Subject: Site review
To: fasst@stsci.edu
 

Her's my tour:
 

#IPAC/Skyview - no
 

I wanted to try Skyview and I downloaded Skyview from IPAC. Found out
this is NOT what I expected - i.e. "Not to be confused with the application
with the same name from HEASARC." It's not particularly interesting to
me because I can do the same things with IRAF, IDL, Ciao(x-ray) or Ftools.
It did say it could overlay contour plots and so forth, but the
interface (a command line) is so primitive it is difficult to see
what it should do or not. Its main value seems to be when it is
incorporated into a script to provide image rendering "on the fly", like
in IRSKY (http://www.ipac.caltech.edu/ipac/services/irsky.html)
 

#Leading to...IRSKY. This service pops you into a telnet session
which hung on me. Bummer.
 
 

#HEASARC/Skyview
I went to the "Advanced" interface (Usually all that means is more
options, I figured.) First I tried to search on NGC1275. No survey
selected. So I selected a BUNCH. (I got greedy.) It was a little
slow. But the interface didn't say how long to expect to
wait, so I waited a while and the images came up.
 

It wasn't clear to me what the multiple "Submit Request Now"
buttons meant - do they refer to the catalogs above or to the entire
query page. I got a lot of "file had no data" errors. Seems like
it would be nice if I could get the RGB option to work, for
example, but I couldn't.
 

I crashed the Java applet by bringing up the Help window.
 

#NCSA Astronomical Digital Image Library
A search on NGC1275 gave me a list of UIT images with galaxies near
NGC1275. The default search radius was too large to be useful, and
I couldn't see how to constrain it. Yet a search for "Any Frequency"
of data returned a painfully limited list (UIT only.)
There were lots of links to authors. Each image would have had to
be downloaded by clicking on it (no obvious batch retrieval). Help
was "under construction." It is like the image scrapbook at MAST,
though.
 

#NCSA Emerge: middleware for a distributed search architecture addressing
the scale and heterogeneity of scientific data.
http://emerge.ncsa.uiuc.edu   Sounds pretty cool, but there's nothing
to look at yet. Then I found this stuff about caves and data visualization
which looks pretty darn cool. This site is working with chemists and
the EOS/NASA - but it also looks pretty specialized and pretty
expensive (i.e. an individual cave tour costs $1000/hour). This all looked
pretty new, while the "ADIL" seemed pretty mundane. The cave stuff pretty
quickly jumped beyond what I want to know today. But from the language of
the slide show and so forth, it's pretty clear these scientific fields are
facing the same or even greater
challenges. (An EOS satellite generates a TB/day.)
 

#Astrobrowse: a data-source disovery interface.
I search for an object (NGC4410). I get a list of URLs on the left
hand side (which look like they might dynamically update, because
some have happy faces and some of two circling arrows (dog chase tail
kind of thing)). When I got a happy face, I clicked on a link. Nothing
happened (although the text looked like a link.) I clicked on a blue
dot and got back a null result. That didn't seem all that useful to me.
Some of the blue dots + happy faces returned bad links (e.g. WISARD) and
most returned nothing (grey screen of death!)
 

Well, how did you spend your hour? I hope you had more success with the
services than I did. I was surprised at how much either did not work or
was not easy for me to use. I consider myself to be a relatively experienced
web astronomer, yet I had trouble with the interfaces with which I
am not familiar. I picked services which I thought might be useful
yet which I have not used to visit.
 

- Megan