ArtsNova Digital Art Gallery Logo

Making Astronomical Art with your PC Resources

As a supplement to the Adler Planetarium class No Camera, No Telescope? No Problem!: Making Astronomical Art with your PC (Jan-Feb 2008), following is a list of resources that my students may find useful.

Astronomical and Planetary Image Data Formats

PDS - Planetary Data System Characteristics
  • A PDS standard format for archiving and exchanging planetary data
  • File Extension of .img or imq if the file is compressed
  • 8, 16, 32 bit integer formats
  • Includes ASCII headers with image info
  • Maintained by Planetary Data System:
FITS - Flexible Image Transport System
  • Format for archiving and exchanging astronomical data
  • File Extension of .fit or .fts
  • 8, 16, 32 bit integer formats
  • Includes ASCII headers with image info

Flexible Image Transport System and Planetary Data System Compared

FormatPDS formatFITS format
UsageUsed by planetary missionsUsed by observatories and astronomical missions
Bit DepthMostly 8-bit depth8 and 16 bit depth
SpectrumNarrower spectrum coverageLarger spectrum coverage
SoftwareLimited amateur softwareBroad selection of software
MaintainerNASA main data sourceBroader range of data sources

Software for working with astronomical imaging data

Software developed so that amateurs could access FITS files from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. In addition, DS9 is also a general image processing program.
Fv - FITS Viewer
Fv: The Interactive FITS File Editor is an easy to use graphical program for viewing and editing any FITS format image or table.
A program developed by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) used for viewing astronomical images in the FITS format.
A Java based image processing program.
Image Reduction and Analysis Facility software from the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO).
A freeware FITS viewer and image processing program. Recommended.
NIH Image
A free public domain image processing program for the Macintosh.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory X11 Image Display Utility for Unix systems.
Sky Image Processor
is a web based astronomical image processing program from Virginia Tech. In addition to reading FITS files, it also features image processing tools for working with the data.
Fits Liberator
Fits Liberator is a plugin for Adobe Photoshop that makes it possible for Photoshop to open FITS files. Recommended.

Software for working with planetary imaging data

GNU Image Manipulation Program is an Open Source image processing program - a competitor to Photoshop
In order for GIMP to read PDS files, you will need to locate, download, and install the PDS plugin.
ImageJ PDS plugin
This is the plugin that makes it possible for ImageJ to open PDS files
NASAView opens PDS IMG files and allows the user to same them as GIF or JPEGs. This and other programs PDS programs are available from the NASA PDS Software Download site.
DOS program for decompressing PDS IMQ files into IMG files available from multiple USGS locations associated with Mars Global Surveyor data files

Astronomical FITS Data Archives

Big Bear Solar Observatory Archive
An archive of observations of the Sun.
ESO Online Digitized Sky Survey
The Online Digitized Sky Surveys at the ESO/ST-ECF Archive provide access to the CD-ROM set produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute through its Guide Star Survey group. Recommended.
Multimission Archive at STScI
The Multimission Archive at STScI is a NASA funded project to support and provide to the astronomical community a variety of astronomical data archives, with the primary focus on scientifically related data sets in the optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared parts of the spectrum.
The main index to data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
SOHO Archive of FITS solar images
The search engine for the SOHO data archive.
Solar Data Online
A NASA index to solar data from different missions that is online.
Yohkoh Solar Data Archive
Index page to the Yohkoh solar data archives.
The Yohkoh FTP Archive of Solar Data
Top level FTP directory for the Yohkoh archive of solar data.
SuperCOSMOS Sky Surveys (SSS)
Provides access to the digitized files of SuperCOSMOS scans of photographic Schmidt survey plates

Planetary PDS Data Archives

MER Analyst's Notebook
The MER Analyst's Notebook provides access to the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Mission data archives. The Sol Summaries option is an especially convenient way to locate MER images. Data for the MER rovers Spirit and Opportunity are accessed separately. Note that data files for the MER Analyst's Notebook Data Product Summary are identified by the following key:
AAlpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)
BMoessbauer Spectrometer (MB)
EEntry Descent Landing Camera
FHFront Hazard Camera (fisheye)
MMicroscopic Imager
NNavigation Camera
PPanoramic Camera
RHRear Hazard Camera
TMiniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES)
PDS Missions Page
Main index to mission data for the following missions: 2001 Mars Odyssey, Cassini, Clementine, Galileo, Magellan, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, Mars Express (MEX) (subset of ESA mission), Mars Pathfinder (MPF), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), MESSENGER, Viking Lander (VL), Viking Orbiter (VO), Voyager. Recommended.

Useful Astronomical Reference Sites

Astronomy Digital Image Library (ADIL)
AIDL collects research quality images and makes them available to the public.
SIMBAD Astronomical Database
An online database of information about astronomical objects. Recommended.
The Galaxy Catalog
A collection of galaxy images that can serve as a useful reference when processing FITS files for color.