uniMap - A new plate solver+ application in progress

A few days back when looking for plate solving applications I ran across a work in progress called uniMap. It looks like a promising piece of software. Even in its "infancy" (version 0.0.3 pre-alpha) it does plate solving well. The nice thing about the software is that it seems to work even on not-so-good images and use it really simple compared to some others I've tried. The reason I included the "+" in the heading, is that it is not only a plate solver, but promises to be much more.

I did some testing with uniMap on photos published on this blog previously. No additional processing was done and the images used were in jpg format. So the quality of the images were not that great.

Plate solving
uniMap has various catalogs to choose from including the SAO, Hipparchos and Tycho-2 catalogs. I used these three for testing. The SAO and Hipparchos catalogs contain a few hundred thousand stars but the Tycho-2 contains ~2.5 million.

- The SAO catalog seemed to work quite well in most cases
- Hipparchos did not produce any results on any of the plates
- Tycho-2 worked the fastest

The plate solving can be made faster by providing "hints" to the program. These hints can be given as common star names, Messier catalog items, NGC catalog items or by RA and DEC. The hint system is quite flexible so it is really easy to provide the approximate location.

The first thing after opening the image a detection needs to be performed. This is simple, just click "detect" in the image menu after that provide the "hint" and then "match". Before doing match you need to tell uniMap which database to use for the solving process.

These images show the extent of the Tycho-2 catalog. As you can see the quality of the images is not that good, but uniMap manages to solve the plate. For these I used M57  and M13 as the hints to narrow down the search.

DSOs are displayed by blue colored ovals and their respective catalog numbers on the images.

One thing I would like to see implemented are the cardinal directions marked on the results.

An equatorial grid can be added to the image if needed. All labels and overlays (or at least most) can be modified to suit your needs.

Image analysis and information
After solving the plate there are varius things you can do with the image. By double clicking on a star you can get information related to that specific star or target.
Below is an image of the information windows which opens. In additiona to providing lots of catalog IDs there are also references to literature, information analysed from the image, histogram and radial plot of the target in question. 
I did a quick test on my photos checking the magnitude values the program gives for various targets and this is what I found. NOTE: My photos have not been properly calibrated for photometric measurements so these results are not representative of the capability of the software.

Even though the image calibration was not done according to the needs for photometric analysis the results for the magnitude measurements were quite surprising. The magnitudes the software reported were actually quite close to the values reported by Stellarium (not the best reference, I know). In the image below depicts the values reported by uniMap on one occasion. The information for the same star can be seen in the Stellarium info and the uniMap info screen. UniMap even gave the magnitude for M57 correctly (again according to Stellarium) from the image shown above.

All in all uniMap looks like a very promising piece of software for platesolving and image analysis, due to its ease of use and functionalities. In addition to features not covered here, it includes, among other functions, calibration and stacking of images, weather information (with seeing predictions), 3D analysis of the image data and some post processing functions.

I suggest you give uniMap a try and see for yourself.

The developer is currently looking for help with the project, so people with needed skills could help him out. I for one unfortunately do not have the necessary skills to help out, so I need to leave that to other people.


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