Linux for Astronomers

I've looked at specialty distributions that were created for engineers and biologists in previous articles, but these aren't the only scientific disciplines that have their own distributions. So in this article, I introduce a distribution created specifically for astronomers, called Distro Astro. This distribution bundles together astronomy software to help users with tasks like running observatories or planetariums, doing professional research or outreach.

From the very first moment of booting up Distro Astro, you will notice that this distribution is aimed at astronomers. The look and feel of items, from the boot splash screen to wallpapers and screensavers, have all been given an astronomical theme. Even the default wallpaper is a slideshow of Hubble images.

Figure 1. Even the boot splash screen has an astronomy theme.

Figure 2. Once you boot up, you have desktop shortcuts pointing to a series of different tasks.

There is also a unique feature called Nightvision Mode that lets you switch the color theme to red-based colors to help maintain your night vision when using the computer during observations. Clicking on the menu item will toggle this mode on or off.

Figure 3. For night observations, you can turn on Nightvision Mode.

The advantage of having a domain-specific distribution is that all of the software you likely will use is bundled together and installed. Ideally, you shouldn't have to install anything other than the distribution itself.


Joey Bernard has a background in both physics and computer science. This serves him well in his day job as a computational research consultant at the University of New Brunswick. He also teaches computational physics and parallel programming.