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Response to the January 2005 MAST Survey

  • DADS Performance / Options

    • Improvement in response times

      We are happy that the level of satisfaction with DADS response times has improved with the installation of new hardware and software in last 2003.

      Each month we look at the amount of time needed to deliver data to users. This time includes the time needed to ftp data to the required destination or to complete writing a DVD or CD. In January 2005, 67.7% of the HST requests were filled within an hour. Over 80% are filled within 6 hours. This has been a fairly typical spread for completion times over the past year since the implementation of new software and hardware. We realize that instantaneous downloads for HST and FUSE data are desirable and are looking at ways to implement this feature.

    • Problems We are aware that sometimes there are problems. We try to work with all users when there is a problem. We really want to help solve problems and concerns so when you do have a problem, please contact us by email or by phone (410-338-4547) between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Eastern time.

    • Shopping Cart

      We agree that this might be a useful service and will consider it for implementation. Thank you for the suggestion.

  • Archive User Accounts

    Archive accounts are no longer "expired" but remain active indefinitely. You may now change your password and other pertinent information via the web.

    We will attempt to automate the assignment of HST proprietary data to existing archive accounts. This project may mean that PIs will still need to confirm things, but we hope it will be more automated than the current procedure. This type of linkage will be more difficult for FUSE programs as MAST does not usually get the associated proposal information until after the cycle has begun.

  • Downtime

    We realize that downtime is an inconvenience to users. We attempt to keep downtime to a minimum but must sometimes perform upgrades and installations that required some amount of downtime. We often try to "bundle" activities so that we can perform several activities during a single "downtime period". When downtime is scheduled, we post an announcement that appears on most web pages - search pages are not included. The DADS Archive Status page also lists known downtimes. This page is linked from the "mission specific" top navigation bars on most HST and FUSE pages.

    We have had some unexpected downtimes due to hardware problems. We do not usually place this information on every web page but if relevant to DADS retrievals, the downtime is placed on the Archive Status page. In December 2004, the DSS was unavailable due to a disk crash. STScI internet connectivity is provided through NISN, a NASA internet service provider. We sometimes have problems when our network line between STScI and GSFC has a problem or when GSFC is maintaining their network.

  • Web Pages

    With the enhancement of the web pages in December, 2004, we tried to organize the web site in an easy-to-navigate way. The pages are organized so that the same features can be found in the same locations regardless of mission. We tried to determine the most used pages for each mission and place those on one of the top navigation bars. An explanation of the website layout is included in the tutorial.

  • Requesting IUE data in ASCII

    The IUE project recommended that users download their data in fits and not ascii format, mainly because of the error codes included with fluxes and wavelengths. MAST provides IUE data in two column (wavelength, flux) format as a courtesy but does not recommend its useage. The IUE ascii data have been smoothed and are offered as apparently valid fluxes or zeroes, irrespective of the original coding. Buyer beware!

  • Searches

    • Searching by object class in the HST archive

      There is a periennial desire for HST users to be able to search by object type or classification. While HST data does have field in the database called "Target Description" which can serve as a classification search to some extent, we acknowledge that it is cumbersome to use. For an explanation on how to do this please see the tutorial section Searching by Object Class in the HST Archive.

      We realize that Target Description field is inadequate for the types of searches some of you wish to do. However the problem of object classification is not trivial. Possible solutions to this problem are under consideration, but the timeline for implementation is long-term.

    • Peforming searches for solar system objects in the HST archive

      We agree that searching for HST observations of solar system objects is cumbersome. For the best luck, users must use the "Don't Resolve" option on the browser and utilize wild cards in their searches. For an explanation on how to do this please see the tutorial section Searching for Planets, Comets and Asteroids. Another page that might be helpful is the Current HST Target Descriptions page.

      We also produce an ascii catalog (updated monthly) which contains only solar system related observations. See The Archived Exposures Catalog web page.

    • Need Wild Card Searches

      MAST does support wild card searches for all character fields in the web search interface. This is documented in the search help pages. Wild card searches are the only really feasible way to search on the HST Target Description Field

    • More complex searches

      We agree that it would be wonderful to perform some of the more complex searches that were suggested by our users. In the current databases, we lack the metadata required for the types of searches that folks want. We are looking at some options to improve the scope of the metadata, but that is in long-term planning and probably will not be available in the near term.

