation, scaling, flipping, cropping, floating, and resampling. Demystifies the basic geometric operations used in astronomical image processing.
  • Point Operations: Learn how software converts the pixel values your CCD camera captures into the sparkling images you see in popular magazines and amateur websites. Remapping, transfer functions, linear, log, and exponential scalings explained. Covers endpoint specification and histogram specification.
  • Linear Operators: All about one of the most useful tools in the amateur astronomer’s digital toolbox. Describes how digital convolution performs crispening, sharpening, smoothing. Learn about low-pass and high-pass kernels, Sobel, Kirsch, and Prewitt operators, and that most useful of linear tools: the unsharp mask.
  • Non-Linear Operators: Non-linear operators perform useful services like cleaning up noisy images. Cover rank-order processes, the median filter, local adaptive sharpening, noise filters, and morphological operators.
  • Image Operations: Multi-image operations are the basic tool for making superior astro-images. Covers image math, median-combine stacking, image registration, blinking, and track-and-stack image summing.
  • Images in Frequency Space: Unlocks the mysteries of the Fourier Transform and image processing in the spatial frequency domain. These powerful techniques used by profession astronomers are now accessible to amateurs
  • Wavelets: Explores the hottest new image processing and restoration techniques. Covers the wavelet transform, the inverse wavelet transform, spatial filtering, the wavelet noise filter, and iterative filtering techniques.
  • Deconvolution: Deconvolution attempts to restore images degraded by a turbulent atmosphere, poor telescope optics, and tracking errors. Discusses algorithms used to sharpen Hubble Space Telescope images, how they work, and how amateurs can use them.
  • Building Color Images: You’ve seen fantastic astro-images on the web and in popular magazines and books. Learn how astronomers capture and build color images from multiple exposures through different color filters. Covers the colors of astronomical objects, luminace, chrominance, color space, white balance, G2V stars, RGB and LRGB color image capture.
  • Processing Color Images: The digital SLR camera has done much to bring color imaging to the average amateur astronomer. Explains the Bayer array, color image bit depth, noise, dark current, vignetting, calibration, image stacking, and luminace enhancement techniques.

NOTE The Handbook complements and extends what you learn, and is NOT a software manual for AIP4WIN2.0. AIP4WIN’s manual is a massive on-line help file always ready to give you answers at a moments notice, a context-sensitive on-line guide to the software. The Handbook and AIP4Win 2.0 are sold together as a complete package. Under no conditions do we allow the software to be split from the book or the book to be separated from the software.

To get you off and running quickly the authors have provided 13 tutorials to introduct you to AIP4Win2.0 and to provide concrete demonstations of the subjects covered in The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing

  • Image Enhancement: Discover how to extract detail from otherwise bland images. More than producing “pretty pictures,” using the techniques will demonstrate to your enhanced details and show structures that, due to their low contrast, might otherwise be invisible.
  • Processing Multiple Images: Here is power at your fingertips! Calibrate an entire imaging session’s worth of images at one time automatically. Align and enhance a set of images in preparation for creating a movie. Align and combine a group of images to create a single, “deeper” image. Process hundreds of planetary images.
  • Image Registration and Blinking: Registration and blinking are key tools in searching for asteroids and patrolling for supernovae.
  • Building Color Images: Learn how the “Join Color Tool” helps you to create stunning color images hassle-free from sets of red/green/blue filtered images.
  • Wavelet Noise Filtering: Experiment with one of the newest and hottest image-processing technologies. Wavelets are used by professional astronomers to analyze images from spacecraft.
  • Deep Sky Images: Learn the best ways to process a wide variety of deep-sky images, including the calibration and enhancement of a typical track-and-stacked deep-sky image.
  • Planetary Images: In this tutorial, you process an outstanding image of Jupiter using brightness scaling, unsharp masking, and deconvolution tools..

For a sample of this books text and contents see:
Table of Contents
Preface to First and Second Editions
Chapter 1

AIP4Win 2.0 retains its highly acclaimed interface but with significantly increased capabilities. Now, AIP4Win 2.0 processes all image data in 32-bit floating-point format to insure that you will not lose even one photon of precious light. Atop these powerful 32-bit floating-point core routines, we built an image display engine capable of showing you images in both color and black-and-white, from a minimum of 10% to a maximum of 1600% size. What you can load into AIP4Win2.0 and display is now limited only by the memory on board your personal computer – and this capability is not limited to black-and-white images – AIP4Win 2.0 now has a suite of sophisticated software tools for loading and processing astronomical color images plus new functions that predict the results you’ll get when you make camera images and combine them in software.

AIP4Win 2.0 now has the ability to perform wavelet image enhancement, wavelet image analysis, and wavelet noise reduction – techniques so new they’re not even mentioned in the classic works about image processing. The deconvolution procedures have been enhanced so not only do they run faster than ever before, but they also produce superior image enhancements. Also new is a suite of editing functions to fix bloated star images, patch image flaws, and smooth bothersome sky gradients along with an image display control that helps you visualize all the information – and beauty – contained in your digital images. In short, AIP4Win 2.0 is a full-featured image-processing program designed and optimized for loading, processing, and displaying astronomical images. Here are a few of its capabilities:

  • Load and process 16-bit, 32-bit, and 64-bit floating-point and integer images from all makes of astronomical CCD camera.
  • Load and process RAW, CRW, and NEF files from popular digital single-lens reflex cameras.
  • Display, scroll, and magnify images from 10% to 1600%.
  • Image file size is limited only by your computer’s available memory.
  • Display pixel values, image statistics, histograms.
  • Edit bloated stars, blooming trails, sky gradients, hot spots, and cosmic ray tracks.
  • Full-featured image calibration functions include bias subtraction, automatic dark-frame matching and subtraction, flat-fielding, defect correction. Calibrate images individually, in groups, and during image stacking.
  • Perform astronomical astrometry and photometry on images; determine celestial coordinates to sub-arc second accuracy and magnitudes with the millimag precision.
  • and at this point you normally see “Plus much, much , more . . .” but there is! Click here for 5 pages of much, much, more.

For best performance, AIP4Win2.0 requires the following:

  • Operating system: Windows 98SE or later
  • CPU and RAM: For images ~1 megapixel monochrome images, 128MB of RAM and a Pentium III 400 MHz provide adequate performance; for 6 megapixels DSLR images, 512MB of RAM and a Pentium IV 2 GHz machine is desirable. However, as is true with all image processing programs a faster CPU and more memory can significantly enhance speed. Increased memory, by itself, can often significantly speed things up.
  • Display: 1024 x 768 min., 1600 x 1200 or better preferred.
  • CDROM reader: 16x or better (copy files to HDD).
  • Hard Disk: 20 MB free disk space for the program, plus storage for your image files (recommended minimum 20 GB).

When you purchase the Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing, you receive one CDROM containing AIP4Win 2.0 that is licensed for use on one personal and a portable computer if you own one. AIP4Win 2.0 requires validation via the web (or telephone) within 30 days of installation. Once validated, you also receive the right to updates (free downloads via the web) and upgrades (for a fee) as they become available.

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