Institute of Astronomy

Part III General Information

It is hoped as a Part III Astrophysics student that you will feel part of the Institute of Astronomy and will participate in some of the activities that maintain its friendly and interactive atmosphere.


The Institute of Astronomy staff have coffee (and tea) in the Hoyle building foyer from about 11.00 am. Part III Astrophysics students are invited to enjoy coffee with the staff and postgraduate students, although this may on occasions not be possible given the location and timing of Part III lectures. There is no charge for coffee for Part III Astrophysics students.

Journal Club and Social

There will be a series of sessions for Part II and Part III students which are designed to build confidence in giving presentations and will also allow socialising between the two year groups.  The sessions are run by enthusiastic PhD students who will offer friendly advice on preparing and giving scientific talks (lecturers do not attend!). 

Public Outreach

The IoA runs an extremely successful programme of Public Outreach on Wednesday evenings. Student participation is welcome: details available at the introductory session on Wednesday 6 October at 12:30 or email


There isn’t a canteen at the IoA, but there are a number of other options around. The newest and nearest facility is in Greenwich House (behind the Observatory Building) and opens from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. with inside and outside seating or you can take-away.  It produces a wide range of sandwiches, cakes and jacket potatoes. The William Gates Building (Computer Science) just across Madingley Road is very nearby and has a selection of sandwiches and other items. At the far end of JJ Thomson avenue is West Cafe in the Hauser Forum building, a relatively new cafe that has a wider range of choice albeit (slightly!) further away. There is also the Centre for Mathematical Sciences (CMS) on Wilberforce Road, quite handy if you are over there for a lecture or seminar already. Should you so desire there is also a cafeteria in the Cavendish Laboratory, the fare is relatively standard for a big institutional canteen, not amazing but not going to give you food poisoning. If you fancy a more substantial (i.e. liquid) lunch there are a couple of pubs on Huntingdon Road/Castle Street fairly close to the IoA, the Castle Inn being a particular department favourite, and of course the city centre is not that far away really.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, a Nannamexico van comes to Clerk Maxwell Road (opposite the Obs building driveway) 12 noon to 2 pm. They sell burritos, quesadillas, tacos and nachos (and it’s all fresh, you watch them prepare it all); prices are around £5. They have loyalty cards—with 10 stamps on your card, your next meal is free. They are quite popular and do sell out of things so you are advised to get there before 12:30. Panier Mignon parks outside the Computer Service, Roger Needham Building at 12 noon and in the front car park of the William Gates Building at 12.30 Monday to Friday offering various sandwiches and Italian cakes.

If you are in a nearby College you will be able to get lunch there if you want. Churchill College kitchens fairly recently underwent a complete refurbishment and the dining hall welcomes visitors from nearby university departments. A hot meal costs in the region of £4 to £5.50, but salads and sandwiches are also available. They are open 12:30–13:30 and 18:15–19:00. During Easter (Exam) Term they serve on-the-go pasta which is quite delicious.


Part III students are given full access to the Institute of Astronomy Science Cluster.  A limited number of bookable dedicated terminals are available in Library Room B at the Institute of Astronomy,

A 5-lecture "Introduction to Unix and Computing" course is given at the start of the Michaelmas Term in order to familiarise students with the operating system and use of the Science Cluster.


The Institute of Astronomy library holds 8,000 books and 11,000 volumes of astronomical periodicals. Part III students are encouraged to use the library facilities but may not sign out books. If you need any help ask the Librarian, Mark Hurn, who has an office in the library area in the Observatory Building.


There is a photocopier in the reprographic room (opposite the vending machines), another to the right of the stairs to the Sackler Lecture Theare, and one in the main library in the Observatory building. Course-related copying is free of charge. For private copying there is a charge of 3p per A4 sheet.


Students' correspondence will be delivered via email.

CMS Facilities

In the CMS, Part III Astrophysics students may use the large Part III Mathematics Room and the associated facilities. More details may be found in the Part III Mathematics Handbook.

Printing at DAMTP

Part III students are given a free allocation of printer credit for use on the PWF-MATHS printers at CMS. PWF-MATHS credit cannot be spent on UCS or college printers. Similarly, credits purchased at the UCS or in college cannot be used at CMS. If you run out of printer credit send an email to jm(at) You may be asked to explain why the standard allocation proved to be insufficient.

Please note that printing facilities are provided solely for academic use. Please use other printers in college or at the UCS for personal use. Note that non-academic use of printers, or unnecessary waste of paper (including large amounts of output left uncollected), may result in a charge being made.

Page last updated: 19 October 2021 at 15:21