Report of HEASARC Users Committee

GSFC - 25-26 Sept. 1997

The HEASARC Users Committee held its annual meeting at Goddard Space Flight Center on September 25 and 26, 1997. Members attending were: Joel Bregman (U. Michigan), Fionna Harrison (Cal Tech), Jonathan McDowell (SAO), John Nousek (Penn State; chair), Julian Osborne (Leicester Univ., UK), Ron Remillard (MIT), Allyn Tennant (MSFC), and Ray White (U. Alabama). Chryssa Kouveliotou (USRA) was unable to attend due to illness, Megan Donahue (STScI) was unable to attend due to the arrival of her baby and Frits Paerels (Columbia U.) resigned from the committee due to his impending move out of the U.S.


The committee was tremendously impressed with the range of astrophysical and technical skill presented and the very large amount of work accomplished on a comparatively modest budget. The HEASARC serves as a role model for the short, medium and long term data analysis and archival research center. The management keeps the effort well focussed on issues and tasks of great importance and utility to the high energy astrophysics community and uses imagination and initiative in combining funding and resources from multiple sources (core HEASARC funding, ADP competitive funding, and mission funding). Hardware and software activities are making good use of modern technology, uniform standards and active coordination with other elements in the Space Science community in a pro-active, but not reckless, manner.

Comments & Recommendations

The committee has the following, specific comments and recommendations that they wish to suggest to the HEASARC and its management. Some of them involve interactions beyond the HEASARC proper, and should be interpreted as suggestions to guide HEASARC management in negotiating those interactions. The order of the comments is strictly in the order of presentation at the meeting and does not imply a prioritization.
  • We endorse the XMM cooperative agreement in which the HEASARC supplies two programmers to reside in Europe. We also encourage the completion of the plan, which provides a scientist liason during the data collection phase of the mission.

  • We endorse requiring a Project Data Management Plan for all missions which involve significant utilization of the HEASARC as an archive or science support center. In particular, we feel PDMPs should be prepared and given to the HEASARC for even small missions, of which HETE-2 is the next example.

  • We see substantial benefits in the HEASARC working closely with SAO on archival matters with respect to AXAF, Einstein and Spectrum X-Gamma data. We would like to see a plan, which we could review, which lays out steps for closer coordination.

  • We find webSPEC a very useful tool and applaud the role of the HEASARC in making this tool available to the AXAF Science Center.

  • We endorse the choice of GUI for software interfaces, Tcl/Tk. We also offer our expertise to assist in future choices, which could be solicited by email if rapid response is required.

  • We suggest that the old command line version of browse be dropped from support (to save resources) when the new World Wide Web version supplies the full functionality of the old version.

  • We find the perl script maintenance tools for CALDB to be a valuable addition to this software. We encourage adding an uninstall procedure to further enhance its value.

  • We suggest that the HEASARC regularly consider if some platforms are infrequently used, and if so, discontinue support for them so as to focus resources on the most commonly used platforms.

  • We encourage the HEASARC to continue its reorganization and improvements to its WWW home pages. In particular, missions such as ROSAT which have many pages should be reviewed and critical summary pages containing the most important information for users should be prepared and prominently featured.

  • The CGRO data in the HEASARC are significantly improved since the last meeting, but the absence of COMPTEL data is troubling. Even though the raw data is complex and requires careful analysis, the investigator team should strive to deliver some data to the HEASARC. Our impression is that high level images may be the first and best product to deliver. We applaud the significant advances made by the EGRET and BATSE teams, and notice the improvements of the OSSE data. We encourage all CGRO teams to continue the support of FTOOLS to provide a unified environment for the HEASARC user community.

  • The HEASARC public and educational outreach activity is outstanding. We encourage NASA to support this effort and to use it as a model for other NASA research activities.

  • We suggest the HEASARC Legacy publication be replaced by a Newsletter format which is available both in paper and electronic forms. We suggest more issues with fewer pages and less overhead than Legacy. Issues should be produced at no less than one year intervals. We encourage the HEASARC to continue publication of longer calibration and standards articles elsewhere.

  • We urge the XSDC and RXTE GOF to improve the speed of pipeline processing for the RXTE archive. We note that the 1996 RXTE data to be placed in the public archive will arrive one year behind schedule. The processing system should have increased margin in order to rapidly deliver reprocessed data (which gates the construction of the public archive), also to reduce the time it takes to deliver the most recent observations to RXTE guest investigators.

  • In the area of data restoration, we commend the HEASARC on the great strides made over the past year. We suggest that the HEASARC is nearing completion of this legacy task. New missions should have data products in a form which does not require this very arduous effort. We suggest that the HEAO-1 A-2 data of scanning mode PHA data be dropped as too difficult and too small a reward. We suggest light curve data be given priority.

  • We encourage HEASARC steps to acquire and support BeppoSAX data.
John Nousek, HUG Chair

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