" "

Facilities    Research    Publications    Patents    Astronomy Software    SSC Observatories    Contact Us

The CUREA VM For Astronomy

The CUREA VM is free software. It comes without any warranty, to the extent permitted by applicable law. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the licenses of the affected individual components.

Overview    System Requirements    Installed Software    Getting The VM    Updates & Patched    Support

One of the challenges in small telescope science is the acquisition and maintenance of a common set of computational tools, scripts, catalogs and references. Furthermore, if you are collaborating with others, having a common tool base facilitates the sharing of analyses and data. In education settings, it is essential to be able to provide a common tool set to all students. The CUREA Virtual Machine (VM) was developed to meet these requirements and to do so at minimum investment of time, money and maintenance.

To provide and maintain a this common research environment, we have turned to the use of a Linux based virtual machine. A virtual machine is a computer program that emulates another computer. The emulated computer's disk drive is contained in a single storage file on the hosting computer. While this sounds a bit foolish, it actually works well in practice. Regardless of the computer you own, by copying a single file with the CUREA VM to your computer and running the emulator specific to your computer, you have a common educational or research environment. The environment has all the software, catalogs, scripts, protocols and manuals necessary for your task. On shared or laboratory machines, system maintenance is simplified. Should the system become corrupted, you simply erase the virtual machine file and recopy it.

The CUREA VM utilizes the free, open source, virtual machine emulator Virtual Box(tm) by Oracle. This free virtualization software runs on nearly any x86 architecture computer. Versions are available that run under Window, Mac OS, and a variety of Linux distributions.

The virtual machine that the CUREA VM emulates an Ubuntu Linux Version 14.04LTS 32 bit PC with a 64GB hard drive.

Once the virtual machine is started on the host computer, one can either run the virtual machine in its own window, or switch between the host system and guest system with a mouse click.

Our architecture assumes that raw data and results will be stored in the host system's file folders, not on the virtual machine's hard drive. This practice assures that reloading or upgrading the Virtual Machine will not cause a loss of user data. The host computer's virtual machine emulator allows for file and folder sharing with the guest (virtual machine) system. At the time the virtual machine is installed, or subsequently, you can specify folders on the host system that will be accessible by the virtual machine. Access from the virtual machine may be configured as read-only, or read and write.

We recommend that upon installation of VirtualBox, you enabled the shared clipboard function. This will allow you to easily cut and paste files and objects between the virtual machine and the host operating system.

Open Source Astronomy
The other key decision made was to include only free or open source software in the CUREA VM. This choice allows you to offer every student or collaborator a complete copy of the Virtual Machine for free, provided they accept the terms of the free or open source software provided.

Ubuntu Linux was chosen as the VM's operating system because it is open source and free. Additionally, Ubuntu's Linux operating system allows it to execute a vast library of astronomical software developed through years of the academic use of Unix-like systems. Notable examples include DAOPHOT, IRAF, UREKA, SEXTRACTOR and many other mathematical and graphical systems. The Ubuntu distribution provides an easily learned graphical interface and is one of the most popular and well maintained Linux distributions. In addition to being able to run Linux based software, the virtual machine includes WINE, a collection of programs and libraries that allow MS Window(tm) based software to execute under Linux . This allows us to include free Windows software in our software ensemble.

System Requirements
The minimum system requirements for hosting the CUREA virtual machine are:
X86 Family Processor
Virtualization Support Hardware
4 GB of main memory
64GB free disk space
XVGA or larger Display
Internet Connection
For older PC hardware that lacks sufficient memory or hardware virtualization support, the CUREA system is also available as bootable "Linux Live" image on a 64 GB thumb drive or SD card. When used in this manner, you must reboot computer from the memory device to start the CUREA live system. You will not be able to switch between the normal operating system and the CUREA live system without rebooting. However, the CUREA live system still has access to the storage devices used by the computer's regular operating system. The requirements for this configuration are:
X86 Family Processor
2 GB of main memory
XVGA or larger display
Internet Connection
What Is Included
The CUREA VM comes with a variety of software programs and tools installed and pre-configured. They were selected for their capability to support small telescope astronomical research. Our selections are undoubtedly biased by our experience and taste, but have proved effective in our educational application.

