Free Tools to Use in Astrophotography

Overview

One of the biggest challenges for taking astrophotography, including Milky Way, Star Trails, Star Freeze and night time scenes is the use of Software Tools to enhance the photo. The following article will cover some of the free software tools to use. If you have more suggestions then please email me and I will add it to this list.
Some of the Tools discussed here is:
·         Software Tools
o    StarStax
o    Google Nik
o    GIMP
o    Paint.Net
·         Android
o    PlanIt!
o    Compass
o    DSLR Remote
o    Sky Guide
o    Sky Map
·         Website Tools
o    Time and Date
o    Light Pollution Map 

Software to Use

StarStax

I use an application called StarStax to compile your hundreds of Time-Lapse star photos (http://skyclik.blogspot.co.za/2016/02/how-to-do-time-lapse-star-trails.html) into one singular photo, which will show you star-trail beautifully.

Once you have downloaded StarStax then follow the following guidelines to compile the photo:
1.        Open StarStax
2.        Click on File -> Open Images menu option
3.        Select your folder where all the photos are
4.        Click on Build->Star Trails menu option
5.        Select the radio button “Lighten-Screen-Blend (LSB without gaps, slower) option
6.        Click on OK
7.        This process should take approximately 5-10 minutes – thus go and have a cup of coffee
8.        When done then save your image to your hard drive
9.        Enjoy your photograph J 

Screen Shot of the StarStax Application:

Item
Description
Site
StarStax
Description
I use StarStax to Stack all the Time-Lapse photos into one brilliant photo.
URL

 

Google Nik

Google changed their Photo Editing Add-Ons and Software package for free. Check it out:
Item
Description
Site
NIK
Description
Google Image Editing Suite
URL

 

GIMP

If you want more control over your photograph then I would recommend using GIMP. GIMP is an open source Photo Editing tool, which rivals the bigger photo editing software’s functionality.

Screenshot of GIMP

Item
Description
Site
GIMP
Description
Open source Photo Editor
URL

 

Paint.Net

Paint.Net has an easy to use software interface which allows you to perform Auto-Level, Brightness/Contract. Curves, Hues/Saturation and a host of other filters. I enjoy Paint.Net to due to its “Live-View” of the adjustments you are making to your photograph.

Screenshot of Paint.Net

 

Item
Description
Site
Paint.Net
Description
Microsoft Advanced Paint Editor
URL

 

Deep Sky Stacker

I recently started to use Deep Sky Stacker, which gives you more functionality than StarStax. Thus if you want advanced stacking functionality then I would suggest Deep Sky Stacker. Deep Sky Stacker is greatly used by Deep Sky Objects (stacking multiple photos of e.g. photographing nebulas)

Item
Description
Site
Deep Sky Stacker
Description
Stacking of Deep Sky objects
URL

 

Android Tools

PlanIt!

This is the best tool that I have in my repository. With it you can find the milky wat, Milky Way centre, run simulated star trails. View your location or any other location on maps based on terrain, road maps etc. There are too many feature the even star discussing it here, thus check it out

Item
Description
Site
PlanIt!
Description
AWESOME tool to provide you anything from milky way centre to star trails simulation
URL

 

Compass

I always use a compass to assist me in providing direction and to have a good indication where is South (Plus sometimes use it to get back to my camp site J )
Item
Description
Site
Compass
Description
Used for providing direction
URL

DSLR Remote

I use DSLR remote when I’ve forgotten my Cable Release at home. If your camera supports remote connection then I would definitely recommend this application as a back-up.
Item
Description
Site
DSLR Remote
Description
Remote Cable release functionality on your phone
URL

 

Sky Guide

I use Sky Guide to have a view of the galaxy based on the direction which you point your phone. This is useful to identify where certain stars, constellations and stars of interest are.
Item
Description
Site
Sky Guide
Description
Shows a view of the galaxy based on the direction which you point your phone
URL

 

Sky Map

I use as well Sky Map to have a view of the galaxy based on the direction which you point your phone. This is useful to identify where certain stars, constellations and stars of interest are. (Sometimes Sky Guide or Sky Map does not pick up all the stars, thus I use both applications)

Item
Description
Site
Sky Map
Description
Shows have a view of the galaxy based on the direction which you point your phone
URL

 

Websites

There are several websites which I regularly use, but I use frequently Time and Date’s website to see the different moon phases, and when are the Moonrise and Moonset times. This enables me to plan accordingly.

Time and Date

Time and Date is an awesome website where you can see the moon phases and the moonrise and moonset calendar.
Item
Description
Site
Time and Date
Description
Shows the moon phases
URL

 
Item
Description
Site
Time and Date
Description
Moonrise/ Moonset
URL

 
Item
Description
Site
Moon Connection
Description
Moon Connection: This site provides a visual interface on the phases of the moon
URL

 

Light Pollution Map

The light pollution map shows you where there is a lot of glare in the sky from the city lights, and where the ideal “dark-skies” is.
Screenshot of Light Pollution Map:

Item
Description
Site
You can see the Milky Way
Description
Light Pollution Map
URL
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