Python for Astronomers

October 2008 - January 2009
Reinhold Schaaf and Manuel Metz


Course is full!

Python - the new lingua franca for astronomers

It is fair to say that among computer languages Python is the new lingua franca (not only) for astronomers. Python is an easy to learn yet powerful scripting language, that allows both fast and easy solutions of everyday problems as well as development of large and sophisticated software packages.

Python is a general purpose language, but a vivid community of developers from science is adding more and more specialized packages, making Python an excellent tool for scientists. Today, several astronomical program packages are implemented at least partially in Python; examples are the APEX Control System APECS, the Bolometer Data Analysis Software BoA, and the Astronomical Wide-field Imaging System Astro-Wise
. Other well established programs get adapted to be used from Python as a user-friendly and extensible interface (e.g. CasaPy for CASA, PYGILDAS for GILDAS), PyRAF for IRAF, PyMIDAS (Sampo) for MIDAS). For an incomplete list see e.g. .

Intended audience of the course

If you are an astronomer and don't know Python yet you are a potential candidate for this course! Whether you are a novice to computer programming or an experienced programmer in other languages is of minor importance; for the newcomer, Python offers a gentle learning curve that makes becoming a programmer easy; for the experienced programmer, Python offers easy solutions for many problems that are hard to solve in other languages.

Some basic knowledge of the Linux operating system is required for the course. You should know how to edit a file with vi, emacs, or another editor available on Linux systems. We will offer a prep course for those who feel they need some support in this respect.

Layout of the course

The course will cover all basic elements of the Python language, including important modules of the extensive Standard Library that comes with Python. After the course, you should be able to solve standard problems and to find out solutions for problems not covered in the course.

The course will also cover the SciPy, NumPy, and matplotlib packages that are important for scientific applications such as vector and matrix operations, and plotting.

The course will have an emphasis on experimenting with Python. The only way to learn a computer language is to work with it, hence there will be plenty of oportunities to try things out, both during and between the lessons. If there is the demand, a course project can be set up according to the interests of the participants.

Location and Time

The course will be held on Wednesdays 9:30-11:00, starting October 29 2008, in the CIP room of the Argelander Institute. The course will comprise ten lessons, thus it will end January 14 2009.

The course will be held in English.


Since the CIP room allows only 18 participants, registration is necessary.

The available places will be appointed according to the time of registration.