    • Searching accross missions

      A few users asked that MAST provide them with a means of searching the archive across missions for a given object. Actually, this means is already provided by the "Search MAST" box on the home page, and it points to a large number of possible observations when they exist. Users who want a quick look at the data or who may not want to wade through many of them to find the best observation for each instrument may want to consul MAST's Scrapbook tool. The Scrapbook provides users of spectra and small-field images the ability to compare data obtained with different MAST instruments and at different wavelengths. This allows the user to download a few datasets for a given object/field from a single page rather than his/her hunting through all MAST mission search pages to search for it.

    • Number of lines displayed in the web search results pages

      There were a number of suggestions concerning the number of records or lines displayed in the search results pages. The Cross-mission searches have a default display of 10 returned lines. On the search page, you can increase the number of records or lines displayed to 200. For mission search pages you can increase the search results to 1500.

      If you are able to use a web service, you may specify the number of lines to be returned. There is currently no limit on the number of records returned using this service, but a number must be specified or the default limit of 100 will be used. See the web page on our services for more information.

    • More flexibility in the web based search interface

      A user stated that the web-based search interface was not flexible enough and that StarView was too confusing. We would welcome specific suggestions about these topics. We would like to make the web-based search more flexible, but need to know what types of flexibility are needed. Please send your suggestions to the help desk

  • Previews
    • ACS Previews

      We apologize for the lack of ACS previews. We are in the process of changing the method for preview acquisition and distribution so that we can accommodate the ACS previews that CADC is now producing. ACS previews should be available by March, 2005.

    • Range of HST data preview options are available

      You can obtain the entire range of HST data preview options from the HST preview page. Just under the gif representation are two options. One allows you to download the FITS version. The other provides you with all the same options you got with the old HST preview interface.

    • Quality of the Quick-Look Spectra / STIS previews scaled on a spike

      We will look into the scaling problems of the STIS previews. We welcome further discussion of the quality of the Quick-Look Spectra. Please contact the archive help desk so that we can discuss the specific issues with you.

  • Documentation

    • GALEX documentation

      Help for GALEX website users is provided by means of a frequently revised tutorial, FAQs, a page devoted to the definition of tables, and tool tips. The GALEX Science Team has recommended that MAST not devote attention to help matters by means of help pages on the grounds that they are infrequently consulted and often remain out of date. The GALEX website is very new, yet it is utilized by some 2500 nonrobotic unique visitors per month. Most of the feedback we get are notifications that tools are not correctly working or requests for new tools, many of which are under now development. We have not received any requests in recent months for more user help documentation or requests to clarify existing documentation. Most of our attention is now going to putting the first public and GI releases on line and to provide new tools that enable effective mining of our site and cross-corrleating with data of other survey missions. Users should be aware that public releases of GI data (i.e. data whose proprietary periods have expired) will not be placed in the main database area for at least a year because the Project has not reduced the data with the same pipeline processing software as its pipeline data. This has hampered MAST's ability to place the nonproprietary, formerly "GI data" within reach of the same data search tools it is developing for "public release" (GR1 and ERO) data.

    • More examples

      Thank you so much for suggesting specific types of questions that you would like to see in a tutorial. We will work to implement such examples into the tutorial in the next few months.

    • Hard to interpret GUI forms

      We will try to improve the documentation and tutorials to help interpret the forms. In the meantime, please use the search help pages. Clicking on the field headings in the search forms will give more detailed help.

  • High-Level Science Products

    • WFPC2 Associations

      A second version of the WFPC2 Associations is in preparation. More complete documentation will be supplied with Version 2.

    • HLSP for all other HST imaging instruments

      The team preparing the WFPC2 associations is planning to prepare similar products for the ACS instruments.

    • HLSP not present for enough data-sets

      Except for participation in the production of the WFPC2 associations, (which is a joint project of the CADC, ST-ECF and MAST archives), MAST has not yet produced any HLSP, but instead relies on the contributions from the community. The archives plan to produce ACS association HLSP, but that project is just beginning and will probably not be completed this year.

    • Encourage more PIs to provide HLSPs and advertise their existence and value better

      MAST stays in contact with the PI of every HST Treasury, Archival Legacy and Large program, encouraging contribution of their final products. We try to advertise the availability of new sets of HLSP by every method we have for distribution of information (archive newsletters, STScI newsletters and the What's New section of the web site). We would welcome additional suggestions for how to advertise the HLSP more widely.

  • SpecView

    In collaboration with MAST, new versions of Specview have been developed with extensive functionality allowing considerable analysis capabilities. The tool is available with Java applications, and has a tutorial available upon request.

  • Voyager Missions

    MAST has repeatly tried to obtain Voyager data from existing unsupported archives outside its jurisdiction. MAST has been unsuccessful in these attempts.