Lucky Image Processing

Introduction

Lunar, Planetary and Solar imaging share may common aspects when it comes to capturing the best images for these objects.  Lucky Image Processing is the method of capturing video or many successive images (hundreds or thousands) of the same object in a short period of time and then processing these images to obtain a final image better than any of the individual images originally captured.

 

 

Moon: Mare Humorum

2014.10.11: Waning Gibbous Moon

2022.04.18 Mare Crisium

 

 

 

Software

Type

Item

Link

Version

Date

Comments

Image Capture

FireCapture

2.7.10

03/2022

Software for image capturing

Lucky Image Processing

Planetary Imaging PreProcessor (PIPP)

2.5.9

01/07/2017

PIPP Website (Freeware)

Lucky Image Processing

AutoStakkert!

3.1.4

06/26/2018

Able to handle larger image files (Freeware)

Lucky Image Processing

AviStack

2.00

01/03/2014

Seems to have issues with large image files, but good for moon images. (Freeware)

Lucky Image Processing

RegiStax6

6.1.0.8

05/06/2011

Seems to struggle with larger files, but works fine for Sharpening, and is the strong point of this program anyway. (Freeware)

Graphics Software

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

2.10.32

06/12/2022

Replacement for Photoshop, and free (Freeware)

Graphics Software

IrfanView

4.60

03/18/2022

A nice simple graphics software.  I use for converting file times, resizing, and creating thumbnails. (Freeware)

Graphics Software

Microsoft Photos

 

 

Comes with Mircosoft operating systems 10 and above.  Great for cropping, and making minor adjustments to photos.

 

Imaging times

Reference: Guide to Planetary Imaging: Planetary Rotation and Detail Smearing

When using lucky Imaging, time is limited due to the fact the object may be rotating.  Here is a summary of rule-of-thumb imaging time limits for video capture assuming 0.5 arcseconds of detail smearing allowance:

Object

Max Time

Sunspots

3 minutes

Jupiter

2 minutes

Saturn

5 minutes

Mars

4 minutes

Moon

5 minutes

Barlow Lens

Reference: Guide to Planetary Imaging: Sampling

 

First we need to determine the Optimal Magnification for our hardware.  We want to get the most detail possible given the seeing conditions, scope and camera capabilities  This is determined by the following variables:

We start with the assumption that the Optimal Focal Ratio (Ofr) of the imaging system should be 5-7 times the camera pixel size based on seeing conditions (5 for average, 7 for exceptional), so we will go with 6 time the pixel size in these calculations.

Ofr = 6Cps

Assuming our camera and our scope are not easily changed, we can't change those variables, what we can do is change the Imaging System Focal Ratio by adding a Barlow lens if necessary to try to get to the Optimal Focal Ratio (Ofr), or use Eyepiece Projection.  Here we determine the appropriate Barlow Lens Magnification (Bx)

Bx = (5-7)Cps/Sfr

Here is what I have calculated for some hardware, where Barlow Magnification magnification is from good to excellent conditions (5-7):

 

Scope

Focal Ratio (Sfr)

Camera

Pixel Size

(Cps)

Sensor Dimensions (mm)

Recommended Barlow Magnification (Bx)

Celestron C-11 HD

Sfr = 10

QHY128c

Cps = 5.97 um

36.03 x 24.05

Bx = 3.0x - 4.2x

Celestron C-11 HD

Sfr = 10

ZWO ASI6200 Pro

Cps = 3.76 um

36 x 24

Bx = 1.9x - 2.6x

Celestron C-11 HD

Sfr = 10

ZWO 174MM Mini

Cps = 5.86 um

11.3 x 7.1

Bx = 2.9x - 4.1x

 

 

ZWO ASI120MC-S

ZWO AZI120MM-S

Cps = 3.75 um

4.8 x 3.6

Bx = 1.9x - 2.6x

Questar 3.5"

Sfr = 14.4

QHY 128c

Cps = 5.97 um

36.03 x 24.05

Bx = 2.1x - 2.9x

Celestron C-8

Sfr = 10

Orion Starshoot All-In-One

Cps = 3.75 um

8.4 x 8.4

Bx = 1.8x - 2.6x

Meade ETX 125

Sfr = 15

ZWO ASI120MC-S

ZWO AZI120MM-S

Cps = 3.75 um

4.8 x 3.6

 

Bx = 1.25x - 1.75x

Will it Fit?

References

 

Now that we know the Optimal Magnification and have determined what Barlow lens we need, we need to determine if the image will fit on our sensor, and what wiggle room we have, because as we are capturing the image, things tend to drift.  First consideration is the size of the object you are imaging.  While the sun and moon stay the same size throughout the year, the planets vary based on how close they are to the earth.

 

Apparent Size of common objects in the solar system

 

Object

Apparent Size

Sun

31.6' - 32.7'

Moon

29.4' - 33.5'

Mercury

4.5" - 13"

Venus

9.5" - 66.0"

Mars

3.5" - 25.1"

Jupiter

29.8" - 50.1"

Saturn

33.7" - 46.8"

Uranus

3.3" - 4.0"

Neptune

2.1" - 2.3"

Pluto

0.065" - 0.115"

 

 

 

Field of View Calculations

Configuration

F Ratio

Resolution

Field of View (deg)

 

Dawes Limit

Ideal Targets

Simulated Images

| C-11 | 0.7 Reducer | ZWO ASI6200 Pro |

7.0

0.63" x 0.63"

1.05 x 0.7

0.41"

Moon, Sun

,

| C-11 | 0.7 Reducer | QHY128c |

7.0

0.63" x 0.63"

