SKY: Compute the Modal Sky/Background Level in an Image

This routine finds the sky background level of an image under the assumption that the most common pixel intensity in the image is the level of the 'sky' or background. This is a nonlinear algorithm which is largely insensitive to bright objects in the image. The routine calculates the mean of the image 'source', and builds a histogram of pixel intensities about the mean. The region of the peak value is located in the histogram, and is fit with a parabola to find its precise location. This center of the parabola is defined to be the sky value, and is loaded into the VISTA variable 'SKY' for access by other commands. The width of the histogram is determined by a simple linear interpolation. The value loaded into the VISTA variable 'SKYSIG' is a 1-sigma uncertainty estimate derived from the full width half max, and assumes the histogram is Gaussian.

The use of a box may be helpful if a large fraction of the image is occupied by stars or an extended object, causing the routine to measure a sky level systematically higher than the true level. The box can in this case be used to select a region of the image that does not have bright objects in it. The CORNERS keyword tells SKY to find the sky value in the four corners of the image. Each corner area consists of a region whose sides are one fourth the dimensions of the full image. The minimum sky value found in the four corners is assumed to be the true sky value. The MAX=c keyword tells SKY to ignore all pixel values greater than 'c'. This is normally not needed unless there are many bright stars in the field.

This version of SKY is new to Vista Version 4.2. It was supplied by Tod Lauer, and has been tested to be more accurate. The old VISTA SKY routine can still be accessed using the command OLDSKY.