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Introduction and Motivation

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MPIA Python Workshop

About this website

This Python course for MPIA is adapted from the Practical Python for Astronomers course written by Tom Aldcroft, Tom Robitaille, Brian Refsdal, Gus Muench (Copyright 2011, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory) and released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

The present course has been restructured and adapted to reflect the interests of the MPIA audience and includes MPIA-specific set-up information.

About the course

The MPIA Python course contains a series of hands-on workshops to explore the Python language and the powerful analysis tools it provides. The emphasis is on using Python to solve real-world problems that astronomers are likely to encounter in research.

Workshop topics

Workshop Schedule

The workshop schedule is as follows:

Date Topic Location and time
Dec. 7th Python Installation Day Hörsaal, 9:15-12:15
Feb. 1st Python Keynote Hörsaal, 10:30-11:30
Feb 15th Introduction to pure Python Hörsaal, 10:30-12:15
Feb 29th Numpy and Scipy Hörsaal, 10:45-12:15
Mar 14th Making plots with Matplotlib Hörsaal, 10:45-12:15
Apr 11th Making publication-quality plots Hörsaal, 10:45-12:15
Apr 25th Clinic Hörsaal, 10:45-12:15
May 16th Fitting data with Python Hörsaal, 10:45-12:15

About the Workshops

The content presented here is suitable for self-study by those wishing to learn Python for astronomy or other scientific research applications.

A greater goal is for those knowledgable in Python to teach the workshop series at their local institutions, adapting the content as desired. To that end we have developed the content in Sphinx RestructuredText and hosted the source on github at Anyone interested can clone the repository or download a tarball and make modifications needed to present the material locally.

We would also welcome comments, fixes, or suggestions for improvement. This can be done as a Github issue or pull request.

About the Format

The workshop presentations are formatted as Sphinx web documents instead of the more traditional slide presentation. This was a natural choice for the authors who all use Sphinx for Python documenation. This site highlights by discussion and examples the advantages in using a web-based study guide. In particular we found the non-linear format (e.g. jumping to different sections or web sites) and ability to show longer examples were quite valuable.

Having full prose text results in a document which is far more useful as a standalone study guide than presentation slides. Ironically it also reduces the temptation to read from the screen.