The ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator User’s Guide
he release of version 3 of the popular ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator image
processing software means that it is even easier and faster to create colour
images using raw observations from a range of telescopes, including the
NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, ESO’s Very
Large Telescope and ESA’s XMM-Newton Telescope.
Version 1 of the ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator was completed in July 2004 by
imaging scientists at the European Space Agency, the European Southern
Observatory and NASA. FITS stands for Flexible Image Transport System. This
single file format archives nearly all images of stars, nebulae and galaxies produced
by major telescopes around the world. Before July 2004 this file format was primarily
accessible to scientists working with highly specialised image processing tools.
More than 60,000 laypeople, educators and amateur astronomers have started using
the Liberator since the release of v.1 in July 2004. The FITS Liberator has also
become the industry standard for professional imaging scientists at the European
Space Agency, the European Southern Observatory and NASA.
Stunning images such as the iconic Hubble image Pillars of Creation (Figure 1) can
be created in a matter of minutes using the FITS Liberator. Version 3.0 of the
ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator provides the following new features:
o FITS Liberator is now a stand-alone application, which means that Photoshop
is no longer required.
o Processing medium-sized images is now up to 35% faster, thanks to
significantly improved memory management.
o Processing large images are also faster thanks to delayed application of
o FITS Liberator saves TIFF files that open in virtually any image processing
o Open-source code base available on http://code.google.com/p/fitsliberator.
Versions 2.0, 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 had several notable improvements over v.1.0:
o FITS images with up to 4 billion greyscale levels can be processed (32-bit
o FITS images with up to 500 million pixels or more can be processed (100
times larger than standard images from a digital camera).
o An improved user interface and a redesigned order of operations simplify the
overall process – for example, the program now remembers previous
o New options for advanced Scaling and Stretching to fine tune images for
o A whole section dedicated to inputting metadata, i.e. information about the
image and what it shows. Metadata will be an important tool for future efforts
to make archives of ‘pretty pictures’ more accessible.
o User access to a text version of the original FITS header. Universal Binary for
Mac allows native CS3 operation on Intel-based systems.
o Flip image checkbox allows image orientation to be selected on import.
o Root functions (x
) now operate antisymmetrically about x=0.
o Version 1.1 of the Astronomy Visualization Metadata (AVM) standard is now
fully supported. For more information see http://www.virtualastronomy.org
o The import of coordinate metadata from the FITS header has been improved.
o Full support for Photoshop CS4 (on both Mac and Windows).