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Deep Sky Stacker Tutorial for Astrophotography Shots

Deep Sky Stacker interface divided in 7 main sections and no menu bar.

Picture stacking is the start line within the modifying workflow of any of your deep area pictures. One photograph stacking software program you should use is the Deep Sky Stacker, also referred to as DSS.

With this Deep Sky Stacker tutorial, you’ll be utilizing photograph stacking to acquire a remaining picture. It will have extra particulars and fewer noise than the preliminary photographs, which is what we’re after.

What Is the Deep Sky Stacker

Deep Sky Stacker is a free software program that makes it straightforward to pre-process deep sky astrophotography. You’ll be able to obtain it right here.

DSS is on the market for Home windows. The newest model is 64-bit solely. However you possibly can nonetheless obtain older 32-bit variations from the official web site.


DSS is straightforward to make use of and the interface is straightforward and intuitive.

Deep Sky Stacker interface divided in 7 main sections and no menu bar.

DSS interface is split in 7 primary sections and no menu bar.

The interface has seven most important sections:

  1. Registering and Stacking;
  2. Processing;
  3. Choices;
  4. Zoom and show stretching;
  5. Picture viewer;
  6. picture listing and information;
  7. Group tabs.

1. Registering and Stack

Within the first part yow will discover the controls to Register and Stack your mild frames. This implies you possibly can load all of your pictures and calibration information.

You then inform DSS to calibrate, align and stack your pictures. And you’ll find yourself with a single picture.

After the method is full, DSS will save the output picture as a 32-bit .tif file referred to as Autosave.tif. You’ll find it in your picture listing.

The ensuing picture is routinely loaded within the Processing part.

2. Processing

The Processing part permits you to load a picture or to work with the present one. Right here you possibly can stability the channel, change luminosity and improve saturation.

You can even create a star masks and save your work as a .tif file.

three. Choices

Within the Choice part you possibly can tweak the register and staking settings. You’ll be able to see the totally different menus for these settings within the photographs under.

The Register Settings window (top) and the 10 menus for the Stacking Settings. deep sky stacker tutorial

The Register Settings window (prime) and the 10 menus for the Stacking Settings.

Right here, you possibly can outline a default threshold for star detection.

The Stacking settings panel consists by 10 tabs. These are comet mode, stacking mode, and different choices.

Putting the cursor on the choices will make an information window come out. This features a brief description of what the choice does. More often than not, the advisable settings work properly sufficient, so you’ll not need to do a lot tweaking.

The RAW/FITS DPP settings assist you to specify how RAW information are learn. And which settings to use to them, (e.g. debayer technique or white stability).

It’s also possible to load and save settings.

four. Zoom and Visible Stretching

The icon splits your picture view in 4 panels. These present elements of the picture zoomed in.

The slider will brighten the picture in order that particulars hidden in the dead of night will grow to be seen.

Deep Sky Stacker interface -Magnified panels within the zoomed view (prime) and the impact of the visible stretching (backside).

This doesn’t have an effect on the unique picture. It’s for show functions solely.

5. Picture viewer

When you choose a picture from the pictures record, Deep Sky Stacker will present it on this part. A small menu will even seem. You’ll be able to additional manipulate the picture right here. Crucial choice is comet mode.

Comet mode lets you choose the place of a comet within the picture. Extra about this later.

6. Picture Record

The picture record exhibits all of the loaded photographs, in addition to calibration frames. If the pictures have already been registered and graded by high quality, this information seems subsequent to the names.

Right here you may also verify the information you need to work with.

7. Group Tab

The group tab permits you to load pictures from totally different periods, e.g. in case you are imaging on a number of nights. This lets you calibrate every set with the right calibration information. Keep in mind, for instance, that darks are taken within the subject and are temperature dependent.

DSS will then mix all of the units right into a remaining picture.

DSS on Mac OS or Linux

As stated earlier than, DSS is Home windows solely. However there are two methods to apply it to a pc operating Mac OS or Linux:

  1. Use WineHQ or a wine wrapper corresponding to Wineskin (Mac OS). It will emulate a Home windows surroundings simply for DSS. You’ll be able to then launch it like another software. Whereas it’s a free answer, in the meanwhile you need to use the older 32-bit model of DSS. This system will run slower than anticipated.
  2. Should you use DSS lots, one of the best answer is to run Home windows on a digital machine. You need to use VMware Fusion ($, Mac Solely), Parallel ($, Mac Solely) or Digital Field (free and multi platform).

