Optimising and comparing source-extraction tools using objective segmentation quality criteria

C. Haigh, N. Chamba, A. Venhola, R. Peletier, L. Doorenbos, M. H. F. Wilkinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
154 Downloads (Pure)


Context. With the growth of the scale, depth, and resolution of astronomical imaging surveys, there is increased need for highly accurate automated detection and extraction of astronomical sources from images. This also means there is a need for objective quality criteria, and automated methods to optimise parameter settings for these software tools. Aims. We present a comparison of several tools developed to perform this task: namely SExtractor, ProFound, NoiseChisel, and MTObjects. In particular, we focus on evaluating performance in situations that present challenges for detection. For example, faint and diffuse galaxies; extended structures, such as streams; and objects close to bright sources. Furthermore, we develop an automated method to optimise the parameters for the above tools. Methods. We present four different objective segmentation quality measures, based on precision, recall, and a new measure for the correctly identified area of sources. Bayesian optimisation is used to find optimal parameter settings for each of the four tools when applied to simulated data, for which a ground truth is known. After training, the tools are tested on similar simulated data in order to provide a performance baseline. We then qualitatively assess tool performance on real astronomical images from two different surveys. Results. We determine that when area is disregarded, all four tools are capable of broadly similar levels of detection completeness, while only NoiseChisel and MTObjects are capable of locating the faint outskirts of objects. MTObjects achieves the highest scores on all tests for all four quality measures, whilst SExtractor obtains the highest speeds. No tool has sufficient speed and accuracy to be well suited to large-scale automated segmentation in its current form.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA107
Number of pages30
JournalAstronomy & astrophysics
Issue numberJanuary 2021
Early online date11-Sept-2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2021


  • techniques: image processing
  • surveys
  • methods: data analysis

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