Report of HEASARC Users Committee


May 21, 1996

Summary

Once again this year the User Group heard an impressive catalog of developments, improvements, and a solid record of achievement by the HEASARC over the past year. We find the HEASARC to be a model of efficiency and scientifically well directed priorities. The unanimous conclusion of the User Group is that the HEASARC has performed its work remarkably well on the limited funds available, and with an ever increasing burden of responsibility. We heartily agree with the assessment brought to us by Dr. Guenter Riegler, that the HEASARC is the model that all science archives should strive to attain.

Projects which the HUG found especially worthy of commendation include: Laura Whitlock's Learning Center - this activity, maintained completely on a volunteer, spare time basis, has produced a product which is significantly more effective than heavily funded, professionally managed projects. We encourage Laura's work, and hope that she will look for external support from programs like IDEA to supplement this exciting outreach effort.

The operation of the ASCA data distribution and archive has also been a model of success. The speed of operation, the smoothness of data receipt from Japan and distribution to users, and the value of a well documented, efficiently run archive, is testimony to the value of a professional data center.

Browse is a powerful software interface and search engine which opens up the archive to both new and experienced users, and many users find it a daily tool in their work. The WWW expansion of browse and the many WWW home pages maintained by the HEASARC are great steps forward. Several HUG members related experiences about being able to send students to use HUG material, and being stunned by the ease of access and learning offered by the HUG WWW pages.

Recommendations

  1. Compton GRO data is starting to enter the public COSSC/HEASARC arena. The HUG reviewed the accessibility and user friendliness of the data, with the following conclusions. The BATSE and OSSE data are both accessible and easy to use, and the instrument teams should be praised. The COMPTEL data are accessible, but only a single platform software package can be used. The HUG understands the difficulties of COMPTEL analysis, and recognizes that the model of analysis used in the X-ray regime may not be helpful, but hopes the COMPTEL team will be able to port their software to more modern platforms.

    The EGRET data are accessible, but the EGRET analysis software is not up to the same standard of user-frendliness and documentation as the other packages available at the HEASARC. We therefore suggest that the EGRET team work with the COSSC and HEASARC staff to deliver software products which can extract gamma-ray spectra and response matrices compatible with the XANADU package (XSPEC, XRONOS). A more detailed request is attached to these minutes and will be sent to Neil Gehrels, Jay Norris, Kevin Hurley and the instrument PI's.

  2. The HUG reviewed potential CD-ROM issues that the HEASARC may make in the coming year. We find the idea of creating a CD-ROM for distribution to teachers and K-12 students, containing the Learning Center WWW material, to be of very high priority, and should be done as soon as possible.

    Re-issues of out-of-print CDs are of lower priority, but should be done as time and resources allow. We suggest that these CDs (ROSAT Vol. 1 & 2; Einstein SSS) contain the latest processing, and contain html links.

    A complete list of the ROSAT PSPC event data is desireable, but should wait until higher storage capacity CD-like media become available and in widespread use.

    The HUG does not believe a CD-ROM containing a complete list of ASCA images is worth the trouble and cost of production.

  3. The HUG approved of the excellent job done by Tom McGlynn in operating and improving SkyView. The HUG recommends as a high priority that SkyView be enhanced to supply NH column densities infered from 21-cm maps. We also recommend that SkyView attempt to obtain the Quick V sky survey from the STScI. SkyView should also use the area search capabilities of NED and Simbad to display all object in those databases within a search cone. The HUG would also like SkyView to support ingest of personal data files (i.e. images or catalog data supplied by the user), which can be combined into overlays with other SkyView images.

    Finally, the HUG recommends against expanding SkyView into a spectral data form. We feel the image paradigm is valuable, and may not be easy to expand to support of spectra and other non-image data.

  4. We suggest that the HEASARC attempt to obtain the Gamma Ray Burst Master List maintained by Kevin Hurley and make it publicly available.
  5. The HUG is concerned that the AXAF Science Center is insufficiently concerned about assuring that the software products for AXAF are compatible with the existing data analysis packages in current use, and that the software they write shall be assured of a long term commitment of support. Of particular concern was the lack of support for PROS, and the weakness of commitment to use FTOOLS, or FTOOLS-like software.
  6. In development of packages for public distribution the HEASARC should refrain from using very recent extensions to software which are not yet in wide distribution. Cited was a case of TCL use, where a recent, poorly supported extension, made the HEASARC software difficult to port.
  7. We suggest that the HEASARC concentrate on cleaning the WGAcat ROSAT catalog over the CMA EXOSAT catalog, as the preceeding is of more compelling interest to the user community.
  8. We suggest filtering pages be added to the W3Browse program to allow user entered filters to be applied in selecting data shown.
  9. The ASCA ABC Guide is an excellent document, and the conversion to HTML is excellent, but we request a PostScript form of the entire document be continuously maintained on-line.

Resolution by HUG on CGRO Products

The HEASARC Users Group (HUG) has reviewed the public data products distributed by the HEASARC and COSSC. We find that the BATSE and OSSE data are both accessible and easy to use, and the instrument teams should be praised. The COMPTEL data are accessible, but only a single platform software package can be used. The HUG understands the difficulties of COMPTEL analysis, and recognizes that the model of analysis used in the X-ray regime may not be helpful, but hopes the COMPTEL team will be able to port their software to more modern platforms. Considering the difficulty for the general user, we suggest that processed images and all-sky maps should be delivered to public archives (including the HEASARC). If the team feels that such products are not fully processed at this time, then they should be delivered anyway with appropriate caveats.

The EGRET data are accessible, but the EGRET analysis software is not up to the same standard of user-frendliness and documentation as the other packages available at the HEASARC. Moreover the EGRET instrument data seem well suited to analysis using the X-ray paradigm of extracted spectra and response matrices. We therefore suggest that the EGRET team work with the COSSC and HEASARC staff to deliver software products which can extract gamma-ray spectra and response matrices compatible with the XANADU package (XSPEC, XRONOS). If such an effort is beyond the resources available, then at a minimum the EGRET and COSSC teams should work together to develop documentation sufficient to give outside users effective access to the existing software.



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