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The IoA is situated along Madingley Road, West of Cambridge city centre. It takes about 10 minutes by bicycle or 25 minutes on foot to get to the Institute from the city centre. You can also take the Universal (U) bus from Silver Street and alight (about 10 minutes later) on JJ Thomson Avenue. For those with a university card, each ride on this bus between West Cambridge and the city centre currently costs £1. You can check the bus route and schedule online.

The Institute comprises several buildings scattered throughout a wooded site, making for a very pleasant working environment. The main entrance and reception are at the Hoyle Building.

As an undergraduate student, you will have access to the IoA, DAMTP and Cavendish Buildings. It is important to find time to report to Reception during Induction, as your University card will need to be programmed to grant you access to both the Hoyle and Observation Buildings. Your card will then automatically be updated to give you access to the Cavendish Building, and also the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. 

Useful Documents

Food and Drink

We meet at 11.00 am for morning coffee and biscuits, which is free of charge. This is normally held in the entrance to the Hoyle Building or outside on the lawn/in the marquees. It is well worth going to so that you can mix with your fellow students as well as other members of the department.

There are several possibilities for lunchtime food provision, and snacks can be obtained on site from the vending machine located in the Hoyle building. Off-site there are several possibilities for canteen-style food (CMS, Cavendish Laboratory and Churchill College) and a full range of meals at the Hauser Forum as well. There is also a bread and cheese lunch held on Wednesdays at 12:30pm, which precedes the Seminar.


The Institute of Astronomy library holds 8,000 books and 11,000 volumes of astronomical periodicals. Undergraduate students are encouraged to use the library facilities. There is a selection of the recommended  course textbooks in the library area on the first floor of the Hoyle building, and a complete set in Library room B in the Observatory building. All books must be used within the confines of the library and returned to the correct location on the shelves after use. If you need any help, ask the Librarian, Mark Hurn (, who has an office in the library area in the Observatory building.

College libraries should also have copies of the recommended textbooks.


Undergraduate computing facilities are provided by the University Computing Service and the Colleges.

Part II Astrophysics students may use the CATAM Public Workstation Facility, details of which are provided in the CATAM handbook.

Part III Astrophysics students are given full access to the Institute of Astronomy Science Cluster, which is based on the Redhat Enterprise Linux operating system. The Science Cluster consists of the desktop computers around the site as well as a number of shared servers. There are also public Linux, Windows and MAC workstations available in the Hoyle Print Room (H30). There are substantial data storage facilities as well as printers and scanners connected at various locations around the site. A wide variety of software is available both for general purposes (producing documents, e-mail, web browsing etc.) and for scientific computing and there is the facility to distribute intensive jobs between computers on the cluster using HTCondor.

A short, compulsory computer orientation course covering practical aspects of Unix and use of the Institute of Astronomy Science Cluster will run in the first two weeks of the Michaelmas term.


There is a photocopier in the reprographic room, opposite the vending machine, another is located to the right of the stairs to the Lecture Theatre in the Hoyle building and there is one in the main library in the Observatory building. Course-related copying is free of charge.