Weaving the Astronomy Web
Abstracts of oral contributions


About this WAW Conference ... and More Generally on the WWW Practice
A. Heck
heck@astro.u-strasbg.fr
Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory, France

This introductory talk to the conference will deal with its genesis and context, as well as with the work ahead and various challenges resulting from the web culture and from the electronic handling of information.


The Electronic Astrophysical Journal Letters Project
Heather J. Dalterio, Peter B. Boyce, Chris Biemesderfer, Archibald Warnock III, Evan Owens, Jim Fullton
dalterio@blackhole.aas.org
AAS Executive Office, Washington, D.C.

The American Astronomical Society has developed a comprehensive system for the electronic dissemination of refereed astronomical research results. Our current focus is the production of an electronic version of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. With the help of a recent National Science Foundation grant, we have developed a system that includes: Latex-based manuscript preparation, electronic submission, peer review, production, development of a database of SGML-tagged manuscripts, collection of page charges and other fees, and electronic manuscript storage and delivery. Delivery options include World-Wide Web access through HTML browsers such as Mosaic and Netscape, an e-mail gateway, and a stand-alone client accessible through astronomical software packages such as IRAF.

Our goal is to increase the access and usefulness of the Journal by providing enhanced features such as faster publication, advanced search capabilites, forward and backward referencing, links to underlying data and links to adjunct materials in a variety of mediums. We have based our journal on open standards and freely available network tools wherever possible.


The Astronomical Information Infrastructure from the End-User perspective.
Sake J. Hogeveen
hogeveen@fys.ruu.nl
Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University

Information Technology (IT) today has found so many applications in astronomy, that we may speak of an electronic `Astronomical Information Infrastructure'. At this moment, the AII is really nothing but a collection of disparate services (network information systems, distributed databases, software packages, etc.).

A look at the Astronomical Information Infrastructure, from the End-User perspective, provides a good insight in some of its more general aspects:

The paper provides an extensive inventory of the End-User problems, and hints at their solution by providing outlines for standardization, and looking into the concept of the modular client-server system.


Electronic Publication and Data Distribution for the Star Formation Group in the Five College Astronomy Department
Karen M. Strom
kstrom@hanksville.phast.umass.edu
Five College Astronomy Department

The Star Formation Group at FCAD has begun to make use of the World Wide Web to:
  1. explore the advantages of hypermedia presentations for the distribution of preprints and observatory publications as a first step toward expanding the definition of electronic publication;
  2. create hyperlinked catalogs of astronomical data which enable not only the recovery of tabular data but instantaneous links to abstracts of the associated reference material;
  3. create on-line catalogs of spectroscopic and image data.
We here illustrate the first results of this effort. The Herbig-Bell Catalog of Emission Line Stars (Herbig & Bell 1988) and the Catalog of Herbig-Haro Objects (Reipurth 1994) have both been translated into HTML and linked to the ADS abstract server, to each other, to HTML versions of the Star Formation Newsletter (for abstracts of newer papers) and to papers that are available on line. Abstracts of pre-1960 references, many not easily available, have also been placed on line and linked to these catalogs.
The preprints of the Star Formation group are made available as the papers are accepted. We will soon begin placing the Ph.D. theses online in hypertext as well.
As a byproduct of this work, a method for displaying subscripts and superscripts using the minimum size and number of images has been developed. We plan to package and release this set of images at the time of this conference.
A page organizing access to these services is available at: http://www-astro.phast.umass.edu/data.html


Utilizing Dynamic Form Generation and Image map Techniques to Construct an Interface to an Astronomical and Geophysical INGRES Database
B.N. Dorland (1), W.A. Snyder (1), R.D. Jones (2), S. Heinicke (2), and D. Becker (3)
dorland@mustang.nrl.navy.mil
(1) Hulbert Center for Space Research, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
(2) Hughes STX
(3) Massachusett Institute of Technology

The Backgrounds Data Center (BDC) , located in the Space Sciences Division (SSD) of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), is the designated archive for celestial and earth backgrounds data collected by Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) science research programs, including the upcoming Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) data set.

We extract and populate relational database catalogs with metadata and these catalogs to locate archived data products which our users request. The advent of Jason Ng's (NCSA) GSQL protocols have allowed us to construct World Wide Web interfaces to our catalogs, greatly improving their utility to users. We have modified these scripts to work with our INGRES RDBMS.

We have enhanced the standard GSQL interface by incorporating the use of "on the fly" form and graphical image construction. With dynamic forms, users generate their own forms by pre-selecting those query parameters they wish to use to search on databases. Users can also select query complexity ranging from rank novice to direct interaction with Standard Query Language (SQL). Dynamic image mapping adds a graphical layer to the WWW forms interface, and permits users to select data by interacting with images only. These techniques allow for an uncluttered and intuitive representation of the catalog databases to users.


