How to install and use Starnet++ on PixInsight? In this post, I will go over the easiest way to get Starnet++ to work on PixInsight and give you a few tips on how to use it. You'll see that it is actually pretty easy.
You can watch our video tutorial HERE.
On August 23rd, 2020, Pleiades Astrophoto released their newest update for PixInsight: Version 1.8.8-6!
The main addition that caught my eye when reading through the list of new features is the fact that the popular star removal software, StarNet++ is now available in the standard version of PixInsight!
Since its creation by Nikita Misiura in February 2019 (when Starnet++ was announced on a Cloudy Nights thread), the software was immediately loved by the amateur astrophotography community and quickly became popular. In the weeks that followed its announcement, you probably remember seeing dozens and dozens of new starless images popping up on your Astrobin feed, Instagram and other social media where you follow astrophotography content.
Installing and running StarNet++ was never difficult, but it was pretty annoying especially for Mac users. I myself tried to run the program several times on my machine but ended up giving up just because it was too much trouble. Today, StarNet++ is available by default on PixInsight, but you still need to install a specific package to make it work, here are the steps to follow to get your first starless image!
Install the latest version of PixInsight
The first thing you need to do is update PixInsight to the latest version (1.8.8-6 at the time of writing this tutorial).
If you're a Mac user, first uninstall the application by dragging it from the Applications folder to the trash (make sure you do not trash the files in your documents folder though as those contain your license and user preferences).
Next, head over to the PixInsight Software Distribution page and download the latest version for your computer.
In our case, we downloaded the second option as we are using a Mac computer.
After installing the package, launch PixInsight and see if any update window pops up as you may have to install a small update internally as well. Once this is done, close the program.
Download the network weights for StarNet
In order to make StarNet++ work on PixInsight natively, you will just need to install two small .pb files on your computer. This is easily done by downloading the Starnet module folder for PixInsight which is available HERE.
After downloading this folder, open it and locate the two .pb files:
Those are the ones we care about!
Open a new window on your computer and locate your PixInsight folder, then open the Library folder inside it. On Windows, I assume it should be in your Program Files folder, but if you're on Mac, you need to go to:
Applications > PixInsight > Library
In theory, the exact location shouldn't matter much but if you want to be safe, just follow our exact steps as it has been working fine for us 😃
Once you have the Library folder open, drag and drop the two files above into it. You can also place them in a "Starnet" subfolder if you wish to keep things clean and remember what those files are in the future.
Link the weights files to StarNet in PixInsight
If you are reading this, I feel like you're probably thinking "oh my, what now..?"
Don't worry, this is the last and easiest step! Follow these steps:
Go to Process > StarNet
Click on the little wrench icon 🔧
For RGB weights file: Click on the folder icon and locate your rgb_starnet_weights.pb file (which should be in the library folder of PixInsight if you followed our steps earlier). Double click on it.
For Grayscale weights file: Click on the folder icon and locate your mono_starnet_weights.pb file (which should be in the same folder as the RGB files). Double click on it.
Click on OK
Your StarNet process should now look like this:
Get your first Starless image!
The StarNet process is extremely easy to use. It does have one setting you can change called "Stride", but you should not have to and Nikita does not recommend playing with that number.
When is the best time to use StarNet?
All you need to do to execute StarNet is to drag it to an image (or click on the square icon). StarNet works best on Non-Linear images, meaning images that have already been fully stretched.
It is also a good idea to use StarNet in the early stages of your processing workflow (as long as you are in the non linear phase). if you check to "Create Star Mask" box, you can use this star mask when you are done processing your starless data to add the stars back onto your image.
To do that, simply open the PixelMath process and add your starless image and your star mask together using a "plus" sign. Then just apply the process!
Yep. Pretty basic.
Below are four images. The first one shows the Pelican Nebula where StarNet was used at the very end (after all the processing was already done). The second one shows the Sadr Region, once again with StarNet being ran at the end.
The third image shows the Heart Nebula with StarNet being applied right after switching to Non Linear. It is a bit difficult to see, but the Pelican Nebula and the Sadr Region still show quite a few stars whereas all the stars in the Heart Nebula image are gone. The last image is the Heart Nebula with the stars re-applied at the end of the processing workflow.
The processing workflow used before and after running StarNet is the same one we always use, and can be found here as a PDF).
Below is a larger image of the Heart Nebula without stars, we love it!
StarNet is a great tool for astrophotography that can be used to remove stars in your images. Now that it is natively available for PixInsight, it has become extremely easy to use and is not only useful but very fun!
Removing the stars in your images will allow you to boost the faint nebulosity in your object without blowing up any star. This will allow you to bring up detail much easier than before. I can't wait to reprocess some old data with the StarNet tool and see how much of a difference it makes on all types of targets!
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