Instance Utilizing Photographs of the 21P Giacobini Zinner Comet

Let’s undergo a sensible instance. I’ll use the info I took to photograph comet 21P Giacobini Zinner. This manner you’ll see how all of the DSS features work collectively. And what the basic workflow for this program seems like.

Step 1: RAW/Matches DPP Settings

Earlier than loading your RAW information into DSS, go to RAW/Matches DPP settings… and be sure you verify the choice “Camera White Balance” and uncheck “Set the black point”.

deep sky stacker interface

A lot of the stars on the market are yellow, like our Solar. Your digital camera white stability must be set to Solar.

Step 2: Load Your Pictures And Calibration Frames

Within the Registering and Stacking part, you must click on on Open image information… and choose all of your mild frames. When you have any, that is the time to load the calibration frames. These embrace Darks, Flats, Darkish Flats and Offset/Bias information.

If this terminology is complicated and also you don’t know what calibration frames are, verify our Helpful Glossary Of Astrophotography Phrases.

When you load your pictures and calibration frames into DSS, their file identify and EXIF knowledge might be within the beforehand empty picture record.

You may need knowledge from totally different periods that you simply need to mix. Load them in several teams, one for every knowledge set.

If you need it can save you the file record, in case you must begin over. Click on on the Examine all… hyperlink: it will choose all loaded pictures.

Step three: Choose the Comet Place

This step is just in case you have a comet in your picture. If this isn’t the case, you’ll be able to leap to the subsequent step.

That is probably the most tedious half. You need to manually specify the place of the comet in all of your pictures by clicking on it. To do that, begin by choosing the primary picture in your record.

Then click on on the inexperienced comet icon within the small menu that seems on the best aspect of DSS home windows.

Whenever you run the mouse on the picture, you’ll see a small zoomed in view. This can seem on the left of the picture. Use that to put your cursor on the comet nucleus.

In case you can’t see the comet, transfer the center cursor within the Visible Stretch bar to the left. It will brighten the picture.

By using the visual stretching, the image brightens enough to easily spot the comet. On the right side of the window, the small menu to manipulate the image is visible.

Through the use of the visible stretching, the picture brightens sufficient to simply spot the comet. On the suitable aspect of the window, the small menu to control the picture is seen.

When you’ve got not registered the pictures earlier than, a message window will pop up if you click on on the comet. I often select to proceed with out registering the pictures.

When achieved, click on the disk icon on the small menu that appeared on the backside proper of the picture once you chosen it. It ought to be blue now.

Right here’s the catch. Any more, each time you choose the subsequent picture, a pink circle will point out the place of the comet within the earlier picture.

That is unrelated to the at present chosen picture. You need to click on to deselect the previous place and click on once more to set the brand new one.

A pink circle (top) shows where the comet was located in the previous image. Click on the comet to deselect the old position (the cursor becomes green) and click again on the center of the comet to select the new position (bottom). Save and move to the next image.

A pink circle (prime) exhibits the place the comet was situated within the earlier picture. Click on on the comet to deselect the previous place (the cursor turns into inexperienced) and click on once more on the middle of the comet to pick the brand new place (backside). Save and transfer to the subsequent picture.

Save and transfer to the subsequent picture. Repeat till you’ve marked the comet place on all photographs.

Typically, Deep Sky Stacker doesn’t mechanically detect the comet beneath your cursor. If that’s the case, hold urgent the Shift key whereas shifting the cursor on the comet and clicking. This can drive DSS to document the place.

Lastly, go to the Settings… ->Stacking Parameters… ->Comet tab to pick the right method to stack the pictures contemplating you might have a comet there.

 The Comet tab in the Stacking Parameters panel. Deep Sky Stacker interface

The Comet tab within the Stacking Parameters panel.

In the event you examine the Commonplace Stacking, the comet will probably be ignored. The celebs might be aligned however the comet will seem as a smudge.

A deep sky photo with a smudgy comet

The Normal Stacking technique will flip the comet to a smudge.

The Comet Stacking mode will solely align the comet. This can flip the celebs into streaks of sunshine, which may convey a sense of movement for the comet.

