Software Tools

This is a large selection of links to desktop and online software tools that are relevant to planetary science and astrobiology studies. Most of these are available online and are free to use.

Planetary Habitability


    • Exoplanets Data Explorer Plotter is an interactive plotter for exploring and displaying data from the Exoplanet Orbit Database.

    • Systemic Console is a tool for advanced analysis of exoplanetary data. It includes a graphical tool for fitting radial velocity and transits datasets, and a library of routines for non-interactive calculations.

    • The Open Exoplanet Catalogue is a public database of all known extrasolar planets and their physical properties.

    • exoExplorer is a free Windows application to help astronomers, astrobiologists and astronomy enthusiasts visualize exoplanet environments.

    • Exoplanet App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch provides a daily updated database of all discovered extrasolar planets with fancy and interactive visualisations (there is also a version for Kepler Candidates).

  • Journey to the Exoplanets App is a richly interactive introduction to the mysterious planets that continue to be discovered outside of our Solar System.

  • StarGen is a program for creating moderately believable planetary systems around stars other than our own.

  • Exoplanet Catalog for Android is kept up-to-date with the current count of exoplanets, all the latest data for each exoplanet, and the data for every parent star.

  • PHOENIX modeling code of stellar and planetary atmospheres.

  • FARGO is a simple and fast 2-D polar hydrodynamic code dedicated to planet-disk tidal interactions.

  • ExoFit is a code to fit orbital parameters of extra-solar planets from radial velocity data using MCMC.

  • ExoMol is a database of molecular line lists that can be used for spectral characterisation and simulation, and as input to atmospheric models.

  • Sara Seager's Mass-Radius Relation of Earth-like exoplanet.

  • Multi-purpose Exoplanet Simulation System (MESS) is an IDL code that can be used to perform the statistical analysis on the results of planet search surveys, or to predict the outcome of future instruments.

  • Exoplanet Detection: Transit Method is a Java software to model detection of exoplanets by transit method.

Planetary and Stellar Simulators

  • Solar System simulator by Dynamic Diagrams.

  • Trajectory Browser provides a search engine, visualizer and mission summaries for designing trajectories to planets and small-bodies.

    • Impact Earth is a web-based computer program for calculating the regional environmental consequences of a meteoroid impact on Earth.

    • Mars24 is a Java application which displays a Mars sunclock, a graphical representation of the planet Mars showing its current sun- and nightsides, along with a numerical readout of the time in 24-hour format.

    • Titan24 is a Java application which displays a Titan "sunclock", a graphical representation of the planet Titan showing its current sun- and nightsides, along with a numerical readout of the time in 24-hour format.

    • The Astronomy Nexus is a personal website with good simulations and data on stars and exoplanets.

    • Extrasolar Skies is web application to view star charts from the vantage point of stars in the Hipparcos Star Catalog.

    • StarMap is a web site mixed with tools, data, and links to stellar data for astronomers and sci-fi enthusiast.

    • SolStation provides information and software for those interested in astronomy and in writing, education, or entertainments related to science or speculative fiction.

    • Google Earth and Google Mars.

    • Helio Viewer is an open-source project for the visualization of solar and heliospheric data (like Google Earth, but for the Sun).

    • SFA Star Charts provides printable PDF files with star charts.

    • Celestia is a free space simulation that lets you explore the universe in three dimensions.

    • Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for the computer.

    • NASA be a Martian! site provides access to a variety of resources related to exploration of Mars (for kids).

    • GigaGalaxy Zoom reveals the full sky as it appears with the unaided eye from one of the darkest deserts on Earth, then zooms in on a rich region of the Milky Way using a hobby telescope, and finally uses the power of a professional telescope to reveal the details of an iconic nebula.

    • Sky-Map provides an on-line photographic detailed sky map.

    • The Solar System Visualizer shows an animation of the relative position of solar and extrasolar planets.

    • Neave Planetarium is an interactive online planetarium (open source).

    • VirtualSky Sandbox.

    • Midnight Mars Browser is a program used to download Mars Exploration Rover (MER) images and view them in slideshow and panorama format. Version 2.0 is an Eclipse Rich Client Platform (RCP) application.

