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How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

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Align and stack multiple moon shots (or planetary shots like Jupiter for example) allows to improve the final image quality (less noise, less deformations). This post-processing task requires having a set of photographs (typically 10 to 100 for the moon) that have been acquired in the same conditions, with the same gears, and the same settings (focal length, f number, exposure time, ISO, white balance). The alignment task (before being able to properly stack the images) is mandatory in order to compensate the for relative the motion of the moon in front of the camera between the successive shots.

In the following, the raw moon pictures have been acquired with a SONY SLT-A55 DSLR combined with a SIGMA 120-400 lens and the following settings:

  • Focal length : 400mm (35mm equivalent: 600mm)
  • ISO : 200
  • Aperture : F/5,6

Ninox is used for a quick preliminary crop of the raw images, with an automatic centering of the brightest object in the frame (here it’s the moon). This preliminary step allows to reduce the size of the images aligned and stacked later by Registax which will perform faster (and often better).

Registax is then used to perform a precise alignment of the cropped picture set, stack everything into a single image, and apply the powerful wavelet filter.

Note : This tutorial is only valid for Windows users. Linux and OSX users are required to use Wine in so far as Registax is only available for Windows.

wikiHow သည်ဝီကီနှင့်ဆင်တူသည့်“ wiki” ဖြစ်သည်။ ဆိုလိုသည်မှာကျွန်ုပ်တို့၏ဆောင်းပါးများစွာကိုစာရေးသူများစွာမှပူးတွဲရေးသားခြင်းဖြစ်သည်။ ဤဆောင်းပါးကိုဖန်တီးရန်အမည်မသိသူအချို့သည်အချိန်နှင့်အမျှ၎င်းကိုပြင်ဆင်ရန်နှင့်တိုးတက်အောင်လုပ်ဆောင်ခဲ့ကြသည်။

ဤဆောင်းပါးကို ၃၆,၂၉၅ ကြိမ်ကြည့်ရှုပြီးဖြစ်သည်။

လပေါင်းမြောက်များစွာရိုက်ခြင်း (သို့မဟုတ်ဥပမာဂြိုလ်ကဲ့သို့သောဂြိုဟ်တုရိုက်ချက်များ) သည်ပုံရိပ်၏နောက်ဆုံးအရည်အသွေး (ဆူညံသံလျော့နည်းခြင်း၊ ပုံပျက်သောပုံများ) ကိုတိုးတက်စေရန်ခွင့်ပြုသည်။ ဒီ post-processing လုပ်ငန်းတာဝန်အတူတူအခြေအနေများ, တူညီတဲ့ဂီယာနှင့်အတူတူညီသော setting ကို (focal length, f နံပါတ်, ထိတွေ့မှုအချိန်, ISO,) ၏ဓာတ်ပုံများ (ပုံမှန်အားဖြင့် 10 မှ 100) ရှိခြင်းလိုအပ်သည်။ အဖြူချိန်ခွင်လျှာ) ။ (ပုံများကိုစနစ်တကျ stack မလုပ်မီ) ညှိနှိုင်းမှုလုပ်ငန်းသည်မဖြစ်မနေလိုအပ်သည်။ လ၏ရွေ့လျားမှုကိုကင်မရာရှေ့တွင်ရိုက်ချက်များအကြားနှိုင်းယှဉ်နိုင်ရန်အတွက်မဖြစ်မနေလိုအပ်သည်။

အောက်ဖော်ပြပါပုံများတွင်လပြည့်ချိန်များကို SIGMA 120-400 မှန်ဘီလူးနှင့်အောက်ပါအပြင်အဆင်များဖြင့်ပေါင်းစပ်ထားသော SONY SLT-A55 DSLR ဖြင့်ဝယ်ယူခဲ့သည် –

  • Focal length: ၄၀၀mm (၃၅mm နှင့်တူသည် – ၆၀၀mm)
  • ISO: 200
  • Aperture: F / 5,6

Ninox သည်ပုံရိပ်များကိုအမြန်ဆုံး ဖြတ်တောက် ရန်အတွက်အသုံးပြုသည်။ ၎င်းသည် frame ၌အတောက်ပဆုံးအရာဝတ္ထုကိုအလိုအလျောက်ဗဟိုပြုသည် (ဤတွင်လဖြစ်သည်) ။ ဤပဏာမအဆင့်သည်ပိုမိုမြန်ဆန်သော (မကြာခဏပိုမိုကောင်းမွန်သော) လုပ်ဆောင်မှုများပြုလုပ်မည့် Registax မှပုံဖော်။ ပုံတူပုံများ၏အရွယ်အစားကိုလျှော့ချရန်ခွင့်ပြုသည်။

ထို့နောက် Registax သည်ဖြတ်ထားသောပုံ၏တိကျသောညှိနှိုင်းမှုကိုပြုလုပ်ရန်၊ အရာအားလုံးကိုတစ်ခုတည်းသို့စုစည်းရန်နှင့်စွမ်းအားမြင့်သော wavelet filter ကိုအသုံးပြုရန်အသုံးပြုသည်။

မှတ်ချက် – ဤသင်ခန်းစာသည် Windows အသုံးပြုသူများအတွက်သာဖြစ်သည်။ Registax သည် Windows အတွက်သာရရှိနိုင်သောကြောင့် Linux နှင့် OSX အသုံးပြုသူများသည် Wine ကိုအသုံးပြုရန်လိုအပ်သည်။

I’ve had decent luck capturing IR, R, G and B images of Mars and Saturn. Now the question is how to align the resulting TIFs before moving into PS.

I’m used to sub-pixel accuracy in deep space images. How to replicate that with planetary images?

Thanks in advance,

#2 jeffry7

I have only dabbled, but I will offer two pieces that may help.

The first is crop the image to just around the planet. The alignment tools work better if the images to align are only a few pixels off from each other and the smaller the image the less computational overhead there is.

For something like a planet you may find Ninox useful. Ninox automates the business of cropping images, If you only have a few, then may as well do it by hand, but if you have a bunch of stills, then let ninox crop for you. The cons for ninox is that it is a command line tool, and that you will have to convert images to a format it understands.

For alignment I have used panotools or AVIStack. Panotools is another command line tool. You may prefer to get it as Hugin, which is a program for creating panoramics. It is general purpose.

AVIStack is meant for astronomy. There are several tools that will stack pictures and perform the alignment and AVIStack is one of them. Registax is another. I find AVIStack easier to use.

But, you want to do the combining in PS, so I would recommend making panotools part of your work flow because that way you can do just the step you want to do. AVIStack and Registax both are meant to do all the heavy lifting with maybe some post in PS.

So what I would do is

2. Align with panotools (command line) or Hugin (GUI front end for Panotools) http://hugin.sourcef. _of_photos.html

3. Import to PS and stack.

Is there some reason you would prefer PS to one of the astronomy specific stacking tools?

Are there any methods/applications to stack Jupiter’s moons separately from the disc of Jupiter? I took some long videos of the giant planet recently (for WinJUPOS) and Europa was visible near the disc, but of course it became a smear in the final image due to its movement. I’d love to be able to align & stack on just Europa from that video, so I can get a nice small disc instead of a smear. (Which I would then overlay back onto the main image)

Edited by The_8_Bit_Zombie, 24 June 2020 – 06:38 AM.

#2 Tapio

Fly Me to the Moon

You can just set single alignment point in moon (small enough so that it doesn’t touch Jupiter).

Both Autostakkert and Registax can do this.

  • RedLionNJ, happylimpet and The_8_Bit_Zombie like this

#3 Tulloch

Are there any methods/applications to stack Jupiter’s moons separately from the disc of Jupiter? I took some long videos of the giant planet recently (for WinJUPOS) and Europa was visible near the disc, but of course it became a smear in the final image due to its movement. I’d love to be able to align & stack on just Europa from that video, so I can get a nice small disc instead of a smear. (Which I would then overlay back onto the main image)

Hi there, was the “smear” due to the moon’s movement around the planet, or due to field rotation due to your alt/az mount? How long were your videos?

