In the late 70s, my interest in astronomy was triggered by a glimpse at Saturn through a small telescope of a neighbour. My parents were afraid of me becoming a nerd, and tried their best to prevent that, without much success, though :-). Observing the planets quickly became a focus of my astronomical interest. In the course of time, my activity paused for several decades, but in the recent years, I returned to the place behind the telescope again. But things have changed dramatically. Now, in the era of digital imaging and processing, one spends more time in front of the computer than behind the telescope.

All images shown here are taken with a 6" ED Apo refracting telescope, which is a rather modest equipoment compared to the 10",12" and 14" optics used by many others. But with appropriate image processing, still a lot of interesting phenomena can be captured.

Mars during the famous 2020 opposition (1. & 2. row), when Mars passed by very closely and 2022 (3. row). Besides terrain features and the seasonally varying polar ice caps, atmospheric phenomena like ice clouds and haze layers can be seen. The images in the middle row from late Nov. 2020 show initially small & local dust storms originating over Solis Lacus and Chryse, which then spreaded out and moved over Mare Erythraeum towards Sinus Sabeaus/Noachis region. 2022 (3. row), the northern hemisphere pointed towards us. For a long time, the polar region was covered with persistent haze layers.

Monochrome image (G-channel) taken during daytime in Apr. 2022. Bright crater Kuiper apperas prominent.

Venus has a very dense atmosphere which usually only reveals details in the IR and/or UV part of the spectrum, of which the UV patterns represent higher cloud altitudes. But occasionally, details are apparent even in the visible wavelengths. The leftmost image was taken in such a rare moment, the middle and right one are monochrome UV recordings (spring 2023)

Jupiter always presents the big show, with its permanently changing turbulence patterns. Over the course of the years, colors and extension of the main cloud bands can change considerably. The famous GRS is shrinking slowly, and actually appears rather orange than red. In the right image, Jupiters biggest moon Ganymede is visible, with its characterstic green hue, a bright region in the south and a darker patch near the northern rim (left: 2021, right: 2022).

Because of the rings, Saturn probably is the most fascinating planet of our solar system, but otherwise, its appearance seems rather constant. Several cloud bands can be distinguished, but only higher resolution optics are capable of -occasionally- capturing faint turbulence patterns (storms) within them. Actually, the ring plane inclination decreases, so in some years, we will look parallel to it. (top: 2021, bottom: 2023)

Uranus is the farthest planet I've recorded so far. The small apparent size (~3.7") makes it a difficult target. Due to its high axis tilt of 98°, Uranus rolls on its path around the sun, so in the image, the rotation axis lies horizontal. In R and IR wavelengths, the north pole region appears brighter than the rest. With a 6" telescope, the effect can be captured faintly, of course it appears stronger in higher resolution images (Monochrome IR, 2023)
As mentioned above, using digital cameras and mathematical image processing methods is the current state of the art in planetary imaging. A very versatile and widespreadly used recording software is FireCapture One of FireCaptures unique strongpoints is the plugin interface, which opens the way for other developers to write addons and modules for various forms of immediate data processing after reading them from the camera.

The PEAAnuts module is such a plugin which performs immediate stacking and sharpening and thus can provide a live detail view of the recorded data which otherwise needs to be produced in a time consuming work with separate programs after recording. Besides that, it offers a stream preview and analysis which is helpful for focusing and other tasks for quantifying data quality. Of course, live processing has to proceed quickly, so usually, the resulting quality might not fully reach the level which can be achieved with processing a recorded stream afterwards with more elaborate, but time consuming methods. The topic is quite similar to the difference between EAA previews and extensively postprocessed high resolution images in deep sky imaging. For deep sky observation, live stacking programs are available already since a couple of years. The PEAAnuts plugin now closes the gap on the side of planetary imaging.

The actual version is a prerelease, this means it is not yet fully complete in terms of the feature set which was planned for the initial release. But it has already reached a "close to ready" state, and can be used in a very productive way in its current state. Many of the planet images shown above have been produced with help of the plugin. Therefore the decision was made to offer this prerelease for interested observers for experimenting and testing.
Note again that this is a plugin, so it cannot operate standalone. You need an actual installation of FireCapture as a basis.

The download archive contains the plugin module (Java .jar file) and a separately zipped manual in html format. So after unpacking the archive, (Linux users may use 7z for opening .zip files) you will see the plugin (peaanuts.jar) and another zip ('peaanuts_manual_v100wip[n].zip'), where the [n] denotes the prerelease version number. Extract this zip to a place of your choice, then point your browser to the start file "../peaanuts_manual_v100wip[n]/PEAAnuts_Manual.html." PLEASE read the manual, it contains all information you need for installation and working with the plugin. During the prelease state, the common version number frenzy is reduced to a minimum, the 'work in progress' releases will just be numbered consecutively, peaanuts_v1.0.0wip1, peaanuts_v1.0.0wip2, ... and so on

You may use the software for private, non-commercial purposes, but it comes with no warranty. The author accepts no liability for any kind of damage resulting from use of the software.

Download: peaanuts_v100wip5.zip
sha256 checksum: 790677477b916269cad5007de63bed1e1d5bde8e1774ca48482d878fba57f150


Screenshot of a FireCapture session with PEAAnuts plugin.
Version history
v_1.0.0wip5 09.02.2024 added support for GRBG and GBRG debayer patterns. Increased verbosity (for I/O related errors, more yet to come)
v_1.0.0wip4 07.02.2024 added on-the-fly debayering for compatibility with FireCapture 2.7.xx branch. The archive now contains 2 different plugin files, one for FC 2.7.xx and one for the older FC 2.6.08 version
v_1.0.0wip3 30.12.2023 added gamma curve transform. to image editor, added option to select application order for postproc. modules
v_1.0.0wip2 22.12.2023 bugfixes in image log writing, corrections in the manual. Contrast sensitivity feature now available also for unsharp masking.
v_1.0.0wip1 17.12.2023 bugfixes in profile handling, option dialogs, GUI layout, common font size for all elements, etc. plus updated manual with screenshots
v_1.0.0wip 08.12.2023 initial prelease
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