15 Best Free and Open Source Linux Astronomical Data Analysis Tools

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.

We give our highest recommendation to Astropy, CARTA and AstroImageJ. But there are lots of other great tools. Only free and open source software is eligible for inclusion here.

Ratings chart for the best free and open source astronomical data analysis tools

Click the links in the table below to learn more about each tool.

Astronomical Data Analysis Tools
AstropyCollection of Python software packages for astronomy
CARTACube Analysis and Rendering Tool for Astronomy
AstroImageJPowerful tool for astronomical image analysis and precise photometry
TOPCATTool for OPerations on Catalogues And Tables
astroMLPython module for machine learning and data mining
DS9Astronomical imaging and data visualization application
SirilAstronomical image (pre-)processing software
SherpaModeling and fitting application for Python
STSDASReduce and analyze astronomical data; layered on top of IRAF
MYRafQt4 graphical interface for IRAF
ORSAFramework for celestial mechanics investigations
IRAFImage Reduction and Analysis Facility
PyRAFPython-based IRAF command language
THELITool for the automated reduction of astronomical images
SkyfieldPure-Python astronomy package

This article has been revamped in line with our recent announcement.

Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation 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.
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