If the issue is very long vidoes (3 minutes or more), then you can use a program like PIPP to split the long video into smaller ones, then stack each one separately. With a 3 minute video you shouldn’t see any movement of the moon or rotation from the planet.

If the issue is field rotation, then AS!3 has the ability to remove field rotation during stacking, using the “Advanced/Experimental Features” drop down menu. The colour information gets scrambled so you have to do it as a 2-step process (once for the planet without de-rotation, once for the moons with de-rotation) but this isn’t an issue for the moons. Then combine the two stacks together in Photoshop or your favourite imaging software. WinJupos will also remove field rotation but the colour information is again scrambled, not as badly as AS!3, but still some.

You can read about my experiences with removing the field rotation at these links if you want.

Edited by Tulloch, 24 June 2020 – 04:35 PM.

  • The_8_Bit_Zombie likes this

#4 The_8_Bit_Zombie

You can just set single alignment point in moon (small enough so that it doesn’t touch Jupiter).

Both Autostakkert and Registax can do this.

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I capture my data as 8 bit bmp files. I have been doing this for several years and do so for a couple of reasons. First, I feel more in control of each individual frame if I can access by itself. Second, I like to run the frames through Ninox by Anthony Wesley. This software crops the frames to a more manageable size (like 400×400) and centers the brightest object in the frame. I have tried all the readily available stacking programs and found that this step does make a noticeable difference. I drag and drop my bmp frames onto Registax. After 5 years of doing this I have gotten pretty good at it.

My first step is to drag and drop my frames onto Registax (Figure 1). Once you do that, you’ll see the screen shown in Figure 2. At this point you have a couple of decisions to make. For an object like Mars or Saturn, I set the Minimum distance between to it’s lowest value (10). For Jupiter I’ll set it to 15, and for the sun or moon I typically set it to 30 or 35. The number of alignment points will differ based on the size of the object on your image. In general, with a given sized object, the lower the Minimum distance number, the more alignment points (APS) you will have. As far as the number of APS, I find that there is a point of diminishing return. I have processed a solar image with 600 APS and 175 APS and found no difference in the final image. More points take longer to process, so you have to decide what looks right. The next box, Min distance from edge, can be left at it’s default value, 20.

The Intensity_section has 3 possible settings. Default is used for most images, but for planets and for other images with large black areas it is important to use 3×3 or Lowest pixel value. The Intensity_section should be set in such a fashion that no alignpoints are in complete black parts of the image or – for planets – too close to the edge of the planet. This can be achieved by changing the method or by changing the LO-HI intensity settings, after changing the setting you will need to press “SET ALIGNPOINTS” again.

At this point I click the Show Prefilter box and click Normalize. This seems to help data that varies in brightness and since I’ve seen no problems using it with good data, I just always use it. Again this is your choice.

Now I’m ready to select the APS! I have tried manually selecting points and letting Registax 6 selecting them and I find that Registax 6 does a better job than me.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

So I click the Set Alignpoints button and Registax will select the points. Registax tries to make sure you are selecting strong points, so the weakest-strongest slider moves 10% forward. See Figure 3.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax


You will see from the figure the 6 APS selected and the slider moved to the right a bit. Six points will work fine with this Mars image. I like to have about 30 points on Saturn, 70-75 on Jupiter and 150-200 on the moon or sun. You can add more points manually simply by left-clicking on the image at the spots you want additional points, and rt-clicking on unwanted points removes them. It is best not to place APS in dark areas or areas with no contrast.

For me, I’m ready to click the Align button. You will see the progress bar move across the bottom of the screen and the timer on the right gives you elapsed time (Figure 4).


Once this is done, observe the Goto Frame box at the bottom of the screen (Figure 4). This box tells you how many frames will be stacked. Either move the slider to select the desired number of frames, or type in the desired number. I use the Best Frames option. Again, you should experiment to see what works best for you. If you set 100 frames with 100 frames/AP you will stack more frames than when using 100 best frames.

Click the Limit button and you will see the screen in Figure 5.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax


I leave the values as you see them in the figure. Then I click the Stack button (next to the “Save Image”) button. In a few seconds the stacking will be done. The amount of time to stack will depend on the size of the image, number of frames and number of alignpoints. See Figure 6.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax


At this point, I click the Wavelet tab and save my raw data.

Cor has made some changes to the wavelet section. Most of it is over my head, but basically he added a denoise box for each layer. From his description, this is an extension of his noise trapping in layer 1 from Registax 5. There will be more detail with the release. To use the denoise settings you must use Gaussian wavelets. I got my settings file from Sylvain Weiller and made some slight modifications to suit me. These settings are guidelines only, just something to get you started. Look carefully at Figure 7 to see the Denoise and Sharpen settings for each layer. Notice the quality of the image compared to Figure 6.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Looks pretty good doesn’t it? Now I’m going to click one more box. Locate the Use Linked Wavelet Layers box just below the Gaussian and Default bullets. Look at Figure 8 and see what happens when I click that box.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax


Pretty dramatic difference, huh? That illustrated the power of the Denoise and Linked Wavelet Layer features. You can experiment to find values that are pleasing to you. Figure 9 has a slightly different set of values for wavelets so you can see how changing the wavelet settings affect the final image.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Well, that’s about all I do. On my quad-core 2.8 GHz system, this process from drag and drop to wavelets takes less than 3 minutes. Of course, now I’ll save the processed image and bring it into my post processing programs to give it the finishing touch.

I hope these guidelines help you to develop your own processing routine and maybe help you produce your best images ever.

Hi all.
Having some trouble getting registax to track my images of the ISS because it moves fast so it can’t stack them very well. Is there settings to have Registax look across the entire image for the ISS. or mabey a way to have it be able to follow the ISS when its moving rapidly across the whole imager FOV. hope i’m explaining my problem ok lol..thanks!

#2 chutch44

#3 FoxK

#4 amateur

#5 thx

#6 FoxK

Yeah. i tried those suggestions THX. for example, using the largest alignment box allowable, if the 2nd frame shows the ISS that happened to jump outside that first box that had the iss centered for that frame, then registax tends to loose the tracking. I would think it wouldn’t be very hard to have a similar stacker that uses the entire image for alignment.

Amateur. I use photobucket for my images. i can’t link to an .avi segment because any .avi I upload to them is used in a flashplayer and is in .flv format

#7 amateur

You can download my software from this post .

I am really looking forward for your feedback using this tool!

#8 thx

#9 FoxK

yeah. i’ve been doing that thx. but its pretty primitive Its almost impossible to use it unless your images are suberbly clear but its better than nothing most times. sometimes its just a case of getting lucky and picking the right spot.

Last night, I got a very rare clear night, and as seems to be typical it was a full moon (Flower Super Moon). I have gotten 2 new optics in the past 2 months to play with, which may be the reason for such bad weather; e.g. clear days, but clouds roll in after dark.

So I decided to try out my new (though 1994 built) Canon EF300mm f/2.8L (non-IS). Being a full moon, I decided to “Shoot the Moon”. My original plan was to use it at 300mm with my ASI183mm-Pro, using the AstroMechanic’s EOS Controller and NINA. I have not used NINA before, and I have never used AF of any type. It seems that NINA recognizes the EF300, but in the drop downs it did NOT show the Ver1, non-IS model, only the IS versions 1 & 2. I selected the IS versions1. NINA connected and seemed to allow aperture control, but it would not allow me to focus. I expect the source of the problems is User Error. So I changed to using my Canon 7Dmk2 and added the Canon 2x iii extender, for 600mm FL, and went back to APT.

This lens is focus by wire, so without electrical camera control, the focus ring does not change focus. With electrical camera control, this lens’ focus by wire is VERY nice, as it has 3 MF control speeds, and is MUCH faster to focus with a Baht mask than my other lenses.