The Comet Stacking mode on DSS

The Comet Stacking mode will convey a really feel of movement, as solely the comet is aligned throughout the pictures.

Lastly, by choosing Stars + Comet Stacking, each stars and comet shall be aligned. You’ll have a pleasant comet towards a starry background.

A stunnung astrophotography shot after using deep sky stacker

Step four: Register and Stack Your Photographs

It’s now time to register, aka align, and stack your photographs. To take action, click on on Register checked footage… hyperlink within the left menu. The window proven under will come out.

The Register Settings panel on deep sky stacker

The Register Settings panel.

This panel lets you manually tweak the register settings and/or the stacking settings. Or you should use the beneficial parameters.

If you need Deep Sky Stacker to stack your registered photographs, verify the Stack after the registering field. Specify the % of photographs to stack.

Within the instance above, the perfect 90% of the pictures shall be used.

Go to the Superior tab and verify the variety of stars DSS detects in your photographs. Change the edge so you might have a lot of detected stars between 100 and 400.

Screenshot of deep sky stacker interface

With a four% threshold, DSS detected 253 stars in my pictures.

Since Deep Sky Stacker works slightly nicely with really helpful parameters, I recommend you to click on on the Beneficial Settings… button and to pick the advisable parameters if wanted.

These instructed parameters rely upon the pictures you need to use and the stacking technique chosen.

deep sky stacker interface

The Instructed parameters are based mostly on the offered pictures.

When prepared, click on OK. DSS will present a final info window. If all seems to be good, click on on OK to start the registering and stacking course of.

The Stacking Steps windows on Deep Sky Stacker

The Stacking Steps home windows provides you some information on the duties DSS is about to carry out.

As soon as the process begins, you’ll have some messages popping out and in retaining you up to date on the progress.

deep sky stacker interface

Through the stacking, DSS retains you up to date on the progresses it’s making.

Step 5: Picture Processing

After the stacking is full, Deep Sky Stacker will save the ensuing picture. After that DSS will enter in Processing mode, displaying you the ultimate picture and quite a lot of methods to tweak it.

Most individuals don’t wish to course of the stacked picture in DSS. They like to do all the things utilizing extra highly effective software program similar to Pixinsight and even Photoshop.

You could be struck by the darkness of the ultimate picture and lack of color, however that is moderately regular. Play with the parameters and attempt to tweak the picture.

Under the picture you have got a set of tabs and a chart displaying a worldwide luminance curve and the histograms for the totally different channels.

The Image Processing controls in DSS.

The Picture Processing controls in DSS.

I like to start out from the second tab to form the luminance curve by tuning the parameters for Darkness, Midtone and Spotlight. To get a pleasant S-curve, my go-to parameters are:

  • Darkness: 0º ; 86.1
  • Midtone: 6º ; 30.1
  • Spotlight: 0º ; 56.1

Subsequent, I bounce to the primary tab. You’ll be able to transfer the histograms of the person channel left or proper on the graph.

Attempt to align the histogram peaks someplace close to the purpose the place the S curve begins rising steeply, as within the picture under.

This could brighten the picture fairly a bit and particulars will begin to be seen.

Screenshot of deep sky stacker interfa


Lastly I add some saturation (third tab) and apply these modifications to the picture.

When glad, click on on the hyperlink Save image to file… within the Processing part of the left menu and save the picture as .tif 16-bit.

Remember to examine the field to use the modifications to the picture, versus embedding however not making use of them.

Screenshot of the Save image window in deep sky stacker

Within the Save picture window.


Deep Sky Stacker is a slightly straightforward to make use of however highly effective free software program. You need to use it to pre-process your astronomy photographs. This brief tutorial confirmed you easy methods to begin working with DSS. However it’s removed from an entire description of what Deep Sky Stacker can do.

The guide is an effective place to go searching for particular information, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Attempt totally different settings and see how your pictures end up!

A word from Josh, ExpertPhotography’s Photographer-In-Chief:

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Andrea Minoia

Andrea Minoia is an fanatic photographer based mostly in Brussels, Belgium. He’s primarily lively in portraiture and desk prime images, however he does take pleasure in to get busy with astrophotography and infrared images. You’ll be able to comply with his work on his often up to date photograph stream on 500px and comply with him on google+.You can too get in contact with him by way of his private web site .