Distro Astro has features for many astronomy tasks—from running observatories and planetariums, to conducting professional research, to amateur astronomy, outreach, and astrophotography. There is something for anyone doing astronomy.


The INDI Library provides telescope control for common telescopes from Meade, Celestron, Orion, and other major telescope brands. It also provides dome control for some commercial domes such as Sirius Observatories, and support for additional devices like focusers, filter wheels, and cloud sensors.

It has built-in support for a large set of imagers from SBIG, Apogee, Starlight Xpress and FLI, and common amateur astronomy webcams like the Philips ToUCam, Meade DSI and LPI, and Celestron NexImage. See the full list of hardware support.

Access to the INDI library is provided by clients such as KStars, Cartes du Ciel, and XEphem, all of which are preinstalled in the distribution.


Nightshade Legacy is an advanced planetarium software for fish-eye dome projections developed by planetarium provider Digitalis Education. It was initially a fork of popular software Stellarium and tailored for planetarium use. Nightshade and Stellarium are both included.

Celestia and OpenUniverse can also be run in a planetarium without fish-eye projection, allowing viewers to explore the solar system and beyond. Future versions may include Mitaka, a 3D planetarium developed at NAOJ.


The combination of KStars, Ekos, INDI, and Astrometry.net provides autoguiding, autofocus, polar alignment correction, plate solving, dithering, and video capture with filter wheel support. Capture software wxAstroCapture was written with astronomy in mind. Image tools such as Registax, Iris, and GCX let you stack and process the image. Additional tools like iMerge, Gimp, and ImageMagick are included for post-processing.

Celestial Mapping

PP3 is a professional mapping software that produces high quality sky maps such as those shown in magazines. It produces maps in TeX format. It uses TeX Live and Ghostscript to convert the PP3 output into common formats such as PDF.

Data Analysis

The distribution includes IRAF, XImtool, and SAOImage DS9 for reduction and analysis of astronomical data. Other tools such as AIPS, AIPS++, CASA, CIAO, IDL, and GDL are not included but are compatible with Distro Astro.

For Python users, AstroPy, NumPy, PyFITS, PyWCS, VOTable, NOVAS and astrolib.coords are preinstalled. The repositories have additional libraries like SciPy, CosmoloPy, APLPy, PyEphem, and NASA's OSCAAR which can be installed via apt-get.

GFortran can run a lot of legacy Fortran code in astronomy. If needed, other Fortran compilers like G95 and Fort77 are in the repositories.


Distro Astro contains software useful for classroom use. It has desktop planetarium software like Stellarium and Cartes du Ciel for simulating the position of the stars and planets in the sky, with built-in databases of celestial objects that let you find information about any object in the catalogs.

XEphem, Astronomy Lab 2, and AstroCC can calculate and predict astronomical events. It also has Meteoracle for meteor showers, GPredict for artificial satellites, XTide for the tides, and Accurate Times for Islamic calendar calculations.

Gravitational simulators like Planets and Gravity allow you to play with masses, velocities, and orbits. Programs like Where is M13? and StarPlot Viewer allow you to visualize the positions of stars and galaxies in 3-D space. Virtual Moon Atlas lets you study the surface of the moon using textures and overlays. OpenRocket lets you design model rockets.

The Digital Universe Atlas developed by the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History works well in Distro Astro but is not included. Many other educational tools on astronomy and space science that are compatible with Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty LTS will also run on Distro Astro.

Time and Location

Having the correct time and location is important in astronomical work. Distro Astro uses the geolocation service GeoIP to know your location, and ensures that your installed astronomy applications are always set to the correct latitude and longitude wherever you go.

Distro Astro has the NTP service installed and enabled by default. As soon as you are connected to the Internet, your computer's time is automatically set to ensure that your applications always use the correct Standard Time.

Astronomy Theme

The look and feel of a computer is just as important as the functionality. Distro Astro uses an astronomy-inspired theme for everything from the boot loader, boot splash screen, login screen, wallpapers, screensavers, and shutdown screen.

The default wallpaper is a slide show of Hubble images that change every hour. You can change it to an APOD wallpaper that automatically gets the latest image from apod.nasa.gov.

A unique feature of Distro Astro is support for Nightvision Mode. This allows you to toggle between normal and red nightvision colors to preserve dark adaptation when using the computer at night, especially during observations.

To add fun to the command line, Distro Astro displays a random astronomy quote each time you open a terminal, similar to the quotes you find at the bottom of this page.

All of these features combine to create an astronomy-based user experience when you are at your computer day and night.

Do you need more features or want to improve existing features? Distro Astro is an open source project. Feel free to join our team.