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I'm wondering if there is any course in University or anywhere else or probably company that has a department for Astronomy and Cosmology related computer science (I know NASA will need one). I would like to know how much demand or popularity of this field of programming. Where else will this field being used?

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This question is very vague at the moment. Can you add more details about what you are looking for. –  ChrisF May 10 '11 at 8:18
updated. Hope that it's clearer now –  Phelios May 10 '11 at 8:30
I doubt that there is, to be honest. Most people working in this field come from an astrophysics background (it's easier to teach physicsts to program than to teach programmers physics). –  TZHX May 10 '11 at 8:47
@TZHX: I've seen what happens when physicists program. It isn't pretty. –  David Thornley May 10 '11 at 15:41
@David: I suppose it depends a lot on the physicists. If it's their full-time job to program, as it is with my colleagues, then they're as good at it as anyone I've worked with in other domains. –  TZHX May 10 '11 at 15:55

5 Answers 5

Not really an answer to your question, but I feel this may be useful information...

I currently work writing software for high energy physics experiments. I'll tell you this, coming from a computer science background - I'm in a tiny minority compared to those coming from a physics background (out of the thirty developers working on this project, I'm the only one without at least a degree in the physical sciences - a great many of my colleagues have PhDs.).

Employers in this sector have decided (quite rightly, in my opinion) that it's easier to teach a physicist to program, than to teach a programmer all the concepts they'll need to understand to be able to communicate with the scientists.

If you want to get into Astrophysics, then study astrophysics. :)

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well, it's kind of true... But cosmology is not necessary about physic. A lot of image processing are required too. –  Phelios May 10 '11 at 9:06
yes, but the image processing is based on science, not on making it look pretty. you need to grasp the science to understand the user requirements. –  TZHX May 10 '11 at 9:14

I'm currently working on a project in this area (actually, it's on heliospheric physics, but that's got to be close enough) and the programming needed in this area relates to:

  • Databases
  • Image processing
  • Numerical programming
  • Web programming (increasingly)
  • Scripting

Key tools that I see in use are Fortran (still) and IDL.

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that is close enough. So, what is the purpose of the project? is it somehow related to NASA? –  Phelios May 10 '11 at 9:02

Your best bet would be to do a double major in CS and Astrophysics, or just major in astrophysics and take some CS classes.

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I work in an astrophysics (radio astronomy) team - view my poorly written webpage to see.

If you want a postdoc in astronomy or cosmology, then you must complete a PhD programme (physics undergrad -> honours/masters -> PhD). This progression is easy and will land you jobs, provided you're willing to relocate several times. The computing will be yours to pursue though, as no tertiary course will give you the education required for astro-computing work.

If you don't want a postdoc, a Masters is generally required (in Australia) as you'll most likely be working in academia. The demand is tiny and we basically poach those that are deemed worthwhile.

Anything you learn from working in astro will be very specific and effectively useless to any other field. The only thing you will retain is how to learn something that specialised.

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I already have a CS degree. Can I go for postdoc in astro without physics undergrad? –  Phelios May 11 '11 at 1:45
Yes, it's not the ordothox way of doing things, but if you find a supervisor that will accept you, it's possible. Check if you need an honours or masters degree first though - I don't know which country you're in. –  Jonathan Khoo May 11 '11 at 2:19
I'm in Malaysia now, but won't do it here... :) thank you!! –  Phelios May 11 '11 at 2:23

I don't think there is a program like this. College degrees are more broad than "get a job at NASA." As I believe you have an interest in this kind of job, I feel that the best course would be to get a degree in computer science from a reputable university and spend a lot of time studying math and physics.

A programming job at NASA is probably more closely related to physics than knowing that the Crab Nebula is 6500 light years away from earth.

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It's now about getting a job at NASA, but I'm kind of wonder if there is any other company will do such project (probably for business haha) –  Phelios May 10 '11 at 9:03

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