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Astrophotography on the Mac

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#76 airscottdenning

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 11:12 AM

Hi

Thank you for pointing TSX out but I found nothing astro-related on LTI. I’d be interested to know what TSX does or has that is EAA-ish. Everything on it that  I scanned through after seeing your post seemed to be deeply into full AP and it’s a fairly pricey application as well. Is there perhaps a basic version of the program that has the same functionality of Sharpcap Pro - mainly the live stacking, and ‘on the fly’ application of Dark and Flat frames?

thank you!

Yes, TheSkyX Pro does live stacking, with auto-alignment of frames, bad frame rejection, application of flats and darks, debayering of color frames, automatic stretching with live slider adjustments, etc.

 

Beautiful full-color images appear with progressively less noise and more detail over a period of seconds and minutes as you watch, just like in SharpCap Pro. You adjust the image live with sliders for the stretch and color balance. You can zoom in and out of the stacked image to trade off magnification and framing for resolution. And you can save the live stack as a jpg or fit file, or even the individual frames as a video or series of fits files for later post processing.

 

TSX handles pointing, nudging, guiding, polar alignment, mount modeling, and has different tracking rates for the moon, plants, sun, and stars (even satellites and comets). Not incidentally comes with a massive celestial database and is based on a virtual planetarium.

 

As you write, TheSkyX is a mature suite of long-exposure astro-imaging features.  And also, sure enough, it's very expensive.  There are cheaper "stripped down" versions (First Light, Student, Serious Astronomer, etc) but I don't have them so don't know exactly what the read-offs are between prices and features for each one. You could call or email them for details.

 

The Live Stack functionality is in the "Camera" module. There are four tabs there: "Take Photo" "Auto Guide" "Focus Tools" and "Take Series."  

 

Live Stack is a button on the "Take Photo" tab. When you click it the entire screen is taken over by a much simpler interface that features the emerging live stack front and center, with only those controls you need to enhance the EAA experience. 

 

Unlike SharpCap Pro, TheSkyX Pro runs on Windows, Linux, Max, and Raspberry Pi. I usually run it off a generic linux box at the mount and use TeamViewer to connect from a laptop, iPad, or even my phone.

 

Last month I did an outreach event for over 100 people doing live EAA with my MacBook Pro attached to a projector and screen. Showed them full-color nebulae, clusters, and even distant galaxies (m51, m101, m74) in beautiful color in under a minute. Lots of oohing and ahhing!

 

I like SharpCap Pro. I bought the Pro license, and still use it sometimes. But I find its interface cluttered and confusing. And since I have a Paramount I have to use TheSkyX to control my mount anyway, so I generally just prefer to stick with it for EAA as well.

 

Hope this helps!

Scott


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#77 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 11:34 AM

I'm slowly ramping up for doing some Astrophotography.  I was glad to see a thread specific to the Mac OS as I am hoping to do all of the post processing on my 2018 Macbook pro.

 

I haven't had the chance to fully test this out but I stumbled on a thread by geneva_min that mentions his good success with the "Cascable" application for IOS.  (Cascable also has a photo transfer application for the Mac)

 

Cascable is an application that allows you to visually and remotely control pictures taken by DSLR.  With the paid version you can set up recipes for shooting that can alter many different camera settings.

 

I am thinking that this might be a better option than backyard Nikon or EOS which doesn't work with Mac.  I am also thinking that it might be better than using an intervalometer.  I will hopefully soon be able to test this out.

 

Another application that I'm looking at is the Starry Landscape Stacker.  Viking 1 mentions this software in an above thread.  This looks to be quite good for stacking images.  I've seen a couple good Youtube's on this.  (I haven't seen much conversation on this.  The only knock I can see on this so far is that it doesn't import RAW images.)

 

I am quite budget driven.  I am hoping to find a lower priced option for photo processing than Photoshop or PixInsight.



#78 Starslinger

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 12:55 PM

I was the one that posted about Starry Landscape Stacker... the chap that makes it makes three different apps. You can buy them in a bundle or individually. SLS is specifically for stacking images that have a foreground element. I haven’t had a chance to  give it a thorough testing yet but I’ve used it a couple of times and it seems to work as advertised. Yeah, it’s a shame that it can’t handle raw files.

 

For straight star shots he makes Starry Sky Tracker, which also seems to work as advertised. They’re all much less complex, to use, than something like APP, but I don’t have the skills or experience in this kind of imaging to assess or compare the two pieces of software.



#79 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 02:11 PM

Starslinger:  I'm sorry, I looked at the sub heading below your name. blush.gif  I was referring to your post.

 

As far as evaluating photo post processing softwares I don't really have a point of reference yet.  The Starry Landscape Stacker however looked quite intuitive.  It seems to separate the sky from landscape.  I haven't really looked at the other products in the Starry product line.


