The Joys and Power of IDL for Image Crunching

A Tri-Color of M42 using SBIG's ST-7 CCD camera
and a 4-inch AstroPhysics ED Traveler
R,G,B Images processed, scaled and assembled using IDL

IDL is a very powerful number crunching tool which is used extensively in much of the professional astronomy community. Since it is a serious array handling piece of S/W it is ideally suited for dealing with images and much of my image crunching and manipulations is done using IDL.

IDL is actually an extensible programming language so IDL user's build general purpose routines ( sometimes ) which are then incorporated into program after program. With IDL, a FITS image can be imported and processed as real data for study or stretched and manipulated and output as a TIF or GIF image for pictorial work. Image studies for photometry can be performed, camera noise studies can be routinely carried out, images can be stacked or ratioed or asssembled into pseudo color mappings all using the many many built in numerical processing routines.

IDL is well suited for those wanting to do quantitative work and knowing how to do their own image crunching. With IDL, if you build your own routines you know exactly how the data was treated during processing. The original data is not disrupted by an unknown algorithm and the IDL processing is repeatable. If you need to process R,G,B images and treat them all exactly alike to maintain color fidelity, then IDL is the ideal tool. If you need to process 500 images for a photometric study, IDL is the tool to use.

For less than scientific image processing requirements, but for those who want to do much more than just make a pretty picture I heartilly recommend that you look at the capabilities in MIRA by AXIOM. There are currently three flavors of MIRA available ranging from the very capable MIRA AL to the super capable MIRA PRO.

Visit AXIOM for information
Image Processing S/W features at a glance


When I figure out HOW TO, I will place my own IDL routines here for use in reading FITS images , statistcial studies, scaling IDL images, assembling RGB images, and photometric studies.

EXAMPLES of IDL work from Brad Wallis
Return to the Wallis Home Page.