    • Microsoft WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world.

    • The Digital Universe Atlas brings is a three-dimensional map of the Universe (Very Nice).

    • Universe Sandbox is an interactive space simulator for Windows based PCs.

  • Galaxy Map brings together the latest scientific results mapping our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

    • Orbiter is a free and realistic space flight simulation program for the Windows PC.

    • PHOEBE is a tool for the modeling of eclipsing binary stars based on real photometric and spectroscopic (radial velocity) data.

    • EZ-Web, stellar structure and evolution code (plus other tools).

    • SSE, BSE, and Sverre are stellar, binary, and cluster evolution code, respectively.

Climate Modeling

    • NASA GISS GCM model is the latest (2004) FORTRAN 90 version of the new GISS series of coupled atmosphere-ocean models.

    • MIT General Circulation Model is a numerical model designed for study of the atmosphere, ocean, and climate.

    • EdGCM provides a research-grade Global Climate Model (GCM) with a user-friendly interface that can be run on a desktop computer (NOT FREE).

    • Easy Climate data Converter (E-Clic) is a simple application written in Python programmig language. Its purpose is to convert TYN and CRU climate data to ascii raster files easily readable in most GIS packages and/or ecological modeling software.

Environmental Science

  • GLCN has tools about land cover and its dynamics, harmonizing land cover mapping and monitoring at national, regional and global levels.


  • Avida is an artificial life software platform to study the evolutionary biology of self-replicating and evolving computer programs (digital organisms).

  • EvoGrid is a simulation of the chemical origins of life on Earth.

  • Golly is an open source, cross-platform application for exploring Conway's Game of Life and other cellular automata.


    • GPlates is a desktop software for the interactive visualisation of plate-tectonics. It offers a novel combination of interactive plate-tectonic reconstructions, geographic information system (GIS) functionality and raster data visualisation.

    • G.Projector is a cross-platform application which can transform an equirectangular map image into one of over 90 global and regional map projections.

    • USGS Planetary GIS Web Server provides a user-friendly interface aimed at the planetary research community that will support Geographic Information Systems (GIS) graphical, statistical, and spatial tools for analyses of planetary data.

    • N2YO provides live tracking of satellites.

    • Map Projections with interactive visualizations.

    • GMT is an excellent open source collection of ~60 tools for manipulating geographic and cartesian data sets including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.


  • Astronomy Apps for Mobile Devices, A First Catalog. This catalog is a first attempt to make a list of those Apps of particular interest to astronomy educators.

    • Scisoft is a project within the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to provide a collection of astronomical software utilities in a uniform way at all ESO sites and to make them available to the outside world.

    • TOPCAT is an interactive graphical viewer and editor for tabular data.

    • Montage is a toolkit for assembling Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) images into custom mosaics.

    • MOPEX is a package for reducing and analyzing imaging data, as well as MIPS SED data.

    • SWarp is a program that resamples and co-adds together FITS images using any arbitrary astrometric projection defined in the WCS standard.

    • The IDL Astronomy User's Library contains a lot of code for IDL.

    • Astrophysics Source Code Library (ASCL) is a free, on-line reference library for source codes of all sizes that are of interest to astrophysicists.

    • AstroLib is a collection of software libraries for Python.

    • Markwardt IDL Library contains some unique tools for IDL.

    • Coyote's Guide to IDL Programming is possibly the best resource for tips and trick with IDL in general.

    • IDL Routines by JohnJohn for astronomy.

    • yt is a python package for analyzing and visualizing astrophysical simulation output.

    • AstroBetter is a blog about tips and tricks for professional astronomers.

    • Astronomy Computing Today is a blog about computing in astronomy.

    • StarFinder is able to fully analyze a stellar field and produce an output list of stars.

    • GADGET-2 is a code for cosmological simulations of structure formation.

    • SPH Code implements Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) and Magnetohydrodynamics methods simulations.

    • SPLASH (formerly SUPERSPHPLOT) is a visualization tool for output from (astrophysical) simulations using the Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) method.

    • Mercury, a software package for orbital dynamics.

    • More astronomy software links are available in Primordial Light, MidnightKite, Astronomy Online, and DMOZ.

