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AstroImages.jl allows you load and visualize images from a astronomical FITS files using the popular Images.jl and Plots.jl Julia packages. AstroImages.jl uses FITSIO.jl to read FITS files.


AstroImages.jl is available for Julia 1.6 and later versions, and can be installed with Julia built-in package manager.

pkg> add AstroImages

You may also need to install ImageIO.jl for images to display in certain environments.


After installing the package, you can start using it with

julia> using AstroImages

Images will automatically display in many environments, including VS Code, Jupyter, and Pluto. If you're using a REPL, you may want to install an external viewer like ImageShow.jl, ElectronDisplay.jl, or ImageInTerminal.jl.

Reading extensions from FITS file

You can load and read the the first image extension of a FITS file with the load function, from FileIO.jl:

julia> load("file.fits")
1300×1200 Array{UInt16,2}:

You may also pass an explicit extension number to load, which will return the data of that extension (image or table) Read the third extension of the file with:

julia> load("file.fits", 3)
1300×1200 Array{UInt16,2}:

AstroImage type

The package provides a type, AstroImage to integrate FITS images with Julia packages for plotting and image processing. The AstroImage function has the same syntax as load. This command:

julia> img = AstroImage("file.fits")

will read the first valid extension from the file.fits file. AstroImage also works if the file extension is not .fit or .fits, e.g. if it's a compressed FITS file with extension .fits.gz. You can load data in any format supported by FITSIO.jl / the FITSIO c library.

If you are working in a Jupyter notebook, an AstroImage object is automatically rendered as a PNG image.

You can extract a WCSTransform object from the image using wcs(img,1).


FITS Headers can be accessed directly from an AstroImage:

julia> img["HEAD1"] = 1.0
julia> img["HEAD1",Comment] = "A comment describes the meaning of a header keyword"
julia> img["HEAD1"]

julia> push!(img, History, "We can record the history of processes applied to this image in header HISTORY entries.")


Any AbstractArray (including an AstroImage) can be displayed using imview. This function renders an arbitrary array into an array of RGBA values using a number of parameters. If the input is an AstroImage{<:Number}, an AstroImage{RGBA} will be returned that retains headers, WCS information, etc.

julia> imview(img; clims=Percent(99.5), cmap=:magma, stretch=identity, contrast=1.0, bias=0.5)

Very large Images are automatically downscaled to ensure consistent performance using restrict from Images.jl. This function filters the data before downscaling to prevent aliasing, so it may take a moment for truly huge images. In these cases, a faster method that doesn't prevent aliasing would be imview(img[begin:10:end, begin:10:end]) or similar.

imview is called automatically on AstroImage{<:Number} when using a Julia environment with rich graphical IO capabilities (e.g. VSCode, Jupyter, Pluto, etc.). The defaults for this case can be modified using AstroImages.set_clims!(...), AstroImages.set_cmap!(...), and AstroImages.set_stretch!(...).

Forming Color Composite Images

A color composite image (e.g. RGB) can be constructed using the composecolors function.

julia> rgb = composecolors([img1, img2, img3])

Where img1, img2, img3 are arrays or AstroImages containing data of red, blue and green channels respectively.

composecolors also supports more complex mappings, for example merging two bands according to color schemes from ColorSchemes.jl. See the docs for more information.

Plotting an AstroImage

An AstroImage object can be plotted with Plots.jl package. Just use

julia> using Plots

julia> implot(img)

and the image will be displayed as an image series using your favorite backend. Plotly, PyPlot, and GR backends have been tested.

implot supports all the same syntax as imview in addition to keyword arguments for controlling axis tick marks, WCS grid lines, and the colorbar.

Resolving World Coordinates

If your FITS file contains world coordinate system headers, AstroImages.jl can use WCS.jl to convert between pixel and world coordinates. This works even if you have sliced or your image to select a region of interest:

julia> img_slice = img[100:200,100:200]
julia> coords_world = pix_to_world(img_slice, [5,5])
[..., ...]
julia> world_to_pix(img_slice, coords_world)
[5.0,5.0] # approximately

Migrating from Pre-0.3

This package has changed significantly between 0.2 and 0.3 with a new AstroImage type, new recipes, and a new approach to rendering.

  • Previously, one would construct an AstroImage out of a FITS HDU and a specific color that was used for display purposes. Now, display settings like color, contrast, and brightness are not stored in the AstroImage but are specified when calling the function imview, which returns a view with those settings applied.
  • render has been replaced by imview.
  • The functionality of ccd2rgb has been subsumed into composecolors.


The AstroImages.jl package is licensed under the MIT "Expat" License. The original author is Mosè Giordano.