Software - NEW! Calendar

I use Chris Marriot's Skymap Pro for nearly all my observing planning and finding. An almost fully featured (not time limited) trial version can be downloaded from the Skymap Web Site.

Image Capture

For a considerable time I used AstroQC - a very user friendly freeware program by Jean-Paul Godard, available on the Astrocam site. This program is very useful for taking multiple CCD images, it automatically subtracts dark frames, sums images, and allocates file names. Sadly this program does not work under Windows XP.

CCD is a useful freeware program from the Astronomical Society of Southern New England for determining image sizes on CCD chips. You may also find my own Astrophotography program useful (below).

Vega (freeware) by Colin Bownes, is a multiple image capture program with many useful features. Also Vegalite - a cut down version.

AstroSnap (freeware) is a very comprehensive, though somewhat cluttered program for image capture, including long exposure control of modified Webcams. English help file here.

K3CCDTools (freeware) is another comprehensive program, somewhat easier to use, also containing image processing routines. Detailed help file. A brief tutorial is also available here.

ASTROVIDEO from COAA also controls modified webcams and very effectively synthesises a long exposure from a number of shorter ones, including video clips. Not freeware, but good value. See some results on my Deep Sky Page. (View Tutorials, 728 Kb each, here: 1 and 2, or download zip file of full set, 1.29 MB, here.)

Startrack (freeware)by David Ditch. An interesting CCD guiding program for a number of different drive setups. Details of connections and control boxes.

Control of the Quickcam Greyscale camera for long exposures was specially developed by Dave Allmon. Also see the Greyscale page.

Image Processing

I have used the MaximDL trial version - a very comprehensive program, but more than I need at the moment.

AVI2BMP (freeware) efficiently converts AVI video clips to individual bitmaps for further processing

Blackframe (freeware) from MediaChance is a nifty program for subtracting dark frames without leaving black specks behind. But does not have a multiple subtraction option, so each frame has to be treated individually.

L'Oreal (freeware) is a very effective (French) program for removing 'ear' artifacts from webcam images. An English help file can be viewed on my site here, or downloaded (zipped) here.

Astrostack (freeware) by R.J. Stekelenburg is also extremely useful, rapidly aligning and combining multiple images, either from a set of .bmp images, or an AVI Video clip.

Registax (freeware) is similar to Astrostack, and at the time of writing is more comprehensive, but a new version of Astrostack is under development.

AstroAlign (freeware). Useful for improving images where the Red, Green and Blue components have become relatively displaced due to chromatic aberration, particularly through the atmosphere.

Neat Image (freeware demo version) is a specialised filtering program.

Picture Publisher and Adobe Photoshop complete my image processing line up.

My Freeware:( I use these programs frequently but you use them at your own discretion)

Astrophotography Settings

When I first attempted photography through my telescope, I read Michael Covington's book 'Astrophotography for the Amateur' (1991 issue). Very informative and easy reading, and recently updated. It contained a number of BASIC programs for calculating various parameters. I reprogrammed some of these for Windows (using Delphi) and the suite is available in a single program here. There are also Windows programs on Michael's Web Site.

My program (Windows 3.x upwards) can be downloaded either as a Zip file (108 Kb) , or if you don't possess a Zip extractor, a self extracting Zip .exe file (138 Kb). Drop me an e-mail if you find it useful - comments welcome! Sample screen shot:

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August 18th 2001 - now modified to remember all settings (in an .ini file), and with chip pixel sizes in both dimensions.

Slide Show ( 16-bit )

Some time ago I wrote a small image browser, and later upgraded it to run a 'slide show' of images for an Astronomical Society function. It will only handle bitmaps, (also metafiles and icons - an early version of Delphi), but I found it worth converting my images into bitmaps of a suitable size to fit the screen (not essential, but better for the auto mode), and storing them all in one file prior to setting up the slide show. The program is 16 bit and will run on both Windows 3.x and 9x.

The program generates a portfolio of image addresses, stored as a short text file (more than one portfolio can be stored). You can then browse back or forward through your portfolio or select individual images from a list . The program can also be set to automatic mode where it runs continually through the images, either sequentially or at random, and with a time delay (default 5 seconds) preset from 1 to 30 seconds (which seems long enough, but if anyone wants longer, I can alter the program easily - e-mail me!) Again it's here in two versions, a Zip file (135 Kb) and a self extracting Zip.exe file (164 Kb). Screen shot:

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Jpegs now handled!

32 - bit Version of Slide Show.

This is only available in 32 bit for Windows 9x, but handles Jpeg images in addition to Bitmaps. So the disc space required for the images is greatly reduced. Zip file (237 Kb), self extracting Zip.exe (267 Kb).

 

January 2002 - Blink Comparator

Prompted by a tutorial on Nova searching from the Arkansas Observatory, I wrote a simple blink comparator program for Windows. 16-bit, bitmaps only. Zip file (108 Kb) here. Click on thumbnail below for larger screen pic.

Now accepts .jpeg files January 2003. 32 bit version. Zip file 238 Kb here.

New, March 2002 - Olympus Camera Controller

When I went to Africa in June 2001 for the Solar Eclipse, I made the 'newbie' mistake of spending too much time behind my camera, and not enough just eyeballing the unique event. So I resolved to do better next time. A bit of research led me to the Olympus Software site, and I eventually concocted a program which would run my camera from my laptop while I enjoyed the event. Because I'm going back to Africa again in December 2002, and the eclipse is very short - only 1 minute 14 seconds.

Update - December 2002. In the end, I didn't go back to Africa for a number of reasons. So roll on 2006 in Turkey!!

Although originally aimed at eclipse and astronomical photography, many of the features will find a use in other fields. There are two primary actions. First to take a sequence of preprogrammed exposures with different or identical settings, and second to take a rapid fire sequence using the camera buffer. Time delays are also available - it is possible to take a time lapse sequence if wished. The programmed settings can be saved for later use. Focussing is manual (before connecting the camera) or automatic. The pictures are stored in the camera's memory - I wanted to keep the setup as simple as possible for use in the 'field' - just a few clicks to load and check the sequence, then one click to start the ball rolling!

The program is written for my Olympus 2100UZ, using the Olympus 'Wheat' interface. According to the Olympus Web Site the interface controls the 2100UZ, C3030, C3000 and C-211 cameras. According to the supplied instructions, it also controls the D-360L, D-490 Zoom and D-460 Zoom. It may control others. Not all these cameras will have the settings available on the 2100. You will just have to suck it and see! The program will run under Windows 98 and XP, but I have only tested my own camera. Sometimes the library files do not register properly - contact me if you're in real trouble. I have experienced no problems when using the program, but I accept no responsibility for any loss or damage which may result from your use of this program.

If this program doesn't meet your requirements, have a look at Pinetree computing or Cam2Com

So here it is. Download (373 Kb install program). I hope you find it useful. Comments and reasonable suggestions welcome, e-mail me.

Screen Shot (click on thumbnail for larger image)

Calendar - New September 2002

Modified November 2002 - Now with Moon phase indication (Northern Hemisphere, UST) - you can plan your sessions accordingly!!

If you've ever found the need for a quick check on a future (or past) date - you may be planning an observing trip and you're not sure of the day for a given date, haven't got a calendar on your desktop, and don't want to mess about with your computer date settings, here is a simple stand-alone calendar. From 0 to 9999 AD. Use the spin buttons for the Month, spin buttons or direct entry for the Year. The year changes automatically when spinning the months between December and January. Download the 251 Kb zip file here.

 

Screen Shot (click on thumbnail for larger image)