University of Hawaii at Hilo

Natural Sciences Division

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Software Systems for Astronomy (SSFA) - June 22- July 31, 2020 (Now Online)

SSFA is now offered online from June 22 thru July 31, 2020 for the sixth annual Software Systems for Astronomy. An intensive software class for those interested in Software in Astronomy is offered by Professor Albert Conrad.

SSFA (Software Systems for Astronomy) is a course developed that teaches students the basics they need to produce software tools and systems that astronomers and telescope operators find intuitive and efficient to operate. SSFA provides a bridge between these two disciplines, the branch of astronomy that teaches students practical observing skills and the branch of computer science that teaches students how to develop reliable, user-friendly, software systems. SSFA is a course on telescope and instrument control systems, observation planning tools, and data analysis software. This course will be offered by Dr. Albert Conrad in the last two weeks of July.  Students will work with existing software tools and current design methodologies.  A required lab tied to the class will also be offered for hands on experiential learning.   In the lab students will implement their software designs and then apply the software systems they have created to real-life problems in astronomy. Lab exercises complement the presentations in control systems, planning tools, data analysis, and archiving given in the lectures. Team programming techniques and proven methods for providing robust software solutions are also exercised in the lab. Prerequisites: ASTR 110 or ASTR 180; CS 150. Prerequisites are waived for observatory employees who wish to take the course for professional development. This is a great summer course at the foothills of Maunakea, location for many of the best observatories in the world.  2020 Syllabus <Link>

Interested in the SSFA program?

Click on the following form so we can send you information on attending SSFA 2020! <link to SSFA on-line form> . Interested in other summer programs, check out: Summer 2020 Class Availability.

Software Systems for Astronomy flyer 2020








Link to pdf suitable for printing

Link 10 11x17" Poster

Link to summer session 2019 page

Software Systems for Astronomy - 2019 group photograph






Link to summer session 2018 page

SSFA 108 group photo of the class





Link to summer session 2017 page

Software Systems for Astronomy 2017 class photo







Link to summer session 2016 page

SSFA-2016 class photo






Link to summer session 2015 page

Software Systems for Astronomy 2015 summer class photo







About Dr. Albert Conrad

Dr. Albert ConradAs both an astronomer and a software developer, Dr. Albert Conrad has developed and used software systems for all phases of observing: from planning the observation, to taking the data, to analyzing the data in preparation for publication. Dr. Conrad’s research interests include asteroid systems and developing novel techniques to study comets, planets, and the moons of planets, in particular Jupiter’s moon Io. His complete bibliography includes over 100 publications including 26 articles in refereed journals. These range from his early software designs for the Keck Observatory, to his discovery of a small moon orbiting asteroid (41) Daphne. He enjoys sharing the results of his research through teaching, public lectures, and K-12 classroom visits. Dr. Conrad received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1994. He then worked as software engineer and support astronomer at both Lick and Keck Observatories before moving to the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy to lead the development of a next generation adaptive optics system. Currently, as staff scientist at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, he develops systems for high angular resolution and conducts research in planetary science. He enjoys cycling, sailing, and outrigger canoe paddling.


Special instructions for non-UHH students applying to SSFA:

  1. First let us know about you and your interest in SSFA by completing this form:
  2. Then apply to UHH using this link:
  3. After you have applied, send an email to the instructor (e.g., for ASTR385 email  The instructor can then expedite and help track your application process.
  4. After you have been accepted (takes 1-2 weeks), send another email to the instructor with your student ID.  The instructor will then use that student ID to OK your enrollment for the course.  The instructor will then send you an email letting you know it is OK to register.
  5. After you have received that email, register for the course using this link:



(last updated 7/29/19)