For test purposes, I shot a 36x30s subs on M101 before the Moon got above the tall trees in the east. Then I slewed to the Moon, and took about 20 subs each at 1/200s, 1/400s, 1/800s, and 1/1600s.

More than 2 years ago, I shot the Moon with my 7Dmk2 and 70-200mm f/2.8L lens + Canon 2x iii extender (400mm) and I used PIPP (aligning & grading) and then stacked with Registax, using its wavelet processing as well. I did not know what I was doing, I just downloaded PIPP and Registax, loaded the files and pushed the button, with a little experimentation with the wavelets.

I expect that PI cannot align subs of the Moon, as there are no stars to align. Is this correct?

I have run the 4 exposure batches through PIPP, and PIPP has output TIFs of each of the subs, with each cropped to 1600×1600 pixels.

Is it better to integrate these 4 exposure PIPP batches in PI, or should I used Registax? Or should I used AutoStakkert! ? (These are NOT AVI files, but individual TIFs)

For lunar/planetary is Registax’s wavelet sharpening better or worse than PI?

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I often get asked about how I capture some of the images shown here on my website, especially the processes around capturing high resolution images of the Moon. In this post I’ll attempt to cover what I think are the most important or useful tips, hopefully getting you on the road to producing your own high resolution photos of our nearest neighbour. Many of the points covered also apply to imaging planets and the Sun, topics I plan to cover at a later date.

When to Image

There are some things that will have a profound effect on the quality of your image that you aren’t in control of:

  • Astronomical ‘seeing’
  • The position of the Moon in relation to the horizon

If you look up the term astronomical seeing you find the following definition:

Astronomical seeing is the blurring and twinkling of astronomical objects like stars due to turbulent mixing in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing variations of the optical refractive index. The astronomical seeing conditions on a given night at a given location describe how much the Earth’s atmosphere perturbs the images of stars as seen through a telescope” Source: Wikipedia

In short the more the stars twinkle the worse the seeing is, it may be a beautifully dark and clear night but if the stars are shimmering away then you may as well forget about high resolution imaging. The effects of poor seeing are even more apparent through a telescope where it can appear as if the lunar surface is situated at the bottom of a very agitated swimming pool!

You can counteract some of the effects of poor seeing by using filters that allow only the longer wavelengths of light to pass onto the camera chip, typically IR pass and red filters (covered later). It also makes sense not to try to image over rooftops in winter or hard surfaces in the summer, the radiated heat causing turbulence, so try to find a spot overlooking fields or a park. If the seeing is very poor just wait for conditions to improve and enjoy the twinkling stars.

As well as using your eyes there are a number of websites that will give a good indication of what seeing conditions you are likely to encounter, a useful tool for planning whether it is worthwhile venturing out for the night. I’ve listed a few below but there are lots more that a simple google search should throw up.

Even when the seeing is good the position of the Moon in the sky is also going to have an effect on the quality of your images. When the Moon is low to the horizon it’s light has to pass through a greater thickness of atmosphere which causes the same sort of problems as poor seeing. For best results wait until the Moon is at its highest point (during darkness) and shoot then. In the summer months this can still be quite low so the best lunar images tend to be shot in the winter time, apart from when the Moon is a slim crescent when spring and autumn is best as the ecliptic is at its steepest.

What to Image

What you image is of course a matter of personal taste, however, anyone who has ever looked up when the Moon is out will appreciate that it is a dynamic object, its appearance changing as the Sun illuminates its surface over the monthly Lunar cycle. The best time to image depends on whether the target you have chosen is a crater or mountain range, a sea or ray structures.

If you want to image a crater or one of the beautiful lunar mountain ranges then it is best to wait until your target is near the terminator (the line between light and dark). The shadows cast will bring the features into sharp relief and best show off their structure.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

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I’m wanting to stack a bunch of images with no alignment performed – they are aligned manually, and any auto alignment just gets it wrong.

Any ideas how I can do that in RegiStax?

Thanks all. I should check out deep sky stacker it seems.

In the mean time I actually realised how to do it in photoshop, which works great in this case as I only have 2-4 frames for each shot to stack, and need to merge stacked frames anyway.

How do you do it in PS?

I remember something like setting the opacity of each layer to 1/#frames.. eg: 4 images, set the opacity of each layer to 25%.

But what else do you do? Do you change the blending mode to mulitply or something?

Much simpler than I expected

Leave the layer modes as “Normal” (not multiply, or anything else), and just set the weights as you prefer. A true average of the frames would be as you said:

Layer 3: 25%
Layer 2: 25%
Layer 1: 25%
Background: 100%

But it’s quite nice being able to customise this I have found. Being able to give a little more or less weight to different exposures which are potentially of better or worse quality, longer or shorter exposure, etc.

I’ve been working most with 3 frames:

Layer 2: 33%
Layer 1: 33%
Background: 100%

It’s amazing to see with only 3 just how huge the noise reduction is and increase in clarity when hiding/showing each of the layers, it’s quite fun

Quite powerful to also be able to clone between the layers before flattening them (to remove dust/aeroplanes/etc).

Do you know about tutorials out there on the web that show how you can use AS!, let me know and I’ll add a link!

  • Some guides in Russian on using AutoStakkert!:
    http://www.star-hunter.ru/ planetary-imaging
    http://www.star-hunter.ru/ obrabotka-videorolika- yupitera/
    http://www.star-hunter.ru/ lunar-sun-imaging/
    http://www.star-hunter.ru/dso- proccessing-with-autostakkert/
  • Here is a very cool youtube video made by Steve: Planetary imaging, stacking with AS!2 wrote a small guide (updated July 22, 2013) to get you started on processing solar recordings. Many of the techniques also apply to lunar imaging. Thanks Dennis! was written by Jerry Lodriguss for his book on DSLR planetary imaging. It was (slightly) modified by me – with his permission – and is also very much applicable to dedicated planetary imaging cameras.
  • Derek O’Keeffe wrote a tutorial on how to get AutoStakkert!2 to work on OSX: Creating a wine wrapper for AutoStakkert!2
  • Christophe Pellier wrote a nice piece on the importance of alignment point sizes in AS!2: Importance of AP sizes in AutoStakkert!2
  • Christophe Pellier wrote another excellent piece about how long planetary videos can be for Jupiter before motion blurring occurs due to Jupiters fast rotation speed: How long is too long on Jupiter
  • Luis Argerich wrote a small introduction to the basics of Lucky Imaging and how to make high resolution lunar images with a dslr.

Features

AutoStakkert! is all about alignment and stacking of image sequences, minimizing the influence of atmospheric distortions (seeing). Its goal is to create high quality images of the Planets, the Sun, and the Moon, without too much hassle.

A small and incomplete list of the features:

  • Support for TIFF, FIT, BMP, AVI (uncompressed) and SER files (thanks to Heiko Wilkens). MOV files and other compressed files are also supported when FFmpeg executable is available to AS!. In principle there are no file size limitations.
  • Monochrome and color recordings (both raw bayer, and RGB).
  • Very fast processing due to multicore support and advanced image buffering techniques.
  • Multiple Alignment Points (MAP) results in accurate alignment especially for wider field images (Sun/Moon), but even planetary targets such as Jupiter benefit significantly from MAP.
  • Frame viewer to quickly scan through all the frames (sorted by quality)
  • Sophisticated MAP analysis and recombination to ensure sharp stacking results. Yes, I like to throw in some fancy words, but it actually works…
  • Automated frame rejection techniques to remove poor quality and incomplete frames.
  • Batch processing.
  • And much much more…!