1.05 x 0.7

0.41"

Moon, Sun

,

| C-11 | 4x Barlow | Canon 60D |

40

0.08" x 0.08"

0.11 x 0.08

0.41"

Planets, Sunspots

,

| C-11 | 2x Barlow | ZWO 174MM Mini |

*20

0.22" x 0.22"

0.12 x 0.07

0.41"

Planets, Sunspots

,

| C-11 | 4x Barlow | ZWO 174MM Mini |

40

0.11" x 0.11"

0.06 x 0.04

0.41"

Planets, Sunspots

,

| C-11 | 2x Barlow | ZWO 120MM |

20

0.14" x 0.14"

0.05 x 0.04

0.41"

Planets, Sunspots

, ,

| C-11 | 4x Barlow | ZWO 120MM |

40

0.07" x 0.07"

0.02 x 0.02

0.41"

Planets, Sunspots

, ,

* F Ratio of 20 is ideal for typical conditions

Planning and Preparations

Item

Link

Comments

Distance, Brightness and size of planets

Current distance from earth, size in the sky of the planets

How to Collimate your SCT Telescope

Before imaging the moon and planets, you need to make sure your telescope is collimated. (Dylan O'Donnell)

ZWO Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector (ADC)

I think the use case for this is when imaging with a color sensor on planets, not sure if it will be useful on the moon.  Also Atmospheric Dispersion is more pronounced the lower in the sky the object is, so more effective the lower in the sky your target is.

 

References, Resources and Tutorials

Software

Item

Link

Comments

N/A

Planet Processing Workflow Cheat sheet

Worksheet I developed for demonstrating workflow

PIPP

HOWTO Debayer Captured Images

Shows how to Debayer images in PIPP captured with ZWO cameras in SmartCap

N/A

Cloudy Nights: Major & Minor Planetary imaging

Topics covering Imaging of planets

N/A

Cloudy Nights: Planetary Imaging FAQ

 

N/A

Hints and tricks for lunar and planetary imaging

Professor Morison's Astronomy Digest

N/A

High-resolution Lunar Photography by Robert Reeves

Start to finish Tutorial

N/A

Imaging Planets

 

N/A

How To Take A Photo of a Planet

Dylan O'Donnell

N/A

20 Tips for Taking Photos of Planets

Dylan O'Donnell

FireCapture

Tips for Photographing Planets like a PRO with Firecatpure

Dylan O'Donnell

N/A

Full Disc Lunar Imaging with a DSLR

This technique may work for a camera with a full size sensor

FireCapture

Firecapture Tutorials

Firecapture Tutorials On Firecapture website

N/A

Beginners guide to planetary imaging

 

N/A

Planetary Imaging - Exposure, Gain, Etc.

Tutorial on camera settings for capturing planetary images

Registax6

Planetary Imaging, Wavelet tab and functions

Using the Wavelets tab including functions in Registax6

Autosakkert!

Stacking

Introduction to utilizing Autosakkert2 for basic planet processing

 

Autosakkert!

Planetary Processing

Article on using AutoStakkert! by the software developer Emil Kraaikamp

PIPP

PIPP Online Manual

PIPP Online manual for Planetary Imaging PreProcessor application

Registax6

Using Registax6

RegiStax6 website guide

Registax6

A Simple Processing Run

 

Registax6

Use Linked Wavelet Layers (Moon)

Tutorial on using Wavelet layers on moon image

Registax6

Use Linked Wavelet Layers (Saturn)

Tutorial on using Wavelet layers on Saturn

Registax6

Batch Processing using Advanced Tools (Jupiter)

Batch processing in Registax6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process Flow Diagram

Provided below is a basic process flow diagram outlining the general steps taken in processing images with lucking imaging.

 

 

Following the process diagram below is a more general review for each step

 

  1. AutoStakkert Using this application we test retention of 50%, 25%, 12% and 6% of frames from the captured view.  We determine the best looking image generated from these settings and will use this percent in the PIPP program.

  2. PIPP Taking the videos captured including Darks, Flats and Target Image we will generate a final AVI file with the determined percentage of frames to retain from the first step.  This AVI file will be used by one of the three imaging software applications to generate the single planet image.

  3. AutoStakkert/AviStack/RegiStax 6 Using one of these three imaging application we will generate a final image (TIFF).  All three imaging applications were created for Lucky Imaging processing and have their pros/cons.  Only on program is required to generate a final image.  Use your preference.   My current preference is:

  4. Moon AviStack

  5. Planets AutoStakkert, RegiStax 6

  6. RegiStax 6 Image Sharpening.  While both AviStack and AutoStakkert offer sharpening, RegiStax 6 is the best tool for sharpening images.  Import the image and perform sharpening on it in this application.

  7. Microsoft Photos Use this program for cropping and basic lighting adjustments. (TIFF)

  8. GIMP Used to add text and imaging setup information on the picture (TIFF).

  9. IrfanView Resize the image, Convert TIFF to JPG for general distribution, and create thumbnails from image.

 

 

Working Example

Setup: Primary Photography with Celestron C-11 HD | TeleVue Powermate 2x Barlow | ZWO ASI120MC-S camera |

 

Object

SharpCap Pro 3.2 Movie (SER)

PIPP (AVI)

AutoStakkart

Registax

Action

Video taken of object using

Extract and align best 25% Frames

Stack best fames into one image

Sharpen Image

Jupiter

Not provided, File to large

620 MB

Saturn

Not provided, File to large

 

505 MB

Mars

Not provided, File to large

 

1.3 GB