Richard Gelderman

 

Richard Gelderman, Western Kentucky University

Image Analysis Software: alternatives to IRAF

 

Learning physics is best done by direct participation in the full cycle of the scientific process, with emphasis on open-ended investigation. Astronomical investigations typically involve imaging data, most often collected in FITS format. Given the steep learning curve for IRAF, IDL, or other tools of the professional astronomer, the question at hand is: What is the best software package for analysis of FITS images?

There are proprietary packages that are very good, but can be expensive (e.g., AIP4WIN, MaximDL, etc.). A freely downloadable option is ImageJ, the versatile, mulitiplatform, and freely downloadable Java port of the NIH Image platform. However, ImageJ requires plugins before simple tasks like aperture photometry and astrometry can be readily accomplished.
My recommendation is Salsa J -- a powerful image processing software suite based on ImageJ and distributed by European Hands-On Universe (www.euhou.net --> software --> SalsaJ software: Download). This software provides most of the capability of IRAF, but with a user-friendly, shallow learning-curve graphical interface allows educators to build curriculum content while using real research methodology.