What AS! can’t do: Image sharpening and post-processing

When AutoStakkert! has finished processing, you’ll find yourself with a resulting image – a raw stack – that is not yet ready for publishing. This image contains more detail than think, but you need to bring it out by sharpening your recordings using other image processing software like the GIMP (make sure to get a version that can handle 16-bit data!), or for example Adobe Photoshop. But you can also use other freeware image stacking programs to sharpen your raw stacks, and many people use the Registax wavelets for this!

It might seem that image processing plays only a small part in producing high quality results, but in fact it is as least as important as all the other factors involved in Astrophotography. If the seeing, optical quality, collimation, focus, camera settings, stacking, or processing is less than optimal, you will simply end up with a poor result. This makes astrophotography a challenge, but it also makes it a lot of fun!

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registaxJupiter and its moon, Io. Credit: David Dickinson

The last half of 2020 will provide an amazing opportunity to observe and image planets. Already, Jupiter and Saturn rise to the east as the Sun sets, and Mars will join them shortly as it approaches a fine opposition in October.

One of the best ways to capture images of planets at the eyepiece is a method known as image stacking. This is simply carried out by running video with a camera connected to the telescope, and using a processing program to clean and stack images to tease out detail. This technique is known as ‘lucky imaging,’ and takes advantage of capturing fleeting moments of steady seeing while the turbulent atmosphere roils and shimmers in the view.

It’s strange to think: I’ve been image stacking with a planetary webcam for nearly two decades now. Early amateur pioneers were simply modifying off-the-shelf webcams by removing the existing lens and affixing an eyepiece barrel, to attach the camera at the prime focus of the telescope. I used an inexpensive 20$ Logitech webcam for years, before recently upgrading to a dedicated ZWO ASI 120MC-S camera (MSRP $149 US). This camera has a 1.2 megapixel (1280 x 960 array) color imaging sensor, allowing for fast 72 frames a second capture at full resolution.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registaxMars. Credit: David Dickinson

Such an upgrade is like going from driving a Pinto to a Lexus. Other new planetary and deep-sky imaging cameras on the market from the company include the ZWO ASI 178MC camera at $350 US, up to the high-end ZWO ASI 1600MM camera at $1,280 US.

How image stacking works

Image stacking increases the signal versus noise ratio, bringing out delicate planetary detail while cleaning out unwanted noise caused by poor seeing conditions, temperature changes, and even cosmic ray hits. The first stage any user must master is focusing and acquiring the planetary target. I like to crank the gain up, which overexposes the target planet, but makes it much easier to find and center on the screen. Sometimes, the slightly out-of-focus planet is lurking, just off to the side out of view. The field of view of many planetary cameras is often narrow, perhaps just a dozen arcminutes wide.

Then you’ll want a razor-sharp focus before you begin capturing frames. A focusing mask can help with attaining a fine focus, which is necessary for seeing planetary detail. Aperture focusing masks are commercially available, or you can build a simple one out of cardboard by cutting three equally spaced holes in a triangle-shaped pattern. Some image capturing programs even include a digital focus routine.

A tracking mount aids immensely in capturing quick video sequences, though it’s not essential; I’ve successfully tracked a target during image acquisition by hand, slowly guiding the telescope in azimuth and elevation. For years, we used K3CCDTools ($49 US) for camera control… now, we use Fire Capture (by donation) to control the camera and acquire images. One caveat: video capturing creates large files, and quickly eats up precious laptop hard-drive space. I use an external one terabyte hard-drive to save capture files (and save my laptop disk space!)

Post processing

The next workflow phase is image processing. For years, I used a program known as Registax; today, a common free program many observers use is called AutoStakkert! A stacking program will align, analyze and stack images automatically, and can be set to reject all but the very best images; I usually set the limit at 10 percent. I usually do a final cleanup in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, helping to remove the image noise, sharpen and adjust the brightness and contrast.

When not to stack

Ironically, there are limited situations were you may not want to stack images. Stacking, for example, will remove spurious or moving targets that may still be of interest. These can include impact flashes that can turn up in video review, or things that may ‘photobomb’ deep-sky images, to include asteroids or comets . . . of course, this sort of automatic removal is handy, when it comes to unwanted streaks of aircraft or satellites.

Hoping some clever people out there can lend a hand.

I’ve recently got into doing a little planetary imaging by taking *.MOV movies with my DSLR with eyepiece projection through my 5″ and 16″ undriven scopes. So the image slowly tracks through the field of the video frame. I have successfully stacked images of planets, but not succeeded at all with the Moon.

Using PIPP I convert the DSLR movie to an AVI format for Registax, often using the crop and centre functions in PIPP to roughly align the images prior to stacking. [So far as I know, the centring is not possible with Moon closeups (though I hope I’m wrong!). ].

But. Registax 6 appears to struggle to align and stack any of the images I’ve taken of the Moon, whether it is a segment of the Moon through the 16″ scope, or full disk Moon views with the 5″. I think the problem is in the alignment phase as the Moon is moving through the frame. I’ve tried allowing Registax to set alignment points, and it comes up with great numbers of points, which I try to limit. I’ve tried a few hand-selected points, or ‘centre of gravity’, but so far no joy with any of these.

I realise there’s possibly not enough detailed info above to provide a specific solution, but I wonder if skilled lunar imagers could help with the approximate rough Registax settings they use for aligning and stacking Moon images?

Or if there’s already a guide to this process for unguided images, please let me know!

not sure about Registax settings (so there might be an easier way to do it than this) but when I had this issue I used photoshop to auto-align the images first, cropped them slightly and then put them into Registax.

I have two different pictures of the same object, one of which is taken from roughy the same angle but has a different scale and rotation. I want both images to overlap so that the upper one matches the lower one as exactly as possible. Is there any option in gimp where I can define a number of key points and gimp aligns the images according to these points? For example I say that corner X in picture 1 has to match corner Y in picture 2. It should be sufficient to define 3 such points in each image to get a good result already.

If it is not possible, what would be the best way to reach this goal aside from just scaling and rotating until it looks ok?

5 Answers 5

I don’t believe there is anything in Gimp to auto align images.

You can do it manually by putting the images in layers, setting the top opacity so you can see the underlying image and scaling/rotating one of them.

Or you can use a tool like Enfuse

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

It looks like panotools has a Gimp plugin. I haven’t used it, but it’s there.

Outside of GIMP, but still free, you might want to try going down different roads.

Hugin – Primarily targetted at panorama stitching, you can use this to align and scale an image stack for HDR or exposure blending or time-lapse videos or.

Registax – Aimed at astrophotographers, this free software will take multiple images (a few stand-alone or thousands of video frames), rotate, scale, and align them. Beyond that, it can (optionally) use very sophisticated techniques to combine the component images into a final image.

HDR Alignment Tool – Another possibility. It does alignment, rotation, and scaling. Might be worth a try. A comparison to Photomatix auto-alignment (in 2007, mind you) seems to favor HDRAT.

DeShaker – Another way to approach aligning smaller images (up to 1080p resolution), this free software does video stabilization. If you were to combine the two images into a two-frame movie, this would align them. Probably not what you want, but it’s a technique that’s been used for aligning still images.

Beatles live in Vancouver bc 1964 for collecting. plus more ofn the fab 4. John lennon,George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Using Registax 6 (Paul Maxson)

I capture my data as 8 bit bmp files. I have been doing this for several years and do so for a couple of reasons. First, I feel more in control of each individual frame if I can access by itself. Second, I like to run the frames through Ninox by Anthony Wesley. This software crops the frames to a more manageable size (like 400×400) and centers the brightest object in the frame. I have tried all the readily available stacking programs and found that this step does make a noticeable difference. I drag and drop my bmp frames onto Registax. After 5 years of doing this I have gotten pretty good at it.

