Astronomical Observing From the Red Zone


Quick Start

1) Your laptop is all set for the night imaging session, the

CCD or DSLR capture software is up and running.

2) Start the AstroToaster application.

3) click on the auto Monitor, Stack, Refresh controls and

open the Viewer.

4) Start taking pictures with your camera, adjust colors and

Brightness of the Image as it is processed in the viewer.


Download the install program for

Choose to ‘run’ the program, you will be guided through the install scripts

You will need Deepskystacker installed, it is a freeware program by Luc Coiffier, and can be downloaded from The help and user instructions that come with it are very well written and useful.

There is a yahoo group for it, and you can find knowledgeable users on many online forums.


When you run AstroToaster for the first time the Settings

Screen will appear, you will need to select your Monitoring Folder, Output folder, Verify that the Deepsky program folder is correct. You should also enter the Picture type/extension of the images produced by your camera.


The application uses the DeepSkyStacker Engine (DSS) for all processing. It takes the user settings and options from DSS and uses them in its processing.

Deeepskystacker is a freeware program by Luc Coiffier, and can be downloaded from ""

The help and user instructions that come with it are very well written and useful.

There is a yahoo group for it, and you can find knowledgeable users on many online forums.

You will first need to be able to manually process your images in DSS in a satisfactory way, and save the settings.

Learning DSS takes some time, because the tasks it performs are quite amazing. But after you have it configured for you camera and setup, you will rarely have to make any changes to its setings.

AstroToaster will use DSS settings and processing engine to calibrate, align and stack your images. The viewer in AstroToaster, will allow you to quickly adjust and view your images.

It is best to take a set of images that your camera has produced, and experiment with DSS and astroToaster before hand.( Once you are out in the dark taking images it will be difficult to learn much ). I have found that just dropping images into the application’s FileList, and seeing what happens is a good way to simulate what will happen in the field.

If you choose to use darks, offsets, and or flats, it will

be necessary to prepare and save these as Master files ahead of time in DSS (See the DSS documentation on how to do this)


The Filelist, manages the image files used by AstroToaster.

If the Monitor button is turned on, any new files appearing in the monitoring folder will automatically appear in the FileList. You can manually place files in the FileList by using the PictureFiles or CalibratinFiles button, or by dragging and dropping from a windows folder.

You will need to indicate the ‘file type’ from the drop down context menu.

Light – yellow – are the images to be stacked

Dark - black – dark Master calibration file(s) (optional)

Flat - grey - flat Master calibration file (optional)

Offset – brown – offset Master calibration file (optional)

Stacked – green – is the stacked image created from the

lights and calibration files

There is a check box next to the files. All checked files will be combined into the current stacked final image.

If you click on an image in the fileList it will appear in the viewer.

Multispectral Stacking (new, version 3.0)

Enables stacking and combining of monochrome images taken with different filters. From the stacking mode screen,

select MultiSpec stacking mode. Under MultiSpec Options select the cannels/filters you want to process.

In order for AstroToaster to associate an image with a channel, you would have to include the channel name as part of your file names. .ie for the OIII channel, using '_' as a delimiter or would work.

For each channel you can select the color it will be displayed as in the finial image.

Red, Green, Blue map to single colors

Blue+Green, Red+Blue, Green+Red map to both colors

LUM replace the image's Luminance with channel,

LUM+ will add the channel to the image's luminance

Red+Lum, Blue+Lum, Green+Lum, maps to both the color and Lum+

You can change colors at any time, and use the 'ReApply Colors' button to recombine the image with the color changes.

The check tick box, which you use to select the channels have a color coded status,

red = no images found,

yellow = images found but not 'checked' to be included

brown = images found, processed but cannot be aligned/merged

green - images found, processed, and merged into final image

Hint: You may have to manually select a value for the 'Star Detection Threshold (on the filelist menu ), in order to have enough stars detected to combine merge all the channels.

In the ColorAdjust tool, you may need to select a ColorProfile in order to have your image display in the expected pallet. So for Hubble Pallet, select 'SHO' color profile (in the channel color selection you would have SII as red, HA as green, and OIII as blue ). Also try using the Saturation and Tint to further refine the image

Comet Stacking (new, version 3.0)

Enables DSS stacking of a moving comet. The comet stacking option is available From the Stacking Mode screen.

In order properly track the comet, the images from your camera must have an accurate timestamp imbedded in the image file, Usually Raw files from a DSLR or FITS files from a CCD camera will have accurate timestamps. File types such as Jpegs, and Tiffs don’t contain timestamps, so the filesystem timestamps will be used (which may not be accurate enough)

Once your sequence of images starts, and several images are in the file list, you will need mark the comet position in at least 2 images in order to have the comet tracked properly. From the file list double click on an image to make it appear in the viewer, right click on the image, to make the comet marker appear, center it over the comet, and left click to mark the comet position. In order for the marking tool to appear the file image must be viewed non-expanded mode, (Don’t use AutoExpand or the Gradient tools ). You should try to mark images separated by the most time in your file list. You can mark more than 2 but only the two most distant from each other in the list will be used.

There are 2 comet options in the Stacking Mode screen, CometOnly will produce the tracked comet with star trails. Comet+Stars will produce the tracked comet with a static star background.

Comet stacking feature is new, and varies in how well it performs. It works best with a fast moving comet on a background with dim stars. Unfortunately it won’t work well if there are galaxies or nebulas in the background. The CometOnly method is faster and more reliable than the Comet+Stars method.

Camera Control (new, version 3.0)

(The Camera Control feature is new, and is experimental, so may not work for your given camera.)

The Camera Control, connects to your camera using the ASCOM interface. Your camera will need to be ASCOM compatible and you will need to install the Ascom Platform ( ) and the corresponding ASCOM drivers for your camera from your camera vendor.

To open the camera control, apply the Camera button on the main menu. In the Camera Control, you will need to select your camera from the ‘Camera’ button, which opens the camera chooser. Use the ‘Connect’ button to open the camera and the Start button to start exposing images.

The control has camera options for Gain, Bin, Target Temperature, and Cooling Rate. Whenever possible it is best to apply these settings in the Camera’s own Ascom Setup menu, rather than from the AstroToaster Camera Control screen.

RemoteSync (new, version 3.0)

The RSync control will sync files from a Remote computer

to you Monitor folder. This allows running AstroToaster on a different computer than your capture and telescope control programs. It can sync files from a folder, and subfolders. It can also be used, with folders on a local machine, if you are using your capture program to organize images into subfolders. ( AstroToaster will not modify any files in the remote folder )

Options to Try

1) After first image appears in the Viewer, use the

Color Adjustments tool, select ‘Auto Expand’ to quickly

Bring out faint details.

2) Use the default ‘Auto’ Star detection Threshold

3) To quickly start a new image stack, at the current

picture use the NewStack button.

4) You can manually determine which images get stacked by

checking and un-checking them in the file list.

5) You can view and edit previously stacked images in the

by clicking on them in the file list ( You will need to

turn off the auto-Refresh button, in order to keep the

currently processing image from being displayed in the

viewer ).

6) Right click on an image in the filelist and select

the ‘Open With’ option to open the image in a different

editor/viewer, such as Photoshop or Gimp

7) When starting a new session it is best to start in a new or clean Monitoring folder.