Multimedia Astronomy using CD-ROMs on the WWW

N. Ruggiero (1), T. A. McGlynn (2)

(1) Hughes STX -- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, U.S.A.
(2) USRA -- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, U.S.A.

We present a multimedia approach to the use of CD-ROM's and the WWW in astronomical data analysis. Although the static CD format and the volatile Web may seem disjoint, we have created a structure which melds the data capacity of CD's with the flexibility of the Web.

HTML pages on the CD-ROM provide a natural mechanism to browse the CD using Web browsers. Web pages can provide guides to data, software, documentation and other ancillary files on the CD. Since the HTML files are simple ASCII files, the Web pages can be used as pointers even for users who may not have a browser available. By providing links to data off the CD, the Web pages allow a user of the CD's to transparently get updates, additional data, or send queries to the issuer of the CD. Every CD acts as doorway into the issuer's archive and data system.

We have created CD's which use Web pages in this fashion. We have found that the learning curve in using the CD's is virtually eliminated for those users who are familiar with the Web. The use of external links allows us to easily update software we have put on the CD and to `provide' additional data types that only a few users may desire. This synergy of the CD and Web technologies provides an innovative approach to a distributed yet coordinated archive.