This is just a little experiment to see what I could get out of an extremely jumpy bit of footage I took through my 200p Newtonian with a 2x Barlow lens when up at the Paddock a few nights ago. It was captured with my Toucam Pro webcam with 1.25″ nosepiece, and the capture program was SharpCap:-
The wind was up that night, and in a breeze, the Newtonian acts like a sail and just wobbles all over the place. The first video below is a section of the original video to show just how wobbly I mean (gets really bad just after the middle)…
I ran the footage through a program called PIPP – Planetary Imaging Pre-Processor – available at:-
This is a nice little program that does three things – it locates the planet in the frame and centres it, it crops the frame to remove excess empty space, and it sorts the frames by quality. All of these functions enable the stacking program to do its job more easily, and more quickly than it would with the raw footage. I asked it to get rid of a certain percentage of the worst frames. I ended up with this…
A lot more steady eh? Also a bit shorter than my original, as PIPP gets rid of the worst frames.
Next step was to run stack it. The stacking process combines all the frames of the video into one, and runs some complex algorithms on it to try and correct for the earth’s atmospheric turbulence (which was quite bad on this night – known as bad ‘seeing’). Think of the effect you get when looking through heat haze on a hot day, and you’ll know what I mean – it’s a similar effect. This came back with the following result :-
This was done in a program called AutoStakkert 2 – Available at :-
There are multiple programs available to do this job. I’ve been using this one recently, as I’ve found that it produces the best results with the simplest workflow. There are plenty of good tutorials available on the web about how to use it.
Finally, the image needs a bit of processing to bring out the detail a little. In this particular case, there isn’t actually that much detail to bring out, as the conditions were far from ideal for planetary imaging that night. However, we can definitely improve the image somewhat. I imported it into Registax. This i actually another stacking program, but in this case, i was just using it for it’s sharpening capabilities (known as Wavelets). This is sharpening tailored specifically for use on planetary images. Registax is available here :-
The final result was reasonably pleasing considering the conditions and what I started off with:-
When using wavelets to sharpen, its always a delicate balance between bringing out as much detail as possible, and over-processing (or ‘overcooking’) the image so you end up with lots of processing artefacts. Luckily, registax has tools that help deal with this (denoise and de-ring), which really improve things.
The moral? It’s always worth running your planetary captures through processing, even if you don’t think you’ll get much. The abilities of these applications to bring stuff out you didn’t know was there is incredible. Sometimes, you may just end up with a fuzzy blob, but in this case, although not perfect, it was far from a fuzzy outcome.