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iCCD - Astrophotography on the Macintosh

Control a Starlight Express CCD Camera

Process Your Images

Contact Me or Join the iCCD Yahoo Group

Are You A Remote Imager? Download GRAS Desktop For Mac OS X

Currently, a presentation that was given at the Midwest Astroimaging Conference in July 2007 is the closest thing to instructions for iCCD.
The presentation can be downloaded here: Presentation

iCCD has been written so that astrophotos can be collected on an Apple OS X computer with the Starlight Express line of CCD cameras. The Starlight Cameras use Sony chips. The Sony chips have extremely low dark currents. This means that fewer processing steps are necessary to get "pretty pictures." The Starlight cameras are well designed and have a lower profile than other ccd cameras on the market. Due to the ease of use and excellent industrial design, I consider the Starlight Express cameras to be the Macintosh of the ccd world.

The Macintosh is an excellent computer for ccd imaging and image processing. With the mac, you have no worries with Win XP drivers, dlls, etc., everything just works. Need to adjust the usb cable during an imaging session, just unplug it then replug it in. Everything just works, iCCD supports usb autoreconnection. OS X does an excellent job of process sharing. I have no trouble listening to iTunes while imaging, tweaking an image in photoshop, while collecting a new image.

The image processing routines in iCCD make use of the vImage image processing framework. The vImage routines are Velocity Engine (Altivec) aware for excellent performance on G4 and higher processors. These routines will still function on a G3 but not as quickly. Apple has done an excellent job on the vImage framework and it will only improve in the next release of the operating system (Tiger). Currently, the image processing routines only work on 16 bit grayscale images. This is because I believe that it is best to work on each individual color and luminance frame separately. In fact you should do most of the processing on the luminance frame. I recombine each RGB and luminance frame in Adobe Photoshop after processing in iCCD. I use two layers to accomplish this. I paste the RGB frames into the RGB channels of one layer. I then create a luminosity layer and paste the luminace frame into it.

The iCCD program is a multiple window package that will control the Starlight Express cameras and open FITS files on the macintosh, an added bonus if you don't have a ccd camera. It was written in Objective-C using Cocoa and the Xcode development environment. The bottom picture shows the iCCD program. It works with the mx7c, mx7, sxv-h9, sxv-h9c, sxv-m7, sxv-m7c, and the new sxv-m8c. In the latest release, the focusing routine was dramatically improved.

The top image shows the setup used to collect the M42 image below. The Tak Epsilon 210 was used unguided. The Starlight Express SXV-H9C camera was controlled by an 800 MHz 15" Powerbook G4 laptop running Mac OS X 10.3.2. The ring image was a sum of fifteen 1 minute images. Image averaging is now available in iCCD (only in the Beta, contact me to get a copy of the Beta).

iCCD, with Starlight Express cameras, is currently being used in a variety of non-Astronomy related scientific studies. Scientists don't like to lose data to blue screens of death, hence the interest in iCCD. Hopefully, links to this work will be posted in the near future.

iCCD was a featured program at the 2005 Macintosh Astronomy Workshop. A DVD of the proceedings is available and it makes for a nice bit of documentation on iCCD. A brief (2 minute) sample of the talk that I gave is online there as well.

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Here are links to images collected and processed on the mac. Most of these images were collected with an SXV-H9C using Takahashi Epsilon scopes on Astrophysics or Takahashi mounts.

Other users are now starting to share their iCCD collected and processed images.

Nick King's 1st Light with his SXV-H9 is the PacMan Nebula in Ha

Duane Deal's Lunar Mosaic with his SXV-H9C

iCCD does it again. It was used to collect and process the Deep Sky Astrophoto Award Winner at the 2005 Astrofest Start Party put on by the Chicago Astronomical Society

2005 Advanced Deep Sky Award Winner M16 - The Eagle Nebula

iCCD was used to collect and process the Deep Sky Astrophoto Award Winner at the 2004 Astrofest Star Party

2004 Advanced Deep Sky Award Winner Dumbell Nebula

Funny story was that this image was not the one intended to be entered. I grabbed the wrong envelope and entered it anyway. The image that I had intended to enter is here.

Check out a screenshot of iCCD.


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