Distro Astro has features for nearly all astronomical use—observatories, planetariums, and professional researchers, to astrophotographers and astronomy enthusiasts. That’s why we call it Linux for Astronomers.
The INDI Library built into Distro Astro provides telescope control for common telescopes from Meade, Celestron, Orion, and other major telescope brands. It also provides observatory dome control for commercial domes such as Sirius Observatories, and support for devices like focusers, filter wheels, and a cloud sensor.
It also includes support for a large set of imagers from SBIG, Apogee, Starlight Xpress and Finger Lakes, and common amateur astronomy webcams such as the Philips ToUCam, Mead LPI, and Celestron NexImage. See the full list of hardware support.
Access to the INDI library is provided by supported clients such as KStars, XEphem, and Cartes du Ciel, all of which are built into the distribution.
Nightshade 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.
Distro Astro includes tools for astrophotography. Capture software wxAstroCapture was written specifically with astronomy in mind. Image tools such as GCX Astro-Image Processor, Iris, and Registax are installed by default. Lastly, tools like iMerge and the Gimp are included for post-processing.
Future versions will include Ekos, a tool that provides autoguiding, autofocus, polar alignment by drift method, and capture of single or a stack of images with filter wheel support.
The distribution has preinstalled IRAF, XGTerm, XImtool, and SAOImage DS9 for reduction and analysis of astronomical data. It is compatible with research tools such as AIPS, AIPS++, CASA, and CIAO although they are not included by default.
It has ORSA for orbit reconstruction and analysis. It is compatible with OrbFit although it is not included. It also has GFortran that can run a lot of legacy Fortran code in astronomy. If needed, G95 is in the repositories.
For Python users, the NumPy package is installed by default. Version 2.0 of Distro Astro also includes AstroPy, PyFITS, PyWCS, VOTable, NOVAS and astrolib.coords. The repositories contain additional Python libraries such SciPy, CosmoloPy, APLPy, PyEphem, and NASA’s OSCAAR software that are installable via apt-get.
PP3 is a professional mapping software that produces high quality sky maps such as those shown in magazines. It produces maps in TeX format. The distribution includes TeX Live and Ghostscript to convert the PP3 output into common formats such as PDF.
An astronomy software distribution would not be complete without desktop planetarium software such as Cartes du Ciel, KStars, and SkyGlobe which are used for simulating the position of the stars and planets in the sky.
Distro Astro contains software useful for astronomy educators. It includes event prediction software such as XEphem, AstroCC Coordinate Converter, Astronomy Lab 2, and command line tools
aa. It has GPredict for satellites, XTide for the tides, Meteoracle for meteor showers, and Accurate Times for Islamic calculations of the crescent moon.
Gravitational simulators like Planets and Gravity allow you to play with masses, velocities, and orbits. Another program called Gravit is compatible but not included.
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 allows you to study the moon through its included 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 is compatible with Distro Astro although it is not included.
In addition to these, many other educational tools on astronomy that are compatible with Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin LTS will also run on Distro Astro.
Time is always important in astronomy. That’s why 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 a network time server to ensure that your applications always use the correct standard time.
Distro Astro provides an astronomical feel for everything from the boot loader, boot splash screen, login screen, wallpapers, screensavers, and shutdown screen.
Its default wallpaper is a slide show of Hubble images that change every hour, and you can change it to an Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) wallpaper that changes everyday to 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 while 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 ones you find at the bottom of this page.
All of these combined provide a user experience that gives an astronomical look and feel to using 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 Contribute.