My first step is to drag and drop my frames onto Registax (Figure 1). Once you do that, you’ll see the screen shown in Figure 2. At this point you have a couple of decisions to make. For an object like Mars or Saturn, I set the Minimum distance between to it’s lowest value (10). For Jupiter I’ll set it to 15, and for the sun or moon I typically set it to 30 or 35. The number of alignment points will differ based on the size of the object on your image. In general, with a given sized object, the lower the Minimum distance number, the more alignment points (APS) you will have. As far as the number of APS, I find that there is a point of diminishing return. I have processed a solar image with 600 APS and 175 APS and found no difference in the final image. More points take longer to process, so you have to decide what looks right. The next box, Min distance from edge, can be left at it’s default value, 20.

The Intensity_section has 3 possible settings. Default is used for most images, but for planets and for other images with large black areas it is important to use 3×3 or Lowest pixel value. The Intensity_section should be set in such a fashion that no alignpoints are in complete black parts of the image or – for planets – too close to the edge of the planet. This can be achieved by changing the method or by changing the LO-HI intensity settings, after changing the setting you will need to press “SET ALIGNPOINTS” again.

At this point I click the Show Prefilter box and click Normalize. This seems to help data that varies in brightness and since I’ve seen no problems using it with good data, I just always use it. Again this is your choice.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

If you are willing to get up early or stay up super late, Milky Way season is back in North America! Above is a shot I made on February 14th, 2016, in Sedona, Arizona. This image was taken at 5:45 AM, just prior to sunrise. Something I tried for the first time with this photo is taking 10 consecutive shots of the sky at a higher ISO (5000) and shorter shutter speed (15s), and then stacking the photos, which gives you awesome pinpoint stars with minimal noise.

Here’s a walkthrough of how I made the shot.

The Milky Way was going to rise above the horizon a little after 4 am local time, so a friend and I arrived at the location around 3am. This would give us enough time to find the composition we wanted and take some shots of the foreground, using light painting to illuminate everything since the moon set the previous evening.

Shooting the Foreground

Here are the two unedited shots I used for the foreground, each 30 seconds at ISO1600 and f/2.8. In hindsight, I should have taken more in order to get more of the cactus in focus.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

To “paint” the foreground, I stood about 30 feet to camera-right using a cheap headlamp from Wal-Mart. I was about even with the camera and then using trial and error I found the right speed to shine the light across the foreground to get the desired look.

Shooting the Sky

For the sky, I tried a new technique that turned out really well. I took ten consecutive shots (around 5:45 AM local time) of the sky with a high ISO (5000) and shorter exposure (15 seconds), each at f/2.8. You can do a much higher ISO if you want and an even shorter exposure to get even more pinpoint stars. I previously always used a 25 to 30 second exposure with a lower ISO, but even at 15mm the stars would still streak just enough to bug me. Here is what one of the ten shots looked like straight-out-of-camera.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Stacking the Sky Images

I downloaded Starry Landscape Stacker for Mac ($19.99) and then loaded my ten 16-bit .tif images into the program. They have a detailed instructional video on their website that teaches you how to use the program. It is pretty straightforward.

Once the ten images loaded (depending on the speed of you computer, it could take a few minutes), this is what appears:

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Each red dot is supposed to represent a star. You may notice some dots not in the sky, so for these you can just erase them using that feature (on the left hand side). It is just like using the brush tool in PS. You can see the additional line of red dots I added manually along the edges. This is something they go over in the tutorial and it basically helps the program stack the stars better.

I did this for both the sky and the reflection of the sky in the water. You then click “Find Sky” (top left), and let it do its work. This was the resulting image:

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

You can see some areas that aren’t shaded blue, so just use the brush tool on the left and add in areas that are sky and remove areas over land, if necessary.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Once you’ve done that, just hit “Align and Save” and it will save the file as a 16-bit tif file (if that is what you uploaded). It will also save the mask of the sky so you can quickly load that in PS. Here is a look at a single image (of the ten) compared to the final output image (Before is top and after on bottom):

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

The next step was opening the three photos (one of the sky, two of the foreground) as layers in PS. I auto-aligned the photos and cropped the images as necessary. After blending the two foreground images, this was the result:

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

I then masked out the sky and used my shot created in Starry Landscape Stacker. This was the result:

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

I wanted the reflection to be from the same shot as the sky so that it looked right. The foreground shot was taken before the Milky Way rose, so that is why it is not visible in the foreground shots. I masked out the pond as best I could and feathered the edges. I also applied a little Gaussian Blur so that it would blend in on the edges and not just look like some black paint was thrown on the image. This was the result:

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

This was my first time ever doing something like this, so it took me quite a while to get the water and reflection to look acceptable. After I was done with this I threw the image into Adobe LR and edited the sky.

Everything I did to the sky, I also did to the reflection. I raised the clarity in the sky, increased the contrast, and bumped up the exposure just a touch. I also applied lens correction, which I probably should have done before anything else. I found that using the relatively new “dehaze” feature in LR over the Milky Way helped bring out some more detail.

I hardly used this, just moved it to (+5), but that was all that was needed. I then brought up the exposure a bit on Cathedral Rock (using the brush tool) and did used the dodge and burn technique on the Milky Way. All of this could have been done in PS, but I am more comfortable with LR, so that was my method of attack. This was the resulting image:

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

About the author: Cory Mottice is a photographer and meteorologist based in Flagstaff, Arizona. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Here is a list of Best Free Focus Stacking Software for Windows. These software come in handy for Photographers, especially while post processing Macro photos or Microscopic photos.

In almost all of the software mentioned, the process to focus stack photos is carried out by loading multiple images, then running the stack tool. These software detect the best focused parts of the images, then combine them to form a single image. All of the mention focus stacking software have GUI except one, which is a command line focus stacking tool.

Some of these software also auto align images if they are out of alignment, which is a great deal if you do not have a tripod to click photos. If you already have a set of photos to stack, then go on, give the listed software a try.

These software carry out various other operations as well, but the focus of the article has been kept on focus stacking of images. While you will get to know about the listed focus stacking freeware, you will also know How to do Focus Stacking with them.

Focus stacking is the process of stacking multiple photos with differently focused areas, captured from a single position. The focus stacking software listed in this article carry out the job of focus stacking pretty easily with satisfying results.

My Favorite Focus Stacking Software:

I like Picolay and TuFuse the most as free focus stacking tools. Picolay lets you easily carry out photo stacking even if you have multiple images to stack, and they are out of alignment. TuFuse is a command line focus stacking tool and manages to provide excellent stacked output. I would recommend TuFuse if you have perfectly aligned images.

Picolay

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Picolay is an amazing focus stacking software for Windows. It is lightweight and carries out the stacking process very swiftly. All you have to do is add a set of differently focused images to this software, then stack them to get an evenly focused output.

The focus stacking process works best for Macro and Microscopic image sets shot from a fixed point. If you do not have a set of pictures ready for stacking, you can refer to the Tips and Tricks for shooting photos for Focus stacking to get perfect pictures for the process. If your pictures are ready to be stacked, you can rely on this software, even if your pictures are out of alignment. The auto alignment feature works pretty well and can be relied upon.

Apart from focus stacking, you can also carry out other types of stacking here. These are: Color based stacking, Average marked images, Auto adjust brightness, Set white balance, Add/Subtract images, Flat-field, Divide by 1st image, etc.

How to do Focus Stacking using Picolay:

  • Once you open the software, go to the File tab to add images. Select and add a set of images you’d like to focus stack. The images added are displayed as a list; click on an image to preview it.
  • Now go to the Stack operations tab and click on Stack with current parameters. This stacks your images in no time and displays the output on the output preview screen.
  • If you did not get satisfactory result because of alignment mismatch, or if the output has noise, you can change the stacking parameters under Stack operations > Set stacking parameters. Here you can set Noise suppression, Smart Filter, Prefer High/Low frame, Align images, Auto enhance, and save depth map.
  • Once you get a desired output after focus stacking, you can save the output image from File > Save Result As in gif, png, jpg, png, bmp, tif, ico, emf, or wmf formats.

The set of images I used for testing were out of alignment; however, this focus stacking software took care of it very well.

