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

Osservatorio Astronomico, Via G.B.Tiepolo 11, I 34131 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. In order to allow observers to efficiently access the desired information and data using an interface they are already familiar to, HTML is being used and will be used in the future. The access to the facilities at the telescope will be initially limited to observers and to the technical staff; however, the use of de facto standards such as HTML and Mosaic implies the possibility of allowing wider, although controlled, access.

The help system

Back in 1992, a hypertext-based context-sensitive help system (version 1.0) has been built. The current implementation (version 2.0) 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. As a matter of fact, clicking on the HELP button of any interactive panel will pop up Mosaic with the appropriate help page, since the WSS panels have a help button pointing to a specialized URL; furthermore, the help system can be browsed by following HTML links. There is a high level of reciprocal control between HTML browser and WSS: the Mosaic client can use scripts to control the WSS, while the WSS can control mosaic using the remote control mechanism of Mosaic. The help system is embedded in the User Interface, whose preliminary structure has been recently defined. Additional documents on the TNG WSS are available for reference.

The archives at the telescope

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 archive system at the telescope has already been designed and is currently under development. The information on instruments will be contained in the Technical Archive, and the calibration files in the Calibration Archive; both will be filled on the mountain by the Handling and Archiving Tool (HAT) and may be accessed by the DAta Retrieval Tool (DART). The user interface to the archives at the TNG will be part of the DART, and will be based on HTML browsers. The mechanism is to use HTML tools to prepare alphanumeric strings following the SQL protocol; the TNG application is being developed, but prototype implementations on test archives have already been tested. Additional documents on the TNG archives are available for reference.

Last update: 1 Mar 1995