Observation Planning and Navigation
The first group of programs in the VM are intended to help plan observations:

Aladin - -is an interactive sky atlas downloading and combining sky survey data in a variety of wavelengths to assemble views of user specified objects or location with an adjustable field of view.
Autostar Suite - -Is an interactive planetarium/sky atlas that allows the user to select the field of view, multiple preloaded and user supplied catalogs. Different projections are selectable. Emphmerides are computed with selectable levels of astrometric precision. It will also download Palomar Digital Sky Survey images of the current field of view.
Stellarium - -is an interactive graphical planetarium featuring life like graphics.
Tilting Sun - -is an interactive graphical ephemeris of the Sun. It calculates the suns apparent location, P and B angles and shows the apparent lines of solar latitude and longitude for a given Epoch.
Virtual Moon - -is an interactive lunar atlas that includes an extensive collection of lunar feature photographs and accurately calculates illumination, nutation and precession.

Image Processing
Astro ImageJ
- is an extension of ImageJ, a Java based image processing package commonly used in the life sciences that has been extended to handle FITS images and has special processing extension for the extraction of time series photometry and specific tools for handling the analysis of extra-solar transits.
Autostar Image Processing
- is a FITs image processing program, a part of the Autostar Suite. It handles image calibration, stacking, rotation, alignment, color syntheses and can operate efficiently on large collections of images. It also performs spectra processing and aperture photometry.
- Is a part of the Autostar Suite,. It is a FITS image processing package that is optimized for aligning and stacking collections of short exposure images.
- short for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” is a free open source developed raster graphics editor program. It is designed to fulfill editing requirement similar to those handled by Photosho(tm).
- is a light weight photo editor that facilitates easy assembly of image mosaics and GIF time series animations for presentations.
- is a python interface to IRAF to provide both a GUI interface to IRAF and provide a more robust scripting interface to the IRAF package library.
- is a free software package for alignment and stacking images. It excels at selecting and stacking planetary images captured with high cadence imaging cameras by selecting a subset of frames showing the least seeing distortion.
- is a complete installation of IRAF with all of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s extension packages.
-a simple image display , editing and slide show generator.

Modeling & Analysis Tools
A simple N-body simiulation of interacting galaxies.
Large Ensemble Photometry is an interactive program that automates analysis of photometric time series images by fitting observations against APASS standards stars in the observed field. The program also generates export files and AAVSO observation reports. Additionally, it does period fitting and outputs graphical reports.
is an interactive binary star modeling software package that seeks to find best fit star models to observation data loaded into the program. It provides graphical output of the model, the fit, and 3D animations of the system.
Period 04
A program that analyzes data sequences using Fourier analysis to determine the frequency spectra making up the series. It is useful in period search fitting and is particularly well suited to systems having multiple periods or oscillation modes.
PHOEBE stands for PHysics Of Eclipsing BinariEs. It is a program for modeling eclipsing binary stars based on photometric and radial velocity data. PHOEBE is based on the Wilson and Devinney modeling code. More sophisticated than NightFall, the tool works best when both radial velocity and photometric data are available.
A program designed to construct diffraction limited images using speckle interferometry and “lucky imaging’ from a long sequence of short exposure telescopic images. It is useful in astrometry, double star analysis and proper motion studies.
ISIS Spectroscopy
A software for calibrating, processing, and analyzing astronomical spectra. It has an interactive GUI interface and can handle slitless, long slit and eschelle spectra.
Symbolic Math and Graphing
GNU Plot
A general purpose plotting and charting program and can be script driven to provide animated graphics.
SMath Studio
A package that provides features and services similar to those found in Mathcad™. It can typeset equations, find symbolic or numerical solutions to systems of equations and provide graphical output.
Speed Crunch
A powerful desktop calculator that allows for the creation of variables and functions. It includes a comprehensive library of scientific and mathematical constants and formulas. It operates in an extended precision mode. Units and radix are selectable.
Office and Utilities
Filezilla FTP Client
An FTP client program with a graphical user interface for moving files over the Internet.
Firefox Web Browser
A popular free open source Internet browser
Geany IDE
A GUI integrated software development systems with a powerful built in text editor. It is well suited to the development of data pipeline processing scripts. It includes several such examples.
Libre Office Calc Libre Office Drawing
Libre Office Formulas
Libre Office Impress
Libre Office Writer
A family of free, open source programs that provide functions similar to Microsoft Office™. These program are capable of reading and writing file formats compatible with MS Office as well as their native file types.
Real VNC Client
A Virtual Network Console Client software package. It allows the control of a remote PC over the Internet. It is useful for control PC’s at remote observatories. This package’s license is free for individual and educational users, but not for commercial user. Free VNC Host software is available for Linux, Windows and OSX systems
Programming and Scripting

The CUREA VM includes in its Linux installation development tools for programming in C, C++, Fortran, Python, Perl and Java. A simple integrated development environment (IDE) GEANY supports the development of scripts and extensions to the supplied functionality. The VM is not intended as a program development platform. For simple scripting and utility programming, Python is the preferred language.