Apart from stacking, you can also create GIF from a set of images. Load the images and go to the Image List tab to create GIF. You can also create Depth Maps and 3D views from a set of images with this freeware.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Is it worth it to stack and process multiples vs. a single exposure?

I think so.

It’s more work, it takes more effort, but in the end the image quality you get from stacking multiple exposures can drastically improve your final product in multiple ways.

Reduce noise with reality

Stacking multiple exposures reduces noise by increasing the signal:noise ratio using reality. I like that.

But, what is signal and what is noise? It’s pretty simple — signal is the stuff (light) we want, noise is the stuff (camera sensor errata) we don’t want. One of the best benefits about stacking multiple exposures is the dramatic increase in the image quality, noise removal, by increasing your signal:noise ratio.

When you stack, you reduce the differences in the digital representation of the light that hits and excites the camera sensor. Each time you shoot an image, the electrical characteristics of the sensor cause it to do its best at representing the photons it “sees.” However, from shot to shot, there are slight brightness and color variations on each pixel for the exact same image. Image stacking produces an intelligent average of each pixel of all exposures, detail for detail, instead of trusting just one exposure and hoping it’s accurate. Sounds like a good idea to me.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Along with decreasing noise — you are also able to saturate your images to get more accurate color because you are boosting signal instead of boosting the noise.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

I’ll let you compare for yourself. Below you can see an example of a single 180-second (tracked) Milky Way image, followed by a stack of 5 different exposures (180-seconds each). Both were post-processed a little differently from the same raw images, but after stacking, there was lot more data to work with.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax alt=”Milky Way Image Stack 5x180s” width=”800″ height=”537″ />

How you do it

There are a few good software packages out there. Some are free, some are not.

I’d highly recommend PixInsight, it’s what I’d consider the gold standard — but isn’t free and it has a big learning curve. It’s worth it, though!

So, if you’re just starting out — give Deep Sky Stacker a try. It’s free and easy to use, and works pretty darn well, too. Once you have a TIFF image from your stacking in DSS, you can edit it with your favorite image processing application and tweak to your heart’s content. And the best part is, you know that what you’re working with is more accurate data than a single exposure.

Try it out!

Have I piqued your curiosity? I’ve got some homework for you, then!

Go download some of our data to play with and stack (or not stack) yourself, and share the results with me!

SharpCap now has the ability to perform live stacking of multiple frames from all types of camera. This also includes the ability to subtract dark frames and perform flat frame correction as part of the stacking process.

Live stacking – a video astronomy technique – is a great way to observe deep sky objects without needing cameras capable of very long exposures, highly accurate mounts or cooled cameras. Instead of taking a relatively small number of exposures of several minutes each to image a galaxy or nebula, SharpCap will take hundreds of images, most likely with an exposure of a few seconds each. You don’t need to have a separate stacking program either as SharpCap will automatically add each new frame to the stack and display the stacked image for you. Images will appear before your eyes as the number of frames in the stack grows and noise levels will drop as the final image is averaged over more and more frames.

In SharpCap 3.0 and above, all cameras support Live Stacking. In practice, you will require a camera that can set an exposure of about 1 second or more to have a chance of picking up enough stars for alignment to work.

Select a supported camera and then press the ‘Live Stack’ button on the toolbar. Mono, Raw and RGB modes are all supported by live stacking, but you are likely to get the best results (and the best performance) from either a Mono or Raw mode. Once the Live Stack button is pressed, SharpCap will immediately begin stacking frames and will display the stacked image instead of individual frames.

It’s a good idea to get your camera settings configured before beginning a live stack (or restart the stack by pressing ‘Clear’ after changing them). Having a medium to high gain is often a good idea, as this gives a better range of values on each individual frame and the noise that a high gain generates is removed when many frames are stacked together.

While live stacking is active, you will see some information at the bottom of the screen, including a histogram of the stacked image and details on the number of frames stacked and total exposure. You can adjust the rendering of the stack by moving the three level lines (black, mid, white) on the histogram. Moving the ‘Mid Level’ line to the left is usually a good starting point as it stretches the fainter parts of the image, bringing out detail in galaxies and nebulosity. If you need very fine control of their position then hold down while dragging sideways or move the mouse above the graph while dragging sideways – both will cause the bar to move more slowly and give finer control.

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

SharpCap Pro users also have the ability to adjust colour balance using the colour balance adjustment sliders if you are imaging with a colour camera, and have the use of the auto stretch (lightning bolt) button.

Note that the histogram always shows the levels of the stack held in memory, so adjustments to the colour sliders and the level stretch do not change this histogram (they do change the way the image looks on screen, how it is saved when using ‘save as seen’ and the mini histogram graph).

If your frame rate is very high (several frames per second) you may see a warning that some frames are being dropped. This occurs when the stacking calculations can’t keep up with the rate at which frames are arriving. As you’d expect the limit for this depends on the speed of your PC.

In addition to being able to stretcht the histogram to brighten faint objects there are a variety of controls that can be adjusted to control the stacking process.

  • Stacking Algorithm – Default or Sigma Clipping (Sigma Clipping requires a SharpCap Pro license). Sigma clipping will help exclude unwanted artefacts like satellite or aeroplane trails from the stacked image.
  • FWHM Filter – discard frames where the average star size (FWHM) is above a threshold – this lets you keep the frames where the seeing is best
  • Brightness Filter – discard frames where the average star brightness drops below a threshold – great for stopping stacking when thin clouds come across the field of view
  • Star detection settings (in the Alignment section) – adjust these if you have problems with alignment due to too few (or too many) stars being detected

To save a stacked image, simply press the ‘Save’ button. The image will be saved as a ‘fits’ file and will be named according to the same rules used for naming other SharpCap capture files.

Using the dropdown options on the Save button you can save the stack either as

  • A 16 bit image with the histogram stretch applied – this will appear roughly as viewed onscreen
  • A 16 bit image with no adjustments applied for later processing
  • A 32 bit FITS image containing the raw stack values for later processing

It’s also possible to save the individual frames that go into the stack – this can be handy to do a full re-process of the imaging session later.

Sharpcap automatically corrects for drift and rotation while live stacking (as long as at least 3 stars – ideally about 15) can be found in each frame. You can also setup filters on both star FWHM and image brightness, both of which can help give a better final stacked image by rejecting frames that are less sharp than usual or those that are dimmed (perhaps by passing cloud).

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With just your telescope and DSLR camera, you can capture some amazing views of our bright neighbor planets. You don’t even need a tracking mount!

When I decided to get into astrophotography, Jupiter was at the top of my list of targets. Jupiter was very prominent in the sky all winter. Whenever the clouds cleared off enough to setup the telescope, Jupiter is almost always my first target, particularly with the camera. Now, with Jupiter setting to the west, we have Saturn taking it’s place from the east. Here are some tips to help you capture these brilliant gas giants.

Probably the best method for doing planetary imaging is recording video of the planet through the telescope, then using a program like Registax to align and combine the best frames of the video into a static image. Celestron, Orion, and others sell specific planetary imaging cameras for this such as the Orion StarShoot 5 MP Solar System Color Camera.

Frankly though, that’s a lot of work with specialized equipment and software. You can get really impressive results, but it takes an investment not only in equipment, but most importantly in time. Mind you, I’ll almost certainly find myself doing that process at some point, but for now, I prefer a more general purpose and simple approach.

Fast Exposure Planetary Imaging

How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

Jupiter and Saturn are bright planets – they have a visual magnitude between +1.5 to -3. What this means is you don’t need to take a long exposure to capture their detail. In fact, a long exposure will just wash out all the detail. This means you don’t need a computerized tracking mount. The exposures are short enough that you can point your telescope manually and get an acceptable image.

