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Mr Martyn Brake

Astro Software

Astro Software

List of software that is frequently used by the Department of Astrophyics:



IDE that allows programming to be performed on the Mac, downloadable for free from the Mac App Store. After installation run it to install device interfaces and install command line tools from the Download section in the Preferences tab.



Productivity suite for the Mac, consists of Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets) and Keynote (presentations).


Microsoft Office

Productivity suite for the Mac produces by Microsoft, consists of Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheets) and Powerpoint (presentations).



A bundled distribution of Tex (open source typesetting system), consists of TeXShop, TeXworks, and other front-ends. And the formats LaTeX, ConTeXt, Eplain, etc.


GNU Compiler Collection

Includes front-ends and libraries for C, C++, Objective C, Fortran , Java, Ada and Go.

Binaries available here Copy to the desktop and do the following:

  • cd ~
  • cd Desktop
  • sudo tar -xvf gcc-mlion.tar -C /



The MacPorts Project is an open-source community initiative to design an easy-to-use system for compiling, installing, and upgrading open-source software. Once installed software can be installed with command sudo port install packagename.


XQuarts (

A version of the X Window system for OS X.



An editor (based n Emacs) for Mac OS X. Also install command line tools from Tools menu.



Programming language, installed via MacPorts (port install python27), at some point python31 will be required. Also install the complimentary package of scientific functions py27-scipy.


IDL (Interactive Data Language)

Programming language for data analysis. It is expensive commercial software from Exelis and is becoming less popular, losing out to Python as the language of choice. Licenses need to be obtained in order to instal IDL.




The license can be added from,


Avoid Time Machine Error


There is an error that occurs on IDL 8.1 and 8.2 on OS X 10.7 and 10.8 that complains about Time Machine (link).


The workaround is this:

- The Admin user should open a Terminal window and then issue the following commands (for Bash shell):

    sudo –s

. /Applications/exelis/idl82/bin/idl_setup.bash

export HOME=/Users/joe-user
    export LOGNAME=joe-user
    export USER=joe-user
    sudo /Applications/exelis/idl82/bin/idl

Or for IDL Workbench (running at the local display console of the affected machine), the last command should be:

    sudo /Applications/exelis/idl82/bin/idlde

- After IDL starts, issue the following command at the IDL> command prompt to exit from the IDL session:


- At this point the non-admin user should be able to run an IDL session without encountering the Time Machine errors.



Packages and ports open source Unix programs to Mac OS X, in a similar way to MacPorts (see above).



GILDAS is a collection of state-of-the-art softwares oriented toward (sub-)millimeter radioastronomical applications (either single-dish or interferometer). Produced by IRAM (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique). Download via fink (fink install gildas)



The Starlink project provides general purpose data reduction software.


CASA (Common Astronomy Software Applications)

Developed to support the post-processing needs of radio astronomical telescopes.


SAOImage DS9

Astronomical imaging and data visualisation tool.


Karma Visualisation Tools

Karma is a toolkit for interprocess communications, authentication, encryption, graphics display, user interface and manipulating the Karma network data structure.


3D Slicer

An open-source software package for visualisation and image analysis.



An interactive parallel visualisation and graphical analysis tool for viewing scientific data.



Asymptote is a powerful descriptive vector graphics language that provides a natural coordinate-based framework for technical drawing. Labels and equations are typeset with LaTeX, for high-quality PostScript output. Can be installed using port install asymptote.


VLC media player

An open source multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD and various streaming protocols.



Makes the colour of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day



A reference manager and academic social network that can help organise research and collaboration.