The VM Desktop has three folders, “Manuals” “Papers” and “Ebooks:. The “Manuals” folder contains reference manuals, tutorials and quick reference guides for the astronomy applications included in the system. They are all in PDF format and are available offline.

The "Papers" directory contains a collection of article reprints grouped by categories. The categories include:
Observational Methods
N-Body Problems
Astronomical Standards
Additionally, there is a brief outline of a number of project ideas intended to develop observational astronomy skills that can be done with a small telescope over several days.

Finally, the "Ebooks" directory contains a collection free text and reference books on astronomy. The set includes:
An Introduction to Astronomical Photometry Using CCDs, Romanishin (2002)
Cambridge University Press Handbook of Space Astronomy and Astrophysics, Zombeck (1990)
Fundamental Numerical Methods and Data Analysis, Collins (2003)
Introduction to the HST Data Handbooks, Space Telescope Science Institute (2011)
The Foundations Of Celestial Mechanics, Collins(2004)
The Fundamentals of Stellar Astrophysics, Collins (2003)
The Virial Theorem In Stellar Astrophysics, Collins (2003)
A Photographic Atlas Of Selected Regions Of The Milky Way, Vols 1 & 2, Barnard (1927)
The VM desktop contains a "Catalogs" folder with a wide variety of astronomical catalogs:
A complete copy of the NASA's Astronomical Data Center’s CD-ROM, Selected Astronomical Catalogs, Volume I
A catalog of irregular or interacting galaxies
E.E. Barnard's catalog of dark nebulas (molecular clouds).
Patrick Moore's catalog of bright deep sky objects omitted from Messier’s list.
ColorVsEffTemp, Pecaut, M (2013)
A table of color index in a variety of common photometric standards against the effective temperature for dwarf stars for spectral classes 0V through TV.
Exoplanets, Butler et al. (2006)
A catalog of nearby expolanets that were spectroscopically detected.
Fraunhofer Lines
A Graphical catalog of common named Fraunhofer spectral lines.
GravLens, Maoz (1993)
A catalog of gravitationally lensed distant quasars.
A catalog of compact interacting galaxy groups.
Hipparcos, ESA (1997)
Volume one of the Tycho & Hipparcos astrometric and photometric catalogs.
Kepler Eclipsing Binaries, Matijevic (2012)
A catalog of eclipsing binary stars discovered by the Kepler 1 mission.
Kepler Exo Planets
A catalog of confirmed transiting expolanets from the Kepler 1 mission.
Lunar Eclipses
A canon of lunar eclipses from 2000 through 2100.
Meteor Showers
A catalog of 72 know meteor showers. Including their date, duration, flux and radiants.
Quasars, Hewitt (1993)
A catalog of bright quasars.
A table of SAO stars brighter than Magnitude 4.0, suitable for long slit spectroscopy with small aperture telescopes.
SDSS-Johnson-Cousins Transforms, SDSS (2013)
A catalog of methods for transforming Sloan filter photometry to and from the Johnson-Cousins filter photometry.
A J2000 catalog of H II emission line regions in the Milky Way.
Spectra, Jacoby (1984)
A catalog of stellar spectra standards for most spectral classes of stars. Additionally included is a python program to resample any of the catalog spectra at the dispersion of your spectrograph.
Stellar Class Color Indices, STSci (2018)
A table of Johnson-Cousins color indices vs stellar spectral type.
Orbital pseudo elements for The Sun formulated as "anti-Earth". These elements can be programmed into computerized telescopes and planetarium programs to allow pointing at the Sun. USE WITH CAUTION. Your vision, telescopes and cameras are all at risk if this is done without proper filters and protection.

SSC Observatories Offices:
1303 S. Ola Vista
San Clemente, CA 92682

Email: observatory <at> ssccorp.com