Resources for new graduate students in astrophysics

Computing resources.

The astrophysics group maintains a small group of Linux workstations for beginning graduate and undergraduate students.  These computers are in room 2169 FRH.  Students who want an account on these machines should see Aaron Barth.

A few general notes: please don't bring food or beverages into the computer room.  Please try not to touch the flat-panel LCD screens- they will last pretty much forever if we take good care of them, but once they get scratched there's no way to fix them. 

Don't lock the screen on these machines if you're going to be away from the computer room for more than a short while.  Instead please log out so that someone else can use the system.


We have 2 HP laser printers for the astrophysics group, one black & white and one color.  The black & white printer is set as the default printer.

Basic Linux/Unix skills.

If you're a beginner, there are various web sites that give introductory lessons on Linux commands, text editing, etc.   Here's one web site that has a lot of useful information.

The Scientific Linux distribution includes a lot of very useful software, such as:
A note about shells: the "shell" is the command language interpreter that interprets what you type at a terminal prompt.  The two most popular shells are bash and tcsh.  They have somewhat different syntax for scripting and for things like setting environment variables.  Bash is the default shell for linux these days, and most linux manuals will use bash syntax.  However, a lot of astronomical software that's been around for years has documentation written using tcsh syntax.  You can use either one and it's really a matter of preference.  If you're reading the documentation for a program and it tells you to issue a command like "setenv X y", that's a tcsh command.  The equivalent bash command would be "X=y; export X".    Every time you start up a new terminal window, your shell will read either the .bashrc or the .cshrc file (if you're using bash or tcsh, respectively) in your home directory.  These files are where you put definitions for your executable search path, aliases, and things like that which you want to be read in every time you bring up a terminal window.

Astronomical software installed on the student computers includes:

Other useful computing information:

Web resources for astronomy:
Observatory links: