Astronomy is a branch of science that deals with the study of celestial objects (including stars, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, meteor showers, nebulae, star clusters, galaxies) and other phenomena such as gamma ray bursts and supernovae.
Astronomy is particularly well suited to the layperson. It is a wonderful hobby which has almost no age limits, it is open to individuals of all financial means, and there is always the potential for an amateur to discover something that has eluded professional astronomers, or to help monitor stars and track asteroids. Professional astronomers are in a very fortunate profession. They have the opportunity to continue their love of astronomy, travel the world, make significant discoveries, and get paid at the same time.
Professional astronomers spend far more of their time analyzing data and writing articles than actually observing celestial objects. Amateur astronomers are also keen to analyze the data they have collated. Software that can process and analyze images is therefore essential to astronomers. Fortunately, high performance scientific software has always been a strong area for Linux.
Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) is a digital file format used to store, transmit, and manipulate scientific and other images. FITS is the most commonly used digital file format in astronomy.
To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 11 high quality open source tools to analyze astronomical data. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for both professional and amateur astronomers.
We give our highest recommendation to Astropy and AstroImageJ. But there’s lots of other great tools.
Now, let’s explore the 11 astronomical data analysis software at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot of the software in action, together with links to relevant resources.
|Astronomical Data Analysis Tools|
|Astropy||Collection of Python software packages for astronomy|
|AstroImageJ||Powerful tool for astronomical image analysis and precise photometry|
|TOPCAT||Tool for OPerations on Catalogues And Tables|
|DS9||Astronomical imaging and data visualization application|
|ORSA||Framework for celestial mechanics investigations|
|MYRaf||Qt4 graphical interface for IRAF|
|PyRAF||Python-based IRAF command language|
|STSDAS||Reduce and analyze astronomical data; layered on top of IRAF|
|Sherpa||Modeling and fitting application for Python|
|IRAF||Image Reduction and Analysis Facility|
|THELI||Tool for the automated reduction of astronomical images|
Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk. There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.