Photoshop for Astronomy

Trifid Nebula Using Photoshop Tutorial
The Trifid Nebula Created Using Photoshop User Magazine Tutorial

When I received my July/August copy of Photoshop User magazine I was delighted to see that the cover feature was Photoshop for Astronomy. Subtitled Cosmological Uses of Our Favorite Software the article was written by Dr. Robert Hurt, a visualization scientist for the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.

In the article Dr Hurt provides a quick and simple introduction to using Photoshop to create astronomical images from FITS data. FITS stands for Flexible Image Transport System and is the standard file format for astronomical images. This goes not just for images obtained in the visible light spectrum but for other areas of the electromagnetic spectrum as well. For example: infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray.

In addition to working with the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, Dr. Hurt is also a member of the team that developed the FITS Liberator plug-in for Photoshop. This plug-in makes it possible for Photoshop to open FITS files.

I decided to follow the tutorial and create a color image of the Trifid Nebula from the sample files available on the National Association of Photoshop Users web site (available to NAPP members only).

Dr. Hurt's method for taking the three FITS Trifid Nebula files and combining and processing them in order to create a color picture is different in a few key areas from the method that I use.

To illustrate this blog post I have used the image of the Trifid Nebula that I obtained by following Dr. Hurt's tutorial. For a more detailed explanation of the tutorial, how it differs from my methodology, and for large versions of both the above image as well as a version I created using my own methods, see my Artsnova article Photoshop for Astronomy: An Introductory Tutorial.

For additional online resources, please see Making Astronomical Art With Your PC Resources which I created in support of an astronomical image processing class I taught at the Adler Planetarium. To learn more about the most recent version of the FITS Liberator plug-in, see New Version of Photoshop FITS Liberator 2.2 Released

Ad Astra, Jim

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 at 4:24 pmand is filed under Astronomy, Photoshop.

One Response to “Photoshop for Astronomy”

  1. fantady says:
    May 27, 2009 at 2:42 am

    I used to be an ardent fan of Photoshop Elements . I have version 3. 4 wasn't quite compelling enough. Now that CS3 is out, are we going to see a Mac update or is this it? I cannot imagine uploading my photos to the server every time I want to edit them. Yuk. If it's limited to low res, then definitely not.