Minutes of HEASARC Users Group Meeting

February 13, 2004

1. Agenda

9:00 am	Welcome and Introductions

9:10            HEASARC Overview:  Nick White

9:10            Action items from last HUG meeting:
                NVO/ADEC: Update on Status, e.g. white paper:  Tom McGlynn
                GLAST Software:  Bob Shaefer
                XMM-Newton Analysis:  Steve Snowden
                HETE-2 Data Products:  Mike Corcoran

10:45           Coffee break

11:00           A Walk Through the HEASARC Website:
                Overview of the HEASARC Website:  Karen Smale
                New Features in Browse & Hera:  Tom McGlynn & Bill Pence

11:50           Lunch (read proposals)

 1:00           Discussion of Senior Review Proposal:  Keith Arnaud et al.

 4:00           Break

 4:10           New Members/Executive session

 4:45           Feedback to HEASARC

 5:00           Close

Notes from the Meeting

HEASARC User's Group met at GSFC on February 13. The primary purpose of the meeting was to red team the senior review proposal, however we also heard updates from action items identified at last year's meeting (Feb. 14, 2003).

In the overview by Nick White we heard a summary of HEASARC usage, web statistics, and about the current hardware configuration. We also heard highlights of some of the upgrades and new features being worked on, including progress on the Browse catalog and archive interface, the "organization tool" for GRB supporting observations (called AKBAR), and efforts to make the web pages section 508 compliant (accessible to the disabled), the upcoming release of a major revision of XSPEC written in C++, and the java redesign of Skyview.

We heard a summary of progress on action items from the last meeting. It was encouraging to see progress on all fronts:

XMM/SAS: In the previous meeting HUG had concerns over the inaccessibility of SAS, and its lack of conformance to HEASARC standards. A lot of progress has been made on making SAS files, which produce calibrated photon event lists, OGIP compatible. They can be ported to CIAO, FTOOLS and other standard programs. Improved documentation (updated ABC guides) will be released with the new version of SAS. A problem with the timing has been fixed, although it is not yet in the standard processing or SAS. An alpha version of the software is, however, available on the Vilspa site. There has also been a lot of progress in modeling the CCD background to aid in diffuse source analysis.

HETE-2: The HETE-2 TM data is being loaded into the archive, however there aren't analysis programs that can be used by the general community to interpret it. All HETE-2 data is now public, so GRB lightcurves are being provided within a day or two of an event. There is a new BROWSE table, HETEGRB, available, and GRB data from FREGATE seem to be reasonable accessible. The production of WXM products is still an issue, and there doesn't seem to be hope in the near term of providing intermediate-level WXM images, lightcurves and spectra for bright Galactic sources.

GLAST Software: GLAST is making plans to address all the concerns from our previous meeting. The development plans are much more specific, and there has been progress getting FITS and FTOOLs standards adopted for LAT.

NVO/ADEC: We had an update on the disposition of the two whitepapers we reviewed at the last meeting. The NILE and Master Object Directory proposals were merged into the NASA Interoperability Initiative (NII), which draws features from both proposals. It is more science driven than NILE, but is not as overarching as the MOD. The proposal went into NASA, and the result was they liked the proposal, but there is no funding for it. The total effort proposed is about 15 FTE, so is not modest.

We also had a brief discussion of Chandra activities, and how the archive for that mission should be maintained after the prime operating phase. The issues are whether it should be transferred entirely to GSFC/HEASARC, or whether it should be maintained at SAO with an interface and oversight from HEASARC to ensure compatibility with other mission archives. The expertise on the mission is at SAO, however the experienced HEASARC personnel must be involved. Some hybrid solution may be best.

We had discussion of the draft senior review proposal. There was general consensus that it needs better organization, inclusion of the impressive statistics and accomplishments up front, and better use of figures and tables to organize the acronyms and software descriptions. Detailed comments were recorded by Keith and Steve.

Karen gave us a nice overview of the HEASARC website, which consists of 15,000 static pages.

Comments and Recommendations

We were gratified that GLAST/LAT is adopting FITS and FTOOLs standards, which will make the data easily accessible to the community. We urge the team to continue conform to HEASARC standards for all data products.

We urge the HEASARC to submit work to make the HETE-2 WXM data available in standard formats as an above the line item in the senior review proposal. Clearly much of this funding will have to go to the HETE team, but we encourage HEASARC to oversee the process and provide expertise where necessary. We understand funding may limit the usable archived products to processed maps and lightcurves (for all data including Galactic sources), but these products should be BROWSable and provided in FITS formats.

The work on the XMM background model is particularly appreciated, and we hope to see it fully incorporated as an FTOOL in the near future.

The group was happy to see the NSF-funded effort by Tom McGlynn that works toward interoperability with other archives. This is clearly a direction all the archives will be pursuing in the future. If the full-blown NASA Interoperability Initiative cannot be funded, we hope to see enough funding to keep such 'grass roots' efforts going.

HUG was interested in how the Chandra data will be archived. General consensus it that it should be consistent with the HEASARC standards no matter where the data are located. Whatever the ultimate plan, it should maintain the uniform interface for the community and also preserve the expertise of people currently providing the data products. The HUG would like to hear how plans are developing at its next meeting, ideally both from SAO and HEASARC personnel working together on the process.

Karen is doing a great job with the website. HUG did have some suggested improvements: The current public pages are too full of jargon, and could benefit from a going over from a science writer. They could also use cleaning and simplifying to make them more readable. The general reaction to the new "NASA standard look" was positive, and although we didn't go through the pages in detail, many of the problems with the current public pages look like they will be largely solved with the new format. In general the ASCA mission pages need cleaning up. Some concerns were raised about the new upgrades to HERA that provide XSPEC analysis via a scripted tool. If analysis is made to automatic, it may lead to sloppy or incorrect interpretation.

Eric Gotthelf had a list of specific suggestions for improvements to the pages which he will mail separately. One which the group felt was particularly worth pursuing is making barycentering uniform. Currently each mission has its own separate algorithm.

HUG would like to see the HEASARC request that bibliographies from papers on ADS be made publicly accessible and searchable [Bob I'm not sure I caught the full gist of this - perhaps you can fill it out].

Finally, although we realize this is beyond the direct control of HEASARC, HUG urges all future missions to adopt common analysis tools, and applauds Astro E-2, Swift, and Glast for doing this.

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