For Jupiter, you only need an exposure of about 1/20th of a second to capture the cloud bands. If you want to capture the jovian moons, about a 1 second exposure should do the trick. Note that this longer exposure will get you the moons, but wash out the detail of the planet – I’ll talk about some relatively simple editing to deal with this in a minute. For now, just realize that you need two different exposures to capture both the planet and moons.

Turning to Saturn, we have a slightly dimmer but equally magnificent target with the rings. Saturn is currently at opposition, which means the best and brightest viewing opportunities of the year. Even so, it is still a bit dimmer than Jupiter, which means a slightly longer exposure is called for. I found that about 1/5th of a second works well in my setup.

  • Lens: Prime Focus to the 6″ SCT (1500mm focal length) with a 2.5x Barlow
  • Camera Mode: Manual
  • Focusing: Manual using Live View
  • White Balance: Daylight
  • ISO: 800
  • Quality: Highest Quality JPEG (optionally capture in RAW)
  • Shutter Mode: Continuous Shooting (A remote shutter release is highly recommended.)
  • Exposure Times:
    • Jupiter: 1/20th sec
    • Jupiter’s Moons: 1 sec
    • Saturn: 1/5th sec

    Note that the camera settings listed are for my particular setup with a 6″ SCT and Canon T3i camera. If you are fortunate to have a larger aperture telescope, you will be able to take even shorter exposures and capture the detail. If you have a smaller aperture scope, you may need to extend the exposure times a bit.

    Focusing can often be a challenge with astrophotography. A camera with Live View makes this easier, particularly with the bright planets. Getting the planet centered and zooming in on the display, you can adjust the focus to where you see the most definition. In the case of Jupiter, look for clear cloud bands. For Saturn, look for well defined rings. If the moon is up, it also makes a great object for adjusting the focus.

    Air turbulence is a critical factor with planetary imaging in particular. If you have a camera with Live View that allows you to zoom in, you will be able to see the air turbulence and the distortion it causes on the image of the planet. The only real solution for this is clear, calm air. You will however notice that from moment to moment, the image may appear better or worse. One of the advantages of video imaging discussed earlier is that the software can filter out individual frames of video where the image is particularly distorted due to the air turbulence. When you are doing single exposure planetary imaging, you want to wait for the clear air breaks, and snap off your images during those moments.

    DSLR Live Viewing

    I’ve been constantly surprised at the little things I’ve learned quite by chance. In this case, it’s just how cool using a DSLR can be not just for imaging, but for observing Jupiter and Saturn without squinting through an eyepiece.This doesn’t work for dim objects, but I find it extremely enjoyable for planetary and lunar observing.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Combining The Best

    You may be perfectly happy with a few good shots straight off the camera. If you want to go a little bit further with it, you can take a few of the best images and do a little sharpening and combining in Photoshop or a similar layered image editor. Running a basic sharpening filter on each layer can also help you achieve a cleaner image.

    You can stack images just by starting with a base layer, and for each successive layer, reduce the opacity by between 25-50% of the opacity of the layer below it. For example:

    • Layer 4: 25% opacity
    • Layer 3: 40% opacity
    • Layer 2: 60% opacity
    • Layer 1: 100% (background layer)

    Basic layer stacking is also a way to get a combined image of Jupiter and the Jovian moons by taking the shorter exposure images of Jupiter and the longer exposures with the moons and combining them. You can repeat the above stacking method twice, once for the longer exposures with the moons, and a second time with the shorter exposures of Jupiter showing the cloud bands. Once you have these two stacks, you can overlay the stack with the details of Jupiter into the image with the moons.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Not sure what other gear or adapters you need? Have a look at My Astrophotography Gear.

    I’ve been trying to calculate the period between the conjunction of all of the moons which my planet has. They are five minor moons with orbital periods ranging from 0.5 to 1.3 earth days, and one major moon with an orbital period of six days.

    I’ve found this neat equation, but it only works for two bodies, and I’m not sure if I’m using it correctly.

    1/Psyn = 1/P1 − 1/P2

    An answer in this question mentioned that you can calculate the time between the conjunction of more than two moons by calculating it for two moons and then substituting it as either P1 or P2. I’ve tried all I could, but sooner or later the results will start making no sense. I suspect it is because of the relatively short orbital periods of the moons, or because I just might be misunderstanding the equation.

    Is there a better way to calculate the period between conjunctions of six different moons when viewed from the planet they orbit? Am I missing something? Do the moons have to be in some kind of resonance for the equation to work?

    1 Answer 1

    (Warning: lots of unstated approximations in the following answer. Good enough for government work, not good at all for actually pointing a telescope.)

    There is no simple formula for three or more celestial bodies; in fact, while two celestial bodies are (almost, barring unnatural situations) guaranteed to align perfectly from time to time, three or more are not guaranteed to align perfectly, ever; and they usually don’t, so that you must decide how closely aligned they should be for you to consider their position a good enough conjunction.

    For example, consider Io, Europa, and Ganymede, three of the Galilean moons of Jupiter: their orbits are in a 4:2:1 resonance, and they never ever align perfectly.

    So in the end, it all depends on:

    1. The synodic orbital periods of the celestial bodies.
    2. Their starting positions in the sky.
    3. What you consider a good enough conjuction. Perfect conjuctions may be impossible, but you may settle for an imperfect conjuction.

    First, let’s establish a little terminology.

    The “orbital period” of a satellite can be considered from two different points of view:

    If the orbital period is considered from the point of view of the fixed stars, then it is called “sidereal period”.

    If the orbital period is considered from the point of view of an observer on the planet’s surface, then it is called “synodic period”.

    They are different, because during the time the satellite completes a sidereal orbit, the planet below it has rotated a little, so that it won’t appear in the same position in the sky for the observer on the surface. As an extreme example, consider a geostationary satellite used for telecommunications: its sidereal period is 24 hours, while its synodic period is infinitely long.

    So the first thing to do is to determine the synodic periods of the five moons. If you know the sidereal periods, add or subtract the fraction of planetary rotation completed in a sidereal period, depending on whether the satellite orbits the planet in a prograde or retrograde direction.

    At this point you have:

    • The synodic periods of the five moons, either given or computed.
    • Their initial positions in the sky, which must be given.

    Now it is only a matter of tracking their positions in the sky, and stopping when you find them covering a small enough angle for them to be considered in conjuction. You can do it in a simple program, or in a spreadsheet.

    For example, assigning the following synodic orbital periods to the satellites: 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 1.1, 1.3 and 6 days; and assigning the following starting positions (degrees counterclockwise with North = 0): 0, 60, 120, 180, 300: they will come within a sector of 36.3 degrees after 901.58 days, and will again be within 35.3 degrees 901.04 days later; the next such close alignment will be 1638 days later, when they will come within 35.3 degrees. Those may be or may not be good enough conjuctions, that’s your choice.

    Cheating a little

    If you know the synodic orbital periods of the satellites, you can compute their least common multiple with any desired precision.

    For example, continuing the example of the six satellites with synodical periods of 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 1.1, 1.3 and 6 days: it is obvious that their position in the sky will repeat every 18,018 days; so that if right now they are in good enough conjunction, they will also be in good enough conjunction 18,018 days later. (This does not mean that there won’t be other good enough conjunctions during those 18,018 days.)

    This happens a lot with macro photography and close up, where you don’t even have to be at a wide aperture for a limited depth of field. Another situation I can think of is a group of people in a row and you are shooting long, you cannot get everyone in focus in a single shot. Also product photography this is very commonly done.

    This tutorial shows you how to do focus stacking inside the Photoshop.

    Step 1 capture multiple photos.

    When you shoot close up, the focal plane isn’t wide enough to capture the entire image as sharp. So, we shoot the subject multiple times, shifting the focus on each, until we have captured the entire subject. Something this may take only 2 photographs, sometime 7 or more. In this case, we were able to get most of it in 3. (At least good enough to do this quick, simple tutorial).