Efficient information access in an on-line image archive.
Andre Csillaghy
csillag@astro.phys.ethz.ch
Institute of Astronomy - ETH-Zentrum
csillag@astro.phys.ethz.ch

Development in high-speed computer networks have increased possibilities of world-wide information exchange. Although text is the most used information transmitter, many research domains, and in particular astronomy, deal with a high quantity of two- or multi- dimensional data sets (which I will call "images"). As modern astronomical instruments are getting more and more sensitive, tremendous amounts of data can be recorded. It will soon be usual to deal with recording rates in the order of GBytes/day. However, such observational improvements open new challenges in making data accessible in a reasonable (searching or browsing) time. It implies a clear structuring (or classification) of the archive content. Moreover, low-size, "symbolic" image representation must be used to browse quickly among images. I call these representations "image icons" and will focus on their use in this presentation.

We propose to use image icons to make large amounts of observations available on-line without having to transmit excessive quantity of bytes through the network. Image icons are different from normal size reduction algorithms (as integration, or nearest-neighbour) by the facts that (1) they can "localize" in a way the most important information in an image; (2) they need not be decompressed before being displayed and (3) they (lossy) compress large images efficiently and disregard the original size.

Practically, images icons are constructed by considering data density in the parameter space of the original image. Basically, the bitmap is parametrized and regions with constant data density are built. The higher the data density, the smaller the region representing it. By displaying in a browser (like Mosaic) only a subset of these regions, the amount of data to send through the network during browsing is reduced and no decompression is needed from the client.

We are currently implementing such a browsing interface to facilitate local and international access of the Zurich solar radiospectrogram archive (see http://mimas.ethz.ch/) which contains at this stage about 11 GBytes of solar radio observations.


Library Services and the Web
Jane Holmquist
jane@astro.princeton.edu
Princeton University

Traditionally the astronomy librarian's role has been to 1) select, collect and maintain the materials needed by observational astronomers and/or theoretical astrophysicists to pursue their research; 2) to organize the materials in such a way that they are easily accessible and retrievable; and 3) to help library users locate the information they need.

The advent of computerized information systems hasn't really changed the librarian's role described above; but it has surely changed the materials we select, whether or not we collect them, and how we maintain our links to this information. Computers in libraries have also changed the methods we use to retrieve information, and the kind and amount of instruction we must provide our users.

This paper will examine how, in a very short time, the World Wide Web has revolutionized astronomy libraries, and will continue to do so as the "electronic" versions of our traditional "books and journals" become more widely available and more accepted by library users.


Offering an astronomical library on the Internet: the OAT experience
Laura Abrami, A. Balestra
library@oat.ts.astro.it, balestra@oat.ts.astro.it
Osservatorio Astronomico Trieste

The remarkable development of the Internet has made the sharing of bibliographic information possible worldwide. With this aim, OAT has developed a library access system based on number of the more widely used network information retrieval tools (WWW, WAIS) integrating them with the automation system already in existence (CDS-ISIS).


The Astrophysics Data System Abstract and Article Services.
A. Accomazzi, G. Eichhorn, C.S. Grant, S.S. Murray, M.J. Kurtz
alberto@cfa.harvard.edu, gei@cfa.harvard.edu, stern@head-cfa.harvard.edu,ssm@cfa.harvard.edu, kurtz@cfa.harvard.edu
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

The ADS Astrophysics Science Information and Abstract Service (ASIAS) is enhancing its presence on the WWW by incorporating additional sources of abstracts and making available online journal articles. In order to provide a more complete coverage of our abstract database, we have started using several sources of astronomical references, including NASA/STI, SIMBAD, author abstracts obtained directly from journals, and individual contributions. We are also planning to include abstracts from other subject categories loosely related to astronomy (such as spacecraft instrumentation and communication satellites). Our article service, currently providing full-text papers of the Astrophysical Journal Letters from 1975 to date, will be greatly expanded to include most of the major astronomical journals, creating one of the first implementations of a digital library for astronomers.