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#80 Lead_Weight

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Posted 09 November 2019 - 02:58 PM

It looks like ASTAP was recently released for the Mac. It features faster plate solving than Astrometry, and it does live stacking, photometry and more. I've never used it, but it looks to be pretty feature complete as an image/stacking software.

 

I'll add this to the website. Can't wait to try it out.



#81 Fivel

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 10:59 AM

For Paul in Northern Michigan, look into the app "Affinity Photo" for post processing.

It has a lot of the PS capabilities and is easy to use.  It normally costs $50 US, but often goes on sale for $10 off. Siril (free) also has some fine PP tools. It can register, align and stack DSO images and planetary videos. Gimp has some decent PP tools and is also free.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I also use Neat Image for final sharpening and noise reduction.

It is not free, but also not that expensive. It has a stand-alone version as well as a plug in for PS and Affinity Photo.

 

Apps for the Mac are becoming more available all the time.

 

Fivel


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#82 Lead_Weight

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 12:33 PM

Hi All, I'm looking to reorganize my Mac software page into something a little more meaningful. A few of the problems as I see it currently on my software page is that so many programs are organized into general categories, but a lot of programs actually fit into multiple categories. ASTAP is one I recently added, and stuck it under Capturing & Processing, while it does both those things, it also does photometry and EAA. I have Astro Pixel Processor in this category as well, though it doesn't do capturing.

 

So a few things. I'm looking to add more categories to better differentiate between the software programs. If I split Capturing, Processing and EAA into three categories would you put ASTAP in all three? This makes the page really long since you'll be listing multiple programs multiple times. One thing that will help is adding a short sentence description listing their features. I could completely remove the categories, but I think high level categories help users quickly find a list of pertinent software. 

 

I think I'm also going to create a single page per program, showing screen shots, listing features and where to download it. It's possible I can create a category list for features, and tag each program with the category it fits into, then possibly create a dynamic page where you select the features you're interested in to "filter" the list of programs. This might be worse for discovery, and don' know if I can even pull it off. So for the time being I'll focus on just reorganizing the page.

 

Any suggestions would be welcome.



#83 Starslinger

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 01:44 PM

Starslinger:  I'm sorry, I looked at the sub heading below your name. blush.gif  I was referring to your post.

 

As far as evaluating photo post processing softwares I don't really have a point of reference yet.  The Starry Landscape Stacker however looked quite intuitive.  It seems to separate the sky from landscape.  I haven't really looked at the other products in the Starry product line.

No apologies needed, it catches me out, too!

 

As for evaluating post processing software, I had a career partially doing exactly that... but for 'regular', daylight photography. Astro is something else entirely. I have no idea how the various stacking apps, er, stack up... but once I've got a final flat TIFF (or a bunch of raws) I'm good to go ;-)



#84 Starslinger

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 01:47 PM

Hi All, I'm looking to reorganize my Mac software page into something a little more meaningful. A few of the problems as I see it currently on my software page is that so many programs are organized into general categories, but a lot of programs actually fit into multiple categories. ASTAP is one I recently added, and stuck it under Capturing & Processing, while it does both those things, it also does photometry and EAA. I have Astro Pixel Processor in this category as well, though it doesn't do capturing.

 

So a few things. I'm looking to add more categories to better differentiate between the software programs. If I split Capturing, Processing and EAA into three categories would you put ASTAP in all three? This makes the page really long since you'll be listing multiple programs multiple times. One thing that will help is adding a short sentence description listing their features. I could completely remove the categories, but I think high level categories help users quickly find a list of pertinent software. 

 

I think I'm also going to create a single page per program, showing screen shots, listing features and where to download it. It's possible I can create a category list for features, and tag each program with the category it fits into, then possibly create a dynamic page where you select the features you're interested in to "filter" the list of programs. This might be worse for discovery, and don' know if I can even pull it off. So for the time being I'll focus on just reorganizing the page.

 

Any suggestions would be welcome.

I think it would be neat to somehow flag stuff as easy/hard or beginner/advanced. So, for me, Starry Sky Stacker was super easy to use but I realize that Astro Pixel Processor is probably more flexible and deep (but with an arcane UI). Thanks, again, for creating the resource. 



#85 Lead_Weight

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 01:52 PM

Yeah, I do hear from a lot of beginners that they don’t know where to start. I have an article on my home page for that, but I should link to it on my software page.

#86 Starslinger

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 03:54 PM

Yeah, I do hear from a lot of beginners that they don’t know where to start. I have an article on my home page for that, but I should link to it on my software page.

I can imagine a beginner taking a look at APP and deciding to take up something easier like... maybe lion taming


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#87 Fivel

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 04:57 PM

Andrew, I wrote a draft document, that may be helpful in organizing the apps for your site.

I attached it for you to look at.

