New camera, new software, too many choices on macOS

The low contrast of Mars shrouded in dust, lead me down a chaotic path towards a better tomorrow. I replaced my ZWO ASI120MC planetary video camera with a ASI224MC. The Sony Exmore sensor in the new camera offers much lower noise and 1 to 2 bits more dynamic range than the old as well as much higher frame rates. The two are what I need to capture more data for higher quality planetary images.

The new camera's support for higher speed USB 3, prompted me to check for any new software. I found that there are now many more good choices for astronomical image video capture software on macOS (Applee OS X):

  • oaCapture - the software I've been using with the ASI120
  • AstroLive - a real time image stacking and processing solution frin Kyle Goodwin
  • Planetary Imager - a capture application with an elegant simple interface that runs on Linux and Windows as well as macOS by Marco Gulino
  • FireCapture - this mainstay of the Windows world by Torsten Edelmann now runs on macOS and Linux
  • Nebulosity and PHD Guiding - Craig Starks powerful postprocessing program with capture capabilities and guiding software

There is also new support on the tiny RaspberryPi platform that will work with a phone or iPad to capture and display images:

  • ZWO's ASIair RaspberryPi device is about to be released
  • StellarMate is available both as a turnkey RaspberryPi device and a software release

I'd been planning on reviving my Astro RaspberryPi project with the new more capable Raspberry Pi 3. Instead I plan to check out these new products and will share what I learn later.

Back to the mac, on the software side, I've had success capturing images with oaCapture, Astrolive, Planetary Imager, and FireCapture in the first few hours. I have a 16 bit per channel image work-flow working with FireCapture. Here are some highlights showing the ceiling fan in my office:

Firecapture with 16 bit monochrome Bayer array image from the ASI224

I'm thinking of switching to SER format captures from TIFF. Here is SER-Player with the DeBayered 16 bit data

The 16 bit greyscale Bayer SER file imports into AutoStakkert!

I also use the following software in my astrophotography work-flows under macOS

  • AstroPlanner - great planning and logging package that talks to SkySafari
  • AutoStakkert 3 - my favorite planetary stacker, on macOS with help from WINE and Crossover
  • Hugin - my goto image mosaic sticher
  • Lynkeos - simple and reliable stacking and astro image sharpening program. Deals well with large images and videos.
  • Photoshop - sorry GIMP I need mature 16 bit image support. The pros use PS for good reasons, but the day is coming...
  • PixInsight - fantastic gradient removal, I'll move more of my work-flow here when I find time
  • SER-Player for previewing SER raw video captures and converting them to other formats
  • SkySafari 6 Pro - my favorite planetarium

Content created: 2018-08-01

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