A Solar Information Center on the Web
Richard S. Bogart and Karen Tian
RBogart@solar.Stanford.edu
Stanford University

The Solar Information Center (SIC), under development at Stanford University, provides a Web entry point to a range of services specific to the Solar Physics research community. A key design goal is to allow its databases to be filled and maintained by users with a minimum of central management. The SIC provides four basic information services: SolarData, SolarMail, SolarNews, and a Bulletin Board. SolarData, designated as the Solar Physics discipline node for the NASA Space Physics Data System, is a community-based active catalogue for solar data archives. Institutions and individuals are free to register any publicly accessible data holdings, and users are provided a quick query service to locate data of interest from among the registered sets. SolarMail is a widely-used electronic mail forwarding service and personal information database for Solar Physics, and the SIC allows users to interactively open and maintain accounts and to query the database. SolarNews is an electronic newsletter for the Solar community produced in cooperation with the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. It is distributed through SolarMail and the SIC maintains an online archive. Non-archival announcements can be posted freely to a community Bulletin Board on the SIC. Rick Bogart


The SOHO Solar Oscillations Investigation on the Web
Karen Tian, Philip H. Scherrer and Richard S. Bogart
karen@quake.stanford.edu
Stanford University

The Solar Oscillations Investigation (SOI) is an international project to study the Sun's interior using data from the Michelson Doppler Imager on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the newly developing techniques of the field of helioseismology. We have committed to using the World Wide Web not only to provide information and public data, but as an active tool for defining science objectives, planning and conducting the mission operations and attendant data processing, as well as distribution of data to team members. SOI is organized into a number of Science Teams with responsibility for various aspects of the mission. As the team members are widely dispersed geographically, the Web will be used to provide them with operational views into all aspects of the data flow from observations through the production of organized calibrated datasets. The same tools will be available to team members and guest investigators conducting individual science investigations.


Browsing through the HST and ESO archives using the Web
Benoit Pirenne (1,2), Bo Frese Rasmussen (1,2), Miguel Albrecht (2)
bpirenne@eso.org, bfrasmus@eso.org, malbrech@eso.org
(1) Space Telescope - European Coordinating Facility
(2) European Southern Observatory

We present WDB, a Web-based relational database browser developed to provide easy, distributed access to HST and ESO archive catalogues and data. Using standard traditional Web browsers, it provides an easy to use, form-based query interface with most of the functionality of its predecessor: STARCAT. This paper illustrates new ways of using astronomical catalogues, taking advantage of the unique hypertext features and allowing easy context switches with carry over of information such as query values. The multi-media features of WWW are also well integrated with our PreView facility.


Using NIR tools for the interfaces to the help and archive systems at the TNG telescope
A. Balestra, P. Marcucci, F. Pasian, R. Smareglia, C. Vuerli
balestra@oat.ts.astro.it, marcucci@oat.ts.astro.it, smaregli@oat.ts.astro.it, vuerli@oat.ts.astro.it
Osservatorio Astronomico, Trieste, Italy

Astronomers using the TNG telescope may be confronted during their observing runs with the need to access information, help files, or the archive system.

The current implementation of the help system for the TNG exploits a high level of integration between WSS (the software controlling the telescope and its instrumentation) and an HTML browser. Most interactive panels of WSS have a help button pointing to a specialized URL; furthermore, there is a high level of reciprocal control between HTML browser and WSS.

A section of the TNG archive will be hosted at the telescope. This facility may be accessed to gather information on instrument response, trends, calibration procedures, or to retrieve "standard" calibration files, used to perform a suboptimal reduction of the acquired files for quick-look purposes while taking another exposure. The user interface to the archive at the TNG will be based on HTML browsers: prototype implementations have already been tested.


The Sloan Digital Sky Survey's Use of the Web
Don Petravick (1), Eileen Berman (1), Vijay Gurbani (1), Steve Kent (1), Tom Nicinski (1), Ruth Pordes (1), Ron Rechenmacher(1), Gary Sergey (1), Robert Lupton (2), Michael Richmond (2)
petravic@sdss.fnal.gov
(1) Online Systems Department, Computing Division - Fermilab
(2) Astrophysics Department - Princeton University

Fermilab, as part of its Experimental Astrophysics program, is collaborating in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and has major responsibilities for the projects software and software engineering practices. The survey will collect and reduce a 12 Tb, 5 - color image of 1 / 4 of the sky, and collect one Million Spectra using a dedicated 2.5 m telescope at the Apache Point observatory in New Mexico. The survey will start in 1995 and collect data for 5 years and the dataset is expected to provide interesting science for 20 years.

At the start of the collaboration almost 3 years ago we established WWW as THE method of information dissemination, code documentation, application support and maintenance, and general Survey document archives. The information and WWW servers are distributed over all our sites.

There is an intrinsic necessity in this project to identify the software and parameters used to process and analyse the data which produce the scientific results. Towards this goal we have developed for the collaboration a set of methods and standards, together with tools to support their use. We have incoroporated the use of www/html as part of this approach.

We present in this paper our methodology, infrastructure and toolkit together with our ideas and dreams for the future. We currently use RCVS/CVS and the Fermilab UPS family as well as www/html; we have developed a powerful makefile driver and quality control scripts; we are working on support for automatically inventorying, building and checking the software and supporting data used in the execution of any application.

question@simbad.u-strasbg.fr