    • Asteroseismic Modeling Portal provides a web-based interface for astronomers to use the Aarhus Stellar Evolution Code (ASTEC) coupled with a parallel genetic algorithm (MPIKAIA) to derive the properties of Sun-like stars from observations of their pulsation frequencies.

Programming, Data Analysis and Visualization

    • HPC MacOS X Site is a good source of free scientific tools for MacOS X.

    • IDL (Interactive Data Language) is a powerful programming and visualization language (NOT FREE).

    • Perl Data Language (PDL) turns Perl into a free, array-oriented, numerical language similar to such commercial packages as IDL and MatLab.

    • Fortran (gfortran, g95).

    • Python is a programming language that lets you work more quickly and integrate your systems more effectively.

    • SciPy provides various tools for scientific programming with python.

    • Matlab is a high-level language and interactive environment to perform computationally intensive tasks (NOT FREE).

    • Octave is a high-level language, primarily intended for numerical computations (Matlab-clone).

    • FreeMat is a free environment for rapid engineering and scientific prototyping and data processing.

    • R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics.

    • Mathematica is renowned as the world's ultimate application for computations (NOT FREE).

    • Maxima is a system for the manipulation of symbolic and numerical expressions.

    • Sage is a free open-source mathematics software system licensed under the GPL.

    • GDL is a free IDL compatible incremental compiler.

    • Viewpoints (vp) is a high-performance visualization and analysis tool for large, complex, multidimensional data sets.

    • Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions.

    • Swivel is a website where people share reports of charts and numbers.

    • JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit can create interactive data visualizations in the web

    • Protovis composes custom views of data with simple marks such as bars and dots.

    • Flare is an ActionScript library for creating visualizations that run in the Adobe Flash Player.

    • Visualization Toolkit (VTK) is an open-source, freely available software system for 3D computer graphics, image processing and visualization.

    • is a free service for viewing and sharing high-resolution imagery.

    • Prefuse is a set of software tools for creating rich interactive data visualizations.

    • Pretty Graph is a simple web-based tool for making graphs and charts quickly and easily.

    • Fortran Company is a place to find products, services, and general information related to the Fortran programming language.

    • Google Code is a large central repository of open source code.

  • Partiview is free, open-source software from the NCSA for interactive, mono- or stereoscopic view of 4-dimensional datasets (outdated).

  • Quadrigram is a visual programming environment to gather, shape, and share living data.

  • Miso is an open source toolkit designed to expedite the creation of high-quality interactive storytelling and data visualisation content.

  • Datawrapper is a little tool for journalists to reduce the time to create and embed a simple chart from hours to seconds.

  • Polychart is a browser-based platform for exploring data and creating charts.

  • Glue is a Python library to explore relationships within and among related datasets.

Online Science and Math

    • Google Fusion Tables is a modern data management and publishing web application that makes it easy to host, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and publish data tables online.

    • Many Eyes is an online visualization experiment by IBM Research and the IBM Cognos software group.

    • Google Public Data Explorer makes large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate.

    • Wolfram MathWorld provides an extensive selection of mathematical resources.

    • WolframAlpha is an excellent online computational tool.

    • ZunZun provides a large library of functions to fit and plot experimental data online.

    • Impure is a visual programming language aimed to gather, process and visualize information.

    • A Practical Guide to Wavelet Analysis.

    • PiCloud allows you to easily run remotely any Python code on an auto-scaling high-performance cluster (NOT FREE).

    • Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides compute power, storage, and other cloud services.

    • Open Source Physics is a collection of curriculum resources to engage students in physics, computation, and computer modeling.

General Software Repositories (MacOS X)

Operating Systems

    • MacOS X (v10.7, Lion) is a Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple.

    • Ubuntu (v10.10, Maverick Meerkat) is a computer operating system originally based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and distributed as free and open source software with additional proprietary software available.

    • MS Windows has some issues (please Microsoft, make Windows more secure with free non-expiring out of the box robust antivirus, paid for it from a current antivirus vendor, or create your own, Microsoft Security Essentials is not enough. Also, create a version of Windows based on Unix or Linux, resistance is futile).

Guides and References