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DSO: four freeware stacking programs compared after basic processing (small review)

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#1 meegja

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Posted Yesterday, 07:16 AM

Here a small review on 4 freeware stacking programs used for an DSO capture and the differences in the stacks after basic processing (got bored cause of constant clouds).

Of course all this is based on my own findings as a semi-beginner and it not an overall presentation. In reality processing steps will be done on what the stack demands. This is just a comparison I made to see the differences with basic processing after stacking.

Also, all this will vary on which DSO is captured. I used a part of the Pelican Nebula for this because although it's mainly reds that are present, all other colors are there too.

 

Actually 5 programs, I also used RegiStax but this gave very bad results with stacking itself.

The main files are FITS, 96 x 60 seconds, Gain 121, captured with SharpCap with white balance Red 50 / Blue 50, so Green is dominant. All this with a Zwo ASI294MC Pro and a Optolong L-Pro filter.

Calibration files: 10 x darks, 40 x flats and 40 x darkflats

 

Below this, two replies with the reviews and comparison images.

The first one is the stacks of the 4 programs after exactly the same Level and Curves stretching and Histogram alignment in PS (Photoshop).

The second image are the stretched stacks with Color Balance done in a way that colors are not exaggerated while details are more shown and then +50% Vibrance.

I tried to do this all in an uniform way to show any flaws or particular things. Not other processing like black level, noise reduction or whatever was done.

After these basic tests, all 4 stacks could be processed just fine, but each in his own way.

 

For all 4 stacking programs the basic settings were used. Programs used were:

1) ASTAP / Plate solving program with (live) stacking capabilities / https://www.hnsky.org/astap.htm

2) AutoStakkert / Stacking program mainly for moon and planets / https://www.autostakkert.com/

3) PlanetarySystemStacker / Experimental, Java based, stacking program, mainly for moon and planets / https://github.com/R...rySystemStacker

4) DeepSkyStacker / Dedicated DSO stacking program / http://deepskystacke...lish/index.html


Edited by meegja, Yesterday, 07:24 AM.

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#2 meegja

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Posted Yesterday, 07:18 AM

Stretching with Levels and Curves (standard action) and a manual Histogram alignment in Photoshop.

 

ASTAP
I don't use this program much. In this case I used the stacking feature with the Manual alignment with Star centering.
In PS it gave a very bright image after Levels and Curves. After Histogram alignment, the blue channel stayed more prominent.

 

AutoStakkert
The FITS files from SharpCap were recognized but the color didn't. Used PIPP to make a SER file, incl the darks, flats and darkflats.
In AutoStakkert I used the Surface With Dynamic Background for the Analyse. Stacking was done with the auto PlaceAP Grid feature with Multiscale.
A negative: removal of hot pixels was not that good.
Gave good results in PS with Levels and Curves and the Histogram alignment gave a nice, even result.

 

PlanetarySystemStacker
An experimental program for moon and planets stacking. But I discovered that for DSO it can also do a (very) good job.
For stacking it can only use SER files, so used the same SER I used for AutoStakkert.
The AP placement has an Auto Feature and the AP's were placed at the correct places where stars were visible.
And it did a way better job with removing hot pixels, I was really surprised by that.
In PS the result after the basic actions was okay. Green was still somewhat present after Histogram alignment but it had overall is has the best contrast.

 

DeepSkyStacker
The Nestor of DSO stacking.
Nothing special on that other that it took the longest time to complete the stacking procedure.
In PS it gave good result stretching with Levels and Curves although the contrast was a bit low. After aligning the histogram it showed less variation in colors compared to the others, red and yellow were prominent.

 

Conclusion after basic stretching and histogram PS actions
The conclusion is obviously based on my personal observations.
When it comes to overall color, AutoStakkert did the best job. But it has the flow of leaving the stack more "dirty". But personally this gave me the best "vibes".
DeepSkyStacker has the cleanest stack but is a bit more bland when it comes to colors and contrast. But still enough to work with.
PlanetarySystemStacker did a really surprisingly good job and gave the best contrast. But it also gave the lowest details.
ASTAP has the most detail but also (because of that) the brightest. It did not gave me a feeling that I could get something good out of it.

 

Stacking.jpg


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#3 meegja

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Posted Yesterday, 07:19 AM

Color Balance so that details are more shown but colors are not too strong. After that a +50% Color Vibrance

 

For me, AutoStakkert gave the best overall result. The colors were easy to balance, nothing really too strong. And enough data left in the colors, contrast and so on to work with. The "dirt" in the stack is of course a minus but that probably can be dealt with by a setting during stacking.
Processing after these basic steps also gave the best, balanced result.

 

DeepSkyStacker is colorwise a bit too bland: except for the reds and the yellow/green after this basic color balance. The other colors were there after that but the reds and yellow were "disturbing" the rest.
Processing after these basic steps was just fine. The red and yellow stayed the prominent colors but not too much. Contrast was also fine in the end.
It was the cleanest image of the 4, had to do the least amount of noise reduction.

 

ASTAP gave the most details, period. But was also the faintest because of that. Blue-ish colors stayed above average.
Colorwise after this, it has the same workflow as DeepSkyStacker but it clearly missed something in the yellow range and also the contrast was somewhat in the low end.

 

PlaneterySystemStacker gave the strongest colors after Color Balance and Vibrance. Somehow though it had a hard time with Color Balance: all the colors hovered between the 40 and 60%, any lower or higher gave an oversaturation in that color-range. All in all I could get good colors and excellent contrast in the end, but details were just too low. Also, it was the most noisy.
Still, very surprised by the program.

 

Color.jpg


Edited by meegja, Yesterday, 07:24 AM.

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#4 Starman27

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Posted Yesterday, 11:29 AM

Moving to Astronomy Software for a better fit.


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#5 meegja

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Posted Today, 02:37 AM

Moving to Astronomy Software for a better fit.

Ah, it's here now. I wondered where it was :)



#6 lambermo

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Posted Today, 05:41 AM

Always nice to compare stackers.

I'm not so much interested in comparing color results, but can you show a small section of each image with some stars and nebulosity at 100% (or 400%) ? Ideally unprocessed afterwards + a stretch.

And also add fwhm and star eccentricity results of each stack, and of a sub.
Maybe add other free stackers ? Like Gimp, Theli, Regim, Siril, Sequator, ImageMagick+Hugin.

-- Hans


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#7 meegja

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Posted Today, 05:58 AM

Always nice to compare stackers.

I'm not so much interested in comparing color results, but can you show a small section of each image with some stars and nebulosity at 100% (or 400%) ? Ideally unprocessed afterwards + a stretch.

And also add fwhm and star eccentricity results of each stack, and of a sub.
Maybe add other free stackers ? Like Gimp, Theli, Regim, Siril, Sequator, ImageMagick+Hugin.

-- Hans

I would love too .... but I really don't have a clue on what you mean with " .... stars and nebulosity at 100% (or 400%)" and "And also add fwhm confused1.gif and star eccentricity results of each stack, and of a sub.

I really am just a starter with all this, doing this now since the end of March. Before this only simple Newton and moon and planets with eyepiece projection and a simple Fuji camera and then way back in 2010.




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