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Astronomy stacker

Autopano Pro as an Astronomy Stacker

If you want to use Autopano Pro for stacking astro photo images, you need to know few thing to get good result :

  • For taking pictures of deep sky objects (galaxies nebulae) you will need equatorial mount for telescopes with motorized electric drive, and special telescope-guide to correct guiding error of equatorial mount.
  • Always make and process photos in RAW or 16 bit TIFF for better dynamic range.
  • Rotating camera around focus axis will reduce periodic error. I mean that different frames of the same object must have different orientation for better result.
  • For stack photos together, we need to use Linear type of blending.

There is a two cases of astro photo.

  • Photos of deep sky,
  • Photos of Sun, Moon and planets.

Deep sky

It's difficult to get this photo, because exposure time is not seconds but minutes. Because of that pictures can be taken in different time and in different places. So it's can be different too. For good result we need to stack all of them in one good picture.

Open all RAW(16 bit TIFF) images.
Open all RAW images
Check all settings(check lens distortion)
Detection Optimization
Set Planar projection
Panorama settings
Render this "panorama" in one stacked image, 16 bit Tiff.
Render Settings
Result Image Result Image Levels

Post processing

We can correct it in Photoshop (Image->Adjustments->Levels - set "black point") to get dark Sky.

Result Image with manual black point set
Deepsky result2.jpg
Result Image Black point Levels.
Моve middle point to left to get more details from shadows.
Deepsky result2 levels.jpg
Result Image with manual black point set and corrected middle point
Deepsky result3.jpg
Result Image Black point and Middle point Levels
Deepsky result3 levels.jpg
Result Image corrected and cuted
Deepsky result4.jpg
Result Image corrected and cuted Levels
Deepsky result4 levels.jpg

| If you will use some Noise Reduction Software (like Neat Image) before the setting of black point and correcting levels on stacked image, you will get better and more cleat result. If you don't want to use noise reduction software you can use internal level correction in AutoPano Pro before render stacked image. You can reduce noise by increasing number of frames or increasing frame quality. For better frame quality you need a good clear and dark sky without city's "light pollution" - like the sky in mountains. Or try to use special filters, that cut light pollution spectrum. My sources is really very average, i've made it in place with strong city light pollution without any special filter.

Final result

M31 The Andromeda Galaxy. Noise reduction in NeatImage 5 |- M31 The Andromeda Galaxy, Noise reduction in NeatImage 5

Sources for training

M31_2006_09_20.zip M31_2006_09_21.zip M31_2006_09_22.zip

Sun, Moon, planets

Sun stacking

WARNING you need a special SUN filter to make a photos of the SUN. If you don' have it DON NOT ever turn your telescope or camera direct to the SUN. It will damage your eyes, you can become a BLIND and your equipment will be burned up.

Special Sun filters you can make from BAADER Astrosolar Safety Film.
BAADER Astrosolar Safety Film
Open all images, RAW is Really not necessary for SUN photos, because the SUN is very bright object. But if you want maximum quality you can make photos in RAW.
Open all images
Check all settings(uncheck lens distortion).
Detection Optimization
Set Planar projection to correct perspective and geometric proportions.
Panorama settings
Render this "panorama" in one stacked image, 16 bit Tiff.
Render Settings
Output result.
Output result

Post processing

Rotate and crop image to make a right position of the Sun.
Rotate and crop
For better resolution on surface you can use special Wavelet Sharp filter in asto software like Registax. Left - not sharped, Rigt - sharped with Wavelet filter in Registax
Left - not sharped, Rigt - sharped with Wavelet filter in Registax
Example of Registax Wavelet post processing. This program is FREE, you can get it from http://registax.astronomy.net/
Example of Registax Wavelet post processing

Final result

Final result looks like that. Final result looks like that

Moon stacking

Open all images. There is one tip - if images stacking incorrectly, just cut it for square proportions.
Open Moon images
Check all settings: Detection, Optimization - the like in Sun stacking. Projection set to Planar.
Planar Projection

Post processing

Stacked image looks like that.
Stacked Moon
Crop it to square proportions, correct color (in Photoshop Image->Adjustments->AutoColor) and levels.
Stacked Moon, corrected color levels
Stacked Moon, corrected color
Increase surface resolution by Registax Wavelet filter. Left - not sharped, Right - wavelet sharped in Registax.
Left - not sharped, Right - wavelet sharped in Registax

Final result

Final Moon photo. |- Final Moon photo

All other planets processing is a similar, i don't have yet any source images for test this method on Jupiter or Saturn. For taking good pictures of far planets you'll need a really BIG telescope. If your telescope is small you can try to make a video of this planets and stack video frames in Registax.

That's all.

Sorry for grammar mistakes and hello from Russia :)