It has been quite a while since our last IRAF Newsletter. This was not because there has been little news, quite the contrary! Rather, with the phenomenal success of the Internet in the last several years, Internet-based facilities such as the IRAF Web pages and the adass.iraf mailing lists have proven to be a more timely and convenient way to provide up to date information about IRAF. See the article The Online IRAF News elsewhere in this Newsletter for a summary of these Internet-based facilities.
Although the Internet-based services have largely taken over the job of providing day to day news about new developments as well as online access to reference documentation, we feel that a periodically produced Newsletter is still a good format for summarizing new developments in an organized way at a longer timescale. It is particularly nice if one can print off a copy and read it efficiently away from the computer screen. Currently we are pursuing a combined strategy of trying to put out a Newsletter whenever we have a major release, while using the Internet to disseminate daily news of new developments in between major releases.
We are considering not mailing printed copies of the Newsletter and instead only providing PostScript, PDF, and browsable HTML versions on the Internet. Please let us know if you have an opinion, pro or con, on whether printed mailings are worthwhile. See newslet_14.ps.gz on iraf.noao.edu in the /iraf/docs/ directory for the PostScript version of this Newsletter. Additional printed copies are available upon request to anyone who asks for one. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to send you an extra copy or two.
Since our last Newsletter we have had several smaller releases of IRAF (not necessarily for all platforms), some major new IRAF ports (e.g., Linux/IRAF, and the DEC Alpha and SGI versions of IRAF), plus several patch releases. Lots of new science applications software was released as layered packages during this period as well. X11IRAF was developed and released, including many enhancements to Ximtool . SAOtng , a variant of Ximtool and the successor to SAOimage , was introduced by SAO.
In the fall of 1997 we saw a major new release of IRAF, Version 2.11, followed by platform upgrades to make IRAF V2.11 available for all supported platforms (these upgrades are just winding up in late spring 1998). A corresponding major new release of the IRAF layered packages TABLES and STSDAS (V2.0), adding support for the new HST instruments STIS and NICMOS, was released by STScI.
Many of the features of the new IRAF V2.11 release are covered in other articles in this Newsletter. Release notes are available on the Web at http://iraf.noao.edu/v211revs.html or the file iraf/v211/v211revs.txt in the IRAF archives. Detailed notes on system changes are included in the distribution in the iraf/local/notes.v211 file or in the iraf/v211/sysnotes.v211 file in the IRAF archives. Updated installation materials are provided in the individual distribution directories (see /iraf/v211 in the IRAF archives) as these releases become available.
In the summer of 1997 the IRAF group at NOAO introduced the NOAO Mosaic Data Handling System (Mosaic DHS), a data acquisition, quick look, and data reduction system for Mosaic CCD instruments. The new data handling system and the NOAO Mosaic have been in use on Kitt Peak since the fall of 1997, and several other observatories have since adopted the Mosaic DHS for use with their own Mosaic instruments. Included is a new IRAF package, mscred , for reducing data from CCD Mosaic instruments.
This Mosaic DHS uses as its internal framework a modular and flexible new architecture based on a message bus and distributed objects. This was developed during 1997 as part of the NASA ADP funded Open IRAF initiative . As we proceed into 1998 the Open IRAF initative, and a GUI and image display effort funded by a NASA AISR grant, are becoming the central focus of the IRAF group in Tucson. We are excited by the potential of this new technology to change the way we do astronomy software, meanwhile giving us a path towards modernizing the IRAF system. These efforts will eventually result in a major reworking of the IRAF environment and give us what will essentially be a new system, while preserving the many man-years we have invested in existing high quality science applications.