Minutes of HEASARC Users Group Meeting

February 14, 2003

1. Agenda

Time    Topic                                   Speaker         Duration

8:30 AM Continental Breakfast Available
9:00 AM Introductions                           All             0:10
9:10 AM HEASARC overview                        Marshall        0:30
9:40 AM EPO Activities                          Lochner         0:15
9:55 AM Web and archive plans                   McGlynn	        0:25
0:20 AM HEASOFT and other software plans        Pence           0:25
0:45 AM Break                                                   0:15
1:00 AM ADEC and ADEC White Paper               McGlynn         1:00
2:00 PM Lunch: Beyond Einstein Briefing                         1:00

        Current Missions
1:00 PM	Chandra                                 Rots            0:15
1:15 PM	HETE2                                   Corcoran        0:05
1:20 PM	XMM                                     Snowden	        0:15
1:35 PM	XTE                                     Boyd            0:10
1:45 PM	Integral/CGRO                           Shrader         0:20

2:05 PM	Break                                                   0:10

        New Missions
2:15 PM	GLAST                                   Band            0:25
2:40 PM	Astro-E2                                Mukai           0:15
2:55 PM	Swift (BeppoSAX)                        Angelini        0:25
3:20 PM	New Missions and the HEASARC      Angelini/Band/McGlyn  0:15
3:35 PM	Break                                                   0:15

3:50 PM	Discussion                                              0:30

4:20 PM	New members/Executive session           Harrison        0:30
4:50 PM	Feedback                                Harrison        0:15
5:05 PM	Close

2. Summary

The User Group heard reports on an impressive array of missions and their associated archives, as well as on a number of general outreach and software development efforts. The HUG was impressed by the dedication of the HEASARC staff, and the continued progress in spite of limited resources. The HEASARC in large part addressed the recommendations from the previous meeting, and continues to value and respond to community input. The HUG was also pleased to see that the Astro-E2, Swift and Glast archive plans were progressing. In particular the adoption of HEADAS by Swift and Astro E2 is an encouraging sign that future missions are moving toward standardization.

Particularly impressive was the summary of EPO activities, especially the progress made by Imagine the Universe! This site appears to be reaching a large audience, and has an array of inventive activities and materials targeted at the high school level.

A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to the ADEC whitepaper, and NASA's role in the NVO. Although NASA manages the most-used astronomical archives, NASA has no well-defined role in NVO. The ADEC, the council of NASA's astronomy archive centers, is writing a whitepaper to propose for NASA support of interoperability efforts. We reviewed two versions of the whitepaper, one drafted by Tom McGlynn proposing an approach to interoperability among NASA data centers based on NASA Interoperability Layer Elements (NILE), and one based on an object Master Directory, drafted by Barry Madore. Written opinions from HUG members were collected a few days after the meeting, and were forwarded to Tom as input to his draft. Section 3 (Recommendation) summarizes the recommendations, to the extent that there was consensus.

3. Recommendations

1. HETE-2. The HUG noted that there has been little progress making HETE data products available in standard FITS format accessible using software familiar to the community. For GRBS, multicolor lightcurves are available in FITS, and this is probably sufficient. However, for the coded mask data, potentially useful for monitoring bright Galactic sources, there is no standard format or documented software. The HUG appreciates that the HETE2 team has no funding to support such development activities, and the HEASARC does not have personnel to dedicate to the task. If the HETE2 team and HEASARC cannot get additional funding for this task, the HUG urges the HEASARC to consider some intermediate solution where processed lightcurves and/or spectra for selected sources could be archived in FITS.

2. Software: XSPEC. The HUG was concerned that plans to rewrite XSPEC in C++ may have the effect of destandardizing the package, since not every institution supports C++, and there may be portability issues. This may have already progressed past the point where it is sensible to reconsider, however in the future the HUG felt it would be good to get feedback from the community before rewriting core software packages.

3. HERA: HUG was interested in progress on this new data analysis service to provide interactive analysis over the internet of data products retrieved from the HEASARC data archive. The HUG felt that HERA might be better tested (and more immediately useful to the community) on XMM rather than XTE. HERA's primary target is the novice user, and more people in this category are likely to want to access imaging data rather than timing data. Integral might be another good choice, since there is not already a community familiar with Integral data analysis.

4. XMM: The HUG recommends HEASARC consider some development activity to 'ease the pain' involved with XMM analysis. In particular user friendly scripts on top of SAS would be very useful to the user community.

5. Glast: The HUG was quite concerned that Glast appeared to be developing custom software for the LAT without input/consultation with HEASARC or the general user community. The HUG would recommend pressuring the Glast team to conform to the extent possible with standard formats, interfaces and procedures, and pay attention to portability of the analysis system to multiple platforms. The HUG hopes that Glast data and analysis tools will be easier to access and apply than for example those that were available for Egret or Comptel.

6. Swift. The HUG was intrigued by the multiwavelength database being developed for Swift. The purpose of this database is to enable groundbased observers to upload their GRB observations to the archive. The HUG cautions that it may be very difficult to standardize and verify the data products. In addition, this activity sounds more appropriate as a Swift mission effort (funded by that project) rather than a HEASARC effort.

7. NVO/ADEC white papers: Five individual HUG members sent suggestions on the ADEC whitepaper to Tom McGlynn prior to Feb. 28. Although on some issues there was no clear consensus, in general the HUG felt that

    a. It is important that NASA participate in NVO, and it would be a very worthwhile investment that would enable new kinds of science investigations.
    b. Something like NILE is an appropriate solution in the short term, however in the longer term a master object directory, or something similar, would be very valuable.
    c. Whatever is done should not be limited just to NASA data. NASA efforts shouldn't be boxed in, and should collaborate with other NVO teams.
    d. The NASA effort should address resource discovery as well as linking of data.

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