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This Legacy journal article was published in Volume 7, June 1998, and has not been updated since publication. Please use the search facility above to find regularly-updated information about this topic elsewhere on the HEASARC site.

FOREWORD

N. E. White (HEASARC)


The past two-and-a-half years since the previous Legacy has been extremely busy, with many events and activities keeping the HEASARC staff fully occupied (almost to the exclusion of producing this issue of Legacy!). We have seen the RXTE archive open, new capabilities in our online services, coordination between the various future X-ray & Gamma ray mission data centers, a new agreement with the NSSDC, concerted efforts to provide a unified approach to NASA's Space Science Data Systems (Astrobrowse), and new multimission software features, to name just a few.

The HEASARC had been a test case for a distributed approach to data archiving services, where the data archive is colocated within an active research environment. Its success, as mentioned in the recent report from the Task Group on Space Science Data Management (the so called Linsky report: see http://adc.gsfc.nasa.gov/~gass/linsky/report_available.html) has resulted in NASA HQ recently creating similar archive centers for UV/Optical (UVOSARC) at STScI and IR (IRSARC) at IPAC. Cooperation and coordination between these three centers can be expected to provide the community with seamless access to archival data. In this issue of Legacy are two articles on the Astrobrowse project and the related GLU infrastructure which are the first steps to create this integrated archive access infrastructure.

As apart of the restructuring of NASA's Space Science Data System, the HEASARC has now been given full responsibility for being the active archive site for all High Energy Astrophysics (X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy) data. The NSSDC, which in the past had responsibility for HEASARC's data management, will now serve as the deep archive backup to the HEASARC and will no longer serve routine requests for data. The new MOU can be seen at /docs/heasarc/mou.html.

In 1996 and 1997 the HEASARC sponsored "High Energy Astrophysics Data Center Coordination (HEADCC)" Meetings to bring together key staff from the AXAF, XMM, Integral, Astro-E, and Spectrum X-G with those from current missions (ROSAT, ASCA, CGRO, BeppoSAX and RXTE). The idea is to ensure compatibility between software and data formats for the new and current missions. Two meetings have been held so far, and have been very helpful. Four papers in this issue of Legacy describe the data strategies developed for each mission. There are also articles on new developments in software to read and write FITS files. There are some new exciting features in the FITSIO access library and a new package FV (featured on the cover) that allows the display of FITS files through an easy to use graphical user interface. A third HEADCC meeting is planned for the fall of 1998.

Based on recommendations from the 1996 senior review, the HEASARC has taken on responsibility to support US users of data from the Italian-Dutch BeppoSAX mission. Part of this recommendation is that the HEASARC should provide a copy the BeppoSAX archive. As apart of the implementation of this the HEASARC has been advocating an "open archives" policy, where all data at the HEASARC is freely available to other comparable data centers around the world, in exchange for data sets of interest. This approach provides rapid local access to international users and an additional backup copy. To facilitate this the HEASARC has procured a CD ROM mastering facility to allow copies of the HEASARC data to be made and transported. This facility is described in this issue. The data exchange with the BeppoSAX Science Data Center has begun and will be reported in more detail in the next issue of Legacy.

Education and Outreach (E&O) has been identified as a key area that all NASA missions and data centers must support. The HEASARC has taken this directive very seriously and has been leading the E&O effort for the Structure and Evolution of the Universe Theme. The two HEASARC E&O Websites "Starchild" and "Imagine the Universe" now receive more than half a million hits per month. These sites were developed by teachers, as well as the staff at the GSFC LHEA. The HEASARC and LHEA staff have coordinated workshops and displays at countless teachers conferences, distributing lesson plans, posters and other materials. This work was recently recognized by the "Webby Award" for the best educational site in the Web for Starchild. Congratulations go to all involved. This issue contains an article describing the HEASARC E&O efforts.


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