Frequently Asked Questions
Go back to main astronomy lab page
- What should I do first?
Read the web pages. Do this before starting the experiment.
- Can I have the password to the student account?
- How do I use the Linux O/S?
Read this page first. Ask your instructor
or TA if you have further questions.
- Do I need to use IDL?
Technically, no, but it will be easier if you do.
The labs are designed such that some are
better done if you write a simple program in some computer language.
It is possible to do a lot in excel.
You can do some image analysis in DS9. IRAF lets you do a
lot, but it is not installed on the system.
Different instructors have different opinions on this.
- How much IDL do I need to know?
IDL is a surprisingly simple language to become proficient in, even if you
have never programmed. You must read this page.
- Should I buy a book on IDL programming?
Only if you you plan to become an expert. It is completely unnecessary for
- What is a FITS file, and how do I read it?
- Can I use IDL at home?
IDL is a commercial product; you will have to purchase a license if you want
to work on your own computer. Or you can download a trial version, which
lets you work for 7 minutes at a time. IDL is available on the Math SYNC site
- Why are these labs not available for undergraduates?
They are, but not through PHY 445. Physics majors should learn the classic
physics experiments and tecniques. Astronomy majors learn the relevant
astronomical techniques, and can do some of these experiments, in AST 443.
who are interested in observational astronomy are invited to register for