Since I do not use filters nor do EAA, maybe you and others that use those, can add more categories or sub categories.

I also did not add the names of any apps, or a link to their download page(s).

As you mentioned, many apps can fit into several categories, so this may make that a bit easier (I hope).

Thanks for your work in this area, and many other astro related areas where you generously provide help.

 

Fivel

 

Attached File  Mac Astro Apps.rtf   2.02KB   46 downloads

 

 



#88 Lead_Weight

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 05:18 PM

Andrew, I wrote a draft document, that may be helpful in organizing the apps for your site.

I attached it for you to look at.

Since I do not use filters nor do EAA, maybe you and others that use those, can add more categories or sub categories.

I also did not add the names of any apps, or a link to their download page(s).

As you mentioned, many apps can fit into several categories, so this may make that a bit easier (I hope).

Thanks for your work in this area, and many other astro related areas where you generously provide help.

 

Fivel

 

attachicon.gif Mac Astro Apps.rtf

Thanks, This is a great start. I hadn't thought about doing this as a table. But maybe I could have the program name first, then a set of feature columns where I could put a check mark by each offered feature.



#89 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 06:40 PM

For Paul in Northern Michigan, look into the app "Affinity Photo" for post processing.

It has a lot of the PS capabilities and is easy to use.  It normally costs $50 US, but often goes on sale for $10 off. Siril (free) also has some fine PP tools. It can register, align and stack DSO images and planetary videos. Gimp has some decent PP tools and is also free.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I also use Neat Image for final sharpening and noise reduction.

It is not free, but also not that expensive. It has a stand-alone version as well as a plug in for PS and Affinity Photo.

 

Apps for the Mac are becoming more available all the time.

 

Fivel

Fivel: Affinity Photo does look like an attractive alternative to Photoshop.  The tools look really good.  This is considerably less money than Photoshop or PixInsight.  There is one thing that worries me a bit but by this time it may be sorted out.  There were some users complaining that this was dysfunctional in Catalina.

 

One notion that intrigues me is that Affinity Photo is listed as an import option for Starry Landscape Stacker.  This potentially would be a great combination as Affinity Photo is noted as not being a good image stacker.

 

I haven't seen much content online about people using the software's used together.  However I did see one post where someone was bringing the Starry Landscape Stacker files back into Affinity Photo and the photos came unglued.  Once again I don't know whether this has been addressed, but it was reported as an issue.  It round trips fine into Photoshop.

 

I will want to look at this combination when I begin looking at photo processing.



#90 Ron359

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 11:21 PM

Fivel: Affinity Photo does look like an attractive alternative to Photoshop.  The tools look really good.  This is considerably less money than Photoshop or PixInsight.  There is one thing that worries me a bit but by this time it may be sorted out.  There were some users complaining that this was dysfunctional in Catalina.

 

One notion that intrigues me is that Affinity Photo is listed as an import option for Starry Landscape Stacker.  This potentially would be a great combination as Affinity Photo is noted as not being a good image stacker.

 

I haven't seen much content online about people using the software's used together.  However I did see one post where someone was bringing the Starry Landscape Stacker files back into Affinity Photo and the photos came unglued.  Once again I don't know whether this has been addressed, but it was reported as an issue.  It round trips fine into Photoshop.

 

I will want to look at this combination when I begin looking at photo processing.

I've been using Affinity for a couple years.  Mostly for nature photos but some for astro.   I've posted this before on another forum but here is a recent image of 8 frames of ISS transiting full moon I stacked and did some slight processing in Affinity (using new focus stacking feature).  Its got some great panoramic mosaic stitching routines also. 

Attached Thumbnails

  • ISS-MoonTransit-91319-small.jpg


#91 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 08:08 PM

Ron359:  That is absolutely a great picture.  Affinity does appear quite capable.  

 

I'll have to check out some Youtube's on it's work flow.



#92 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 12 November 2019 - 08:34 PM

Another lower expense photo editing software I have been eying is Luminar.

 

I have read some accounts of people who have had good success with Luminar and Astrophotography.

 

This appears to be capable of converting RAW to TIFF which is required for Starry Landscape Stacker.



#93 Lead_Weight

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Posted 12 November 2019 - 11:08 PM

I believe Acorn photo editor supports Fits files natively.

#94 Fivel

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 10:07 AM

Hello again Andrew.

There are so many ways to make the information available.

The only issue I can see about listing features and using the checkmarks is the large number of features available in many astro capture and processing apps. That could become overwhelming very quickly. Another route would be to stick to the major categories and have a hyperlink to the numerous sub categories and the related apps. This is just one more possibility.

Thanks again for your hard work and great site.

 

Fivel



#95 sanderb

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 11:14 AM

I believe Acorn photo editor supports Fits files natively.

It doesn't natively. It does with the Acorn plugin though. All 8, 16 & 32 bits per channel of it (and also PixInsight's XISF format). If Serif ever adds I/O plugin support to Affinity Photo I will release a FITS/XISF/SBIG plugin for it too, but when I asked them about such API in the past, I was told it was not on their roadmap.


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#96 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 14 November 2019 - 07:39 PM

I believe Acorn photo editor supports Fits files natively.

When I 1st saw this post I thought your sentence structure was bad. tongue2.gif This just shows my ignorance with the important terms and features needed to get off the ground with Astrophotography.  Sanderb cleared up that "Fits" was some type of software feature.  I later found that this has to do a lot with tagging photo settings to each picture.

 

I appreciate that you have captured many of the Astrophotography Mac specific softwares out there.  Indeed the 1st necessary hurdle is to see what's out there.

 

As a new enthusiast I would consider it nice to have software features shown side by side, but seeing this it next begs the question of what that feature actually is.  Is it possible to differentiate in a meaningful way without a huge outlay of time? As far as gathering information I am sure that users of this forum would be quite helpful.  Whether the effort would be worth the goal would be another question.

 

As far as the best route to take with software it isn't super easy to know what helps get to the goal with the least amount of pain.  I think there are many combinations of software that could work.

 

Personally I am looking for something that is inexpensive and quite easy to use.  I know that the most travelled route is the most expensive.  The most traveled route would have lots of Youtube's and books.  The question might become whether getting step by step instructions would be worth delaying purchasing other parts of the Astrophotography puzzle due to cost.

 

Thanks a lot for helping others by having your Mac software specific website! 


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#97 Euripides

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Posted 04 December 2019 - 05:58 AM

I was the one that posted about Starry Landscape Stacker... the chap that makes it makes three different apps. You can buy them in a bundle or individually. SLS is specifically for stacking images that have a foreground element. I haven’t had a chance to  give it a thorough testing yet but I’ve used it a couple of times and it seems to work as advertised. Yeah, it’s a shame that it can’t handle raw files.

 

For straight star shots he makes Starry Sky Tracker, which also seems to work as advertised. They’re all much less complex, to use, than something like APP, but I don’t have the skills or experience in this kind of imaging to assess or compare the two pieces of software.

StarryLandscapeStacker works great. It's so easy to use and my go to solution for all my MilkyWay captures.



#98 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 09:41 PM

StarryLandscapeStacker works great. It's so easy to use and my go to solution for all my MilkyWay captures.

I did purchase the Starry Landscape Stacker but I haven't started editing with it yet.

 

I purchased a very little spoke of software "Luminar" for the initial photo editing.  One of my initial hurdles will be knowing how to match the edits that would be done with another more mainstream software such as Photoshop to insert into Starry Landscape Stacker.



#99 Euripides

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:56 AM

I did purchase the Starry Landscape Stacker but I haven't started editing with it yet.

 

I purchased a very little spoke of software "Luminar" for the initial photo editing.  One of my initial hurdles will be knowing how to match the edits that would be done with another more mainstream software such as Photoshop to insert into Starry Landscape Stacker.

I have a "no go" for Luminar dislike.gif . I have paid the previou version, "worked" hard to report bugs to the devs (I am referring to fundamental stuff, just like crop issue, rotation etc) and the answer was always "will be solved to the next update". So now, about 2 years later, those bugs are still there...

 

Then I've purchase ON1 Photo Raw a little bit more expensive but at least I have no worries about my library, edits etc.

 

You do not have to edit your files in PS and then import the to SLS. It is the opposite. You import all your pictures (lights, darks etc), the software makes the calculations, you make minor adjustments for perfections just with a paintbrush and that's it, you have your final tiff file into minutes. Then you can go into your preferred editor for final refinements. 

 

For example just to have an idea about the power of the app.

 

Original file

 

original.jpg

 

30 light frames with 10 dark frames, export from SLS. I believe you can see the low level of noise.

 

stack.jpg

 

 

And of course then you can go down to your editor with your personal taste. Here the foreground was captured with different settings to have more light and I have raised saturation and clarity to the sky.

 

COMBINED.jpg


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#100 Paul in Northern Michigan

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 06:19 PM

Euripides:  That is a very nicely done shot combination.  I like how it blends well with the foreground.

 

The pre edit that I am referring to would be to convert the RAW photos to TIFF.

 

I have seen some nicely done Luminar astrophotography photos.  It might not get much love but I'll probably ask a question in regards to this software to see how others might be contending with some of the issues.  Perhaps I got caught up in some of the gimmicks of the software but it is what I have so I'll try to make the best of it.  I have seen some Youtube's with Luminar and astrophotography (or I wouldn't have made the purchase) but nothing in specific to Starry Landscape Stacker or Starry Sky Stacker.

 

It's great to see that at least the Starry Stacker software was a good investment.


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