The Carina Nebula

11 Recommended Open Source Multi-Platform Astronomy Software

Astronomy is the branch of science that deals with the study of celestial objects such as stars, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, meteor showers, nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. Astronomers observe the objects in the night sky to establish their composition and learn more about the origin and structure of the universe.

Astronomy is a very popular natural science. It’s not only for professional astronomers. The Hubble telescope has been providing superb images since 1990, inspiring more people around the world to take up astronomy as a hobby. There are so many fascinating pursuits to explore. For example, the search for the 9th planet in our solar system, and monitoring Asteroid 2014 JO25, due to fly by Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles, are just a few current interests of mine.

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. Even with the unaided eye, there is much observe and record in the night sky including constellations, shooting stars, planets, and of course the moon, the Earth’s only natural satellite.

There is a huge range of astronomy software available for the major operating systems. Here are 11 awesome open source tools to start you on your astronomical journey.

Stellarium Virtual planetarium showing a realistic sky in 3D
Celestia Real-time space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions
SkyChart Planetarium software for the advanced amateur astronomer
KStars Accurate simulation of the night sky
IIPImage Advanced high-performance imaging server and client
Siril Astronomical image processing tool
HEASoft A smörgåsbord of astronomy tools
AstroImageJ ImageJ with astronomy plugins and macros installed
VStar Easy-to-use variable star observation visualisation and analysis tool
PHD2 Telescope guiding software that simplifies the process of tracking a guide star
Audela Fully customizable astroimaging software

Click the links above to learn all about these excellent open source applications.

This is just a selection of open source astronomy software. I’m sure you’ll have other favourites. Feel free to share them in the comments section. There are many other open source applications listed in the Astronomy section at LinuxLinks.

We give special mention to a few other tools. First, the INDI library, an open source framework that supports many astronomical devices including telescopes, CCDs, focuser, spectrometers, and a lot more. It’s used by many applications. Aperture Photometry Tool is another excellent application but it has a bizarre license. Deepsky Astronomy is a marvelous Windows only application, no-charge to download, but closed source. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic application.

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  • Jack Bennett says:

    Hey Steve, thanks for the great post. I use Stellarium and Celestia quite often. Will try KStars soon. -Jack

  • Steve Emms says:

    Hi Jack, it’s great to hear you like the post. Do let us know how you get on with KStars. It’d be great if you could help if you could share the article using the social media buttons above. Or give the post a like. It all helps!

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