Institute of Astronomy

Amateur Lucky Imaging

There has been considerable amount of effort in developing Lucky imaging techniques by amateur astronomers. This web page is not intended to give a comprehensive or even balanced view of what is going on in the amateur community because there is so much going on. Essentially the approach is to use a good quality video camera with a frame grabber computer system so that a fast sequence of images is taken. The images are then processed and analysed for different sharpness criteria. The best images are selected, shifted and added to give the final image.  A superb example of what can be achieved is shown here in images of the moon taken by Wah! (Hong Kong, China).  The short part of the original movie taken under conditions of poor seeing is shown below.

The remarkably improved output image using the Registax Version 4 software package is shown below.

Wah! has also created a mosaic using 350 separate image sequences to produce a 35 Mpixel image of the Moon at about third quarter which can be found Here.

The problems of relatively poor sensitivity that we have experienced with Lucky imaging in the past and which we have overcome by using L3CCD technology are clearly going to limit what can be done by amateur astronomers. As a result the most impressive work has been in planetary imaging where some of the images have been of the very highest quality. It will be interesting to see what happens when the L3CCD technology starts to become available commercially (and this is already happening: E2V Technologies already market the video cameras that have L3CCD technology incorporated within them (click here for more on these). The ultimate limits will only be achievable when L3CCD's are cooled but we can be confident that the amateur Lucky images will start to reach very much better light levels before too long.

There is a comprehensive guide to the whole topic of lucky imaging by Peter Wellmann (in German) at:

There are several web sites that already offer software to do the image selection and processing for these kinds of data. They include:

There are several newsgroups that are interested in Lucky Imaging with video sources.  They include:

QCUIAG is a very friendly group and visitors wanting to learn more about the techniques are pretty much guaranteed answers to their questions. Coupled with image post processing algorithms, these techniques are producing images of remarkable quality. In the UK Damian Peach is probably the most experienced in using these techniques. Some examples of his work can be seen here:

There is a significant activity in Germany in Lucky Imaging for amateurs (information provided by Sascha Somodji). Example images are at:



Programmes such as Astrovideo, which was originally designed to support the video stacking process developed by Steve Wainwright, the founder of QCUIAG, have frames selection algorithms, see:

A working automated system was developed in the program K3CCDTools by QCUIAG member Peter Katreniak in 2001, see:

You can see the home page for K3CCDTools at

A more general introduction to digital astrophotography written from the amateur perspective can be found at

If you have any more information about developments or good results from amateur Lucky imaging we will be very pleased to hear about them and, if appropriate, provide links from this web page. Please e-mail with whatever information you have.

Page last updated: 2 March 2011 at 12:37