    First photo has focus in the center and everything around is blurred.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Second and 3rd photos have the focus pushed back further.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Third photo has the focus all the way back.

    Step 2: Align the images

    Load the 3 images into a layer stack. Use Scripts>Load images as stack, or manually drag them all in.

    Notice the photos are not properly aligned

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registaxHow to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    We need to align the photos in Photoshop, and Photoshop can automatically do that for us.

    Select all three layers in the layers panel. (Shift select)

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Go to Edit>Auto-Align Layers

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Wait couple of seconds for the output to be generated.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Now all the layers are aligned.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Step 3: Blending the layers in Photoshop

    Photoshop can blend all these layers together into 1 smooth photo.

    Go to Edit>Auto-Blend Layers

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Select Stack Images.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Wait couple of seconds until layers are blended.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Now layers are blended together.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    You can check each layer and see the masking that photoshop has done.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    If you want the whole photo sharp, you may need to take more pictures. You will get the hang of it after you have done a couple.

    Step 4: Finishing touches

    Let’s clean up the image.

    Grab the Crop Tool.

    Set the crop area by dragging on the image with the crop tool.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Hit Enter when you’re finished with setting the crop area.

    Step 5

    Put the layers into one smart object.

    Select all layers

    Go to Filter>Convert for Smart Filters

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Now you have one smart object.

    Step 6: Camera Raw adjustments

    Go to Filter>Camera Raw Filter

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Pull down Highlights, Blacks and Vibrance a bit.

    Increase Shadows, Contrast, Whites and Clarity.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Pull down Amount under Post Crop Vignetting to add a nice vignette (darken) around the edges.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    And here’s the final image.

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Thanks for keeping up with my tutorials. Subscribe to our newsletter and get new tutorials every single week.

    Add a comment, let’s get discussion going. Let me know what you would like to learn and what you like and what you don’t like and until next time,

    I will see you, at the cafe.

    11 responses to “How to do Focus Stacking in Photoshop tutorial”

    I have been trying for months to conquer this issue, Auto-aligning & then blending were’nt a problem, but result was abject failure! You’ve unlocked the next steps for me – Smart Filter & Camera Raw Feature – massive success!
    Thanks guys, this and your weekly tutorials have increased by skills incredibly!

    At the end of step 3, you have three layers, at the start of step 4 there’s only one, and then in step 5, there’s three again. Should step 5 come before step 4? Or am I missing something and, if so, what is it?

    Yaffe, the screen capture in step 4 is just showing the “Crop Preview” hence the one layer showing in Layer Panel

    …and I am sorry about addressing you by your last name only…I should be in bed right now 😉

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been having problems with this process. After blending the images, I always get a weird x-ray image instead of the composite image I’m expecting. Any idea, what I am doing wrong?

    When I stack the images, I cannot edit the resulting masks? I want to granularly edit the results and if I select a mask, I cannot paint anything out or in?? Why is this?

    So glad I found your tutorial. Thanks a million. No need to go out and buy additional stacking software.

    This is the best tutorial I have seen – Thank You! I have one question about the final file size: the Smart Object is made up of all of the layers and unless I missing something, that can be a BIG file. What is the best way to reduce the file size? Thank you, Todd

    Sure its bigger, but thats an issue these days. However if you save as a Tif with LZW compression it will be smaller

    How do you save the image ? As a JPG, Tif, PSD, Raw or what ? Do I just do a plain SAVE or a Save As ?
    Enjoyed your tutorial, thanks Ned

    NASA has just released a telescope alignment evaluation image from JWST for the star HD 84406 2MASS J17554042+6551277. It looks like this:

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    To my untrained eye, the star looks like it would look when viewed from a mirror that has a small smudge at the center. There are multiple lines at 45 degree originating from the star (and also couple of fainter ones at left-center and bottom-center of image).

    Is this because of the brightness of the star (it is “only” 258 about 2000 light years away)? Or are there some image post-processing steps that have not been applied to the image? Would the star look the same, if, for example, Hubble Space Telescope photographed it?

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    2 Answers 2

    A quick check by pasting the image into PowerPoint and rotating a line shows that the spikes have threefold symmetry; they’re at -30°, 30° and 90°.

    This is exactly what you would see from diffraction by the “spider web” of the dark edges that separate the 18 hexagonal subunits of the primary.

    But it’s also exactly what you would see from a single giant hexagonal aperture.

    The devil is in the details, since the pattern will change depending on how wide of a range of wavelengths is being passed, which will tend to smear out some aspects of the power spectrum.

    The secondary mirror is supported by a spider with elements at 60°, 90 and 120°. The three diffraction spikes they will produce will be perpendicular to them, but also spaced every 30° degrees rather than every 60°.

    I took the Fourier transform of the monochrome image illustrating JWST’s clear aperture from @pela’s answer and we can instantly see similarities.

    The horizontal spike at 0° is the diffraction pattern of the vertical element of the spike, and the light/dark banding in it (characteristic of slit diffraction) is nicely reproduced.

    The other two that should appear at at +/- 30° are hidden under the sixfold star pattern of the mirror’s “hexagonal theme”.

    How much of the six-pointed star’s power is from the “spider web” of the internal gaps between elements versus the mirror’s external jagged edge versus just a big giant hexagonal hole? It’s difficult to say without a more careful analysis with a full model.

    The spotted pattern within the arms of the stars in some images below will smear out once it is averaged over wavelength (smearing the power spectrum by scaling radially)

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Here’s the files processed

    • original: /wp-content/uploads/2022/04/photography-why-does-2B37B7.png
    • modified_1.png https://i.stack.imgur.com/aqf0w.png
    • modified_2.png https://i.stack.imgur.com/GQ1Zq.png
    • big_hex.png https://i.stack.imgur.com/Lyame.png

    and here’s the script:

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Any telescope will have diffraction of the light due to the edges between mirror and non-mirror. This sets a fundamental limit to the telescope’s resolution, given by the size of its primary mirror. Earth-based telescopes will usually not have this problem, since the atmospheric seeing will dominate, but James Webb is in space, and so is “diffraction-limited”.

    The diffraction pattern depends on the shape of the mirror, as well as on anything that is in front of the mirror, i.e. the secondary mirror and the arms holding it (called “struts” or “spider”). In general, an edge will result in spikes perpendicular to that edge. A round mirror, such as Hubble’s, results in concentric rings, but its secondary mirror is mounted on a plus-shaped spider, and hence point sources observed with Hubble will have plus-shaped spikes, as seen below:

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax NGC 6397 globular cluster. Credit: NASA/ESA/H. Richer.

    James Webb’s mirror is made up of 18 hexagonal segments. The edges of the outermost mirrors hence all follow three different directions, which are aligned at 60° to each other. This is the reason for the six brightest spikes.

    Additionally, Webb’s secondary mirror is mounted on three arms. The two lower arms are actually aligned with the hexagonal pattern (on purpose, I presume), so the diffraction caused by those fall on top of four of the six spikes. But the upper boom is vertical in the images, and thus gives the fainter, horizontal spikes.

    You can see the alignment here on this “selfie” (created using a specialized pupil imaging lens inside of the NIRCam instrument that was designed to take images of the primary mirror segments instead of images of space):

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax Credit: NASA.

    Below you see the resulting diffraction pattern from various spiders:

    How to align and stack multiple moon pictures with ninox and registax

    Diffraction is seen for point sources, which will typically mean stars, because they are bright. The brighter a source is, the brighter the spikes will be. If you exposed for long enough, you’d also see a diffraction pattern from the fainter point sources. Almost all the other sources in this image are galaxies. In principle you also see diffraction from extended sources, but as John Doty comments the pattern will be convolved with the surface brightness of the source, smearing out the spikes.

    The bright galaxy seen

    10 o’clock in the JWST image is a very distant one, with a redshift of 0.285 (source: Grant Tremblay’s tweet), placing it at a distance of almost 3.8 billion lightyears.