GNU Astronomy Utilities

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2.1 General program usage tutorial

Measuring colors of astronomical objects in broad-band or narrow-band images is one of the most basic and common steps in astronomical analysis. Here, we will use Gnuastro’s programs to get a physical scale (area at certain redshifts) of the field we are studying, detect objects in a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) image, measure their colors and identify the ones with the strongest colors, do a visual inspection of these objects and inspect spatial position in the image. After this tutorial, you can also try the Detecting large extended targets tutorial which goes into a little more detail on detecting very low surface brightness signal.

During the tutorial, we will take many detours to explain, and practically demonstrate, the many capabilities of Gnuastro’s programs. In the end you will see that the things you learned during this tutorial are much more generic than this particular problem and can be used in solving a wide variety of problems involving the analysis of data (images or tables). So please do not rush, and go through the steps patiently to optimally master Gnuastro.

In this tutorial, we will use the HSTeXtreme Deep Field dataset. Like almost all astronomical surveys, this dataset is free for download and usable by the public. You will need the following tools in this tutorial: Gnuastro, SAO DS9 22, GNU Wget23, and AWK (most common implementation is GNU AWK24).

This tutorial was first prepared for the “Exploring the Ultra-Low Surface Brightness Universe” workshop (November 2017) at the ISSI in Bern, Switzerland. It was further extended in the “4th Indo-French Astronomy School” (July 2018) organized by LIO, CRAL CNRS UMR5574, UCBL, and IUCAA in Lyon, France. We are very grateful to the organizers of these workshops and the attendees for the very fruitful discussions and suggestions that made this tutorial possible.

Write the example commands manually: Try to type the example commands on your terminal manually and use the history feature of your command-line (by pressing the “up” button to retrieve previous commands). Do Not simply copy and paste the commands shown here. This will help simulate future situations when you are processing your own datasets.



See SAO DS9, available at



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