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In an effort to learn how a CCD camera works, you might have made test pictures under varying conditions. For example, you might have compared pictures taken using different exposure times, or pictures taken under both dark and moonlit skies. Unfortunately these tests are time consuming; and since the test conditions can't be controlled carefully, it is hard to make meaningful comparisons. SimCCD is a utility that solves these problems by simulating the operation of a CCD camera. So now you can do these tests in the comfort of your home!

You might also have wished for a way to predict how many exposures would be required to get an acceptable picture of some target. The latest version of SimCCD comes with an Exposure Planner plug-in for MaxIm DL. With a single test photograph of your target, you can find this information for any part of the image. For example if a galaxy has a dim tidal tail, you can select that part of the image to see how long it will take to make the tail look good.

SimCCD's simulations can be used for many things:
  • Planning a session to minimize noise and reveal desired features
  • Understanding how readout noise affects an image
  • Understanding how sky brightness affects an image
  • Understanding the consequences of not using sufficiently long exposures
  • Finding how many darks are required to minimize noise
  • Finding how many flats are required to minimize noise
  • Seeing what happens if dark and/or flat field corrections aren't done
  • Understanding how important it is to take "flat darks"
  • Understanding how cooling affects noise
  • Seeing how different cameras respond to the same target
  • Seeing how responsive a camera is to different colors of light
To learn more about SimCCD and the Exposure Planner, click on the buttons to the left of the screen. Or click here to see some screen snapshots of SimCCD in action, click here to read the manual, and click here to download a zip file containing the latest version of SimCCD.

Warning: if you are a Macintosh user, there is a bug in the current version of SimCCD which causes the script run_simccd.command to fail. To fix the bug, delete that script and rename to run_simccd.command. You can then double-click on run_simccd.command to start SimCCD. This will be fixed in an upcoming release.