Deep Sky Stacker can be daunting when you first start out, but it doesn’t have to be. In this guide, I will walk you through the absolute basics of using Deep Sky Stacker. Please do be aware that this guide is for complete beginners, more advanced options will not be discussed in this guide!
If you are looking at how to stack moon and planetary images, check out the guide here, because Deep Sky Stacker does not work for Solar System objects!
Downloading and Installing Deep Sky Stacker
If you don’t already have Deep Sky Stacker installed, head on over to the website and grab it. On the website click on downloads, then download version X.X.X. Please note that they do update frequently, so the version numbers change a lot.
On the next page, scroll to the bottom of the update notes for the link to download.
Run the installer.
Using Deep Sky Stacker
After installation, you’ll want to open up Deep Sky Stacker. What we need to do is open all images from the data you collected. Luckily, with the layout of Deep Sky Stacker, you can work your way from the top of the menu to the bottom.
For your main images, you’ll want to click on “open picture files” and select all of your images. These would be your unedited light frames straight from the camera. Next, you’ll want to do the same for each calibration frame: Darks, Flats, Dark Flats OR Bias depending on which you ended up taking.
Moving down the menu, make sure to check all after all images and calibration frames have been added.
Next we need to register the images. This helps Deep Sky Stacker know which file is which frame. So, go ahead and check “Register Checked Pictures.”
Registering The Pictures
For this next page, under the actions tab, you don’t really need to change anything. Go ahead and leave all boxes checked.
Under the “Advanced” tab, there is a slider that helps Deep Sky Stacker detect stars. In this case, less is more.
If you have it detect a large number of stars, it can take a very long time to register the image, which can overall lengthen the amount of time it takes to process. So, you’ll want to slide the slider, and click “Computer the number of detected stars” until the number of stars is under 500.
More than that can cause the program to take a long time to process the image. After you get it under 500 stars, go to “Recommended Settings.”
For recommended settings, for now you can leave everything as it appears. Since this guide is for first-time users, we won’t go into depth about each setting. The main thing you want to look for here is any red text that mentions you did not add a certain calibration frame. If you did take those calibration frames and forgot to add them, back out and add them, then come back in.
This is where the bulk of the work is done. Here, you will choose what type of stack to create, whether or not to Standard mode works for most projects.
Result tab: You can leave this at what Deep Sky Stacker chose. But, if you are doing a mosaic or any other style of image other than deep sky, you might want to choose the appropriate setting.
Drizzle: Only drizzle if you have dithered and have a LOT of data to work with (I would say over 100 lights). If not, don’t bother. Another caveat to drizzling is you need to be able to open the large file. As a result, Photoshop might not be able to open it, but PixInsight and Siril might be able to.
Don’t align the RGB channels, because you’re better off doing that later.
For the rest of the tabs, as a beginner, you can let Deep Sky Stacker choose the settings. At this time, the only tab we need to worry about is Output.
Output Tab & Stacking
In the output tab, you need to set where the stacked image will be saved to. The easiest way to do this is to check “create output file in the folder of the file list.” Checking this option will always save the stacked image in the same folder as your light frames.
After those settings are set, go ahead and click OK, and OK again. This last page will show a rundown of everything, as long as it looks as it should, click OK one more time, and Deep Sky Stacker should start stacking your image!
If you choose to watch my guide instead, you can check it out here: