TOPCAT - the leading astronomical catalogue software

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

TOPCAT, with its associated libraries, is the leading astronomical catalogue software, and has been adopted by many large-scale projects. Its development to this stage of national and international acceptance, by Dr. Mark Taylor, was funded until recently by the AstroGrid grant. Now that this grant has been terminated, this exceptionally useful software will lose functionality and handicap existing projects unless it continues to adapt to cope with the changing standards of the Virtual Observatory and the changing requirements of its chief users. This proposal requests funding for 24 months to provide the improvements to TOPCAT most requested by its current users and to keep it fully compliant with the developing Virtual Observatory protocols. The funding will also support work on the Simple Astronomical Messaging Protocol, SAMP, which covers data exchange between different tools running on a user's computer, so that TOPCAT can work with many other tools, including the Microsoft World-Wide Telescope and the Herschel Interactive Processing Environment. SAMP was defined by Taylor et al. (2009), and Mark Taylor's implementations of the protocol are now embedded in TOPCAT and other standard astronomical tools.

Publications

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Taylor M (2011) TOPCAT: tool for operations on catalogues and tables in Astrophysics source code library

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Taylor, MB (2009) STILTS Plotting Tools in ASTRONOMICAL DATA ANALYSIS SOFTWARE AND SYSTEMS XVIII

 
Description Several major software components were developed during this grant, and released for public use. They have become an essential part of the research toolbox used by astronomers world-wide, and have been integrated into the data-analysis paths of many projects, from ground-based surveys to space-based operations. During the period of this grant explorations of the usefulness of TOPCAT for interaction with the dataset from the Gaia satellite were performed - these later led to a share of an EU grant to prepare the interactive part of the Gaia data system.
Exploitation Route The data-handling and data-plotting aspects of the software are widely applicable to catalogue data, and with a few FTE years could be useful in multiple fields. The software has already been used on an experimental basis outside astrophysics.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy,Other

URL http://www.starlink.ac.uk/
 
Description This short grant picked up support of the TOPCAT and SAMP software development after the end of the AstroGrid consortium's funding, and improved TOPCAT's ability to work with Virtual Observatory protocols, and to interoperate with other desktop utilities (such as Aladin, ds9, and gaia) via SAMP. The software releases made during the grant added to the functionality available to users, and increased the uptake of the software in the community. Considerable work on Virtual Observatory protocols was also needed over this period, and the grant supported a major role in developing those protocols and maintaining a strong UK presence in the way that the VO developed.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Education,Other
 
Title STILTS 
Description Starlink Tables Infrastructure Library Tool Set: software for handling tabular data in many formats, including methods compliant with Virtual Observatory protocols. 
Type Of Material Data Handling & Control 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Used in many astronomical databases; potential uses for other complicated databases. 
 
Title TOPCAT 
Description Tool for operations on catalogues and tables: general catalogue comparison/selection tool, much used by astronomers world-wide. 
Type Of Material Data Handling & Control 
Year Produced 2011 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Extensible to many table-based datasets where matching of entries is required. Has been used on experimental basis for medical work, for example. 
 
Title JSAMP 
Description Message-passing software used for interaction between distinct desktop software components used by astronomers (e.g., to relate catalogue data to images). Methodology of general application, and used in commercial products. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2010 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used worldwide, including in Microsoft World-Wide Telescope. v1.1 release in 2010. v1,2, v1.3, v1.3-1, v1.3-2 releases in 2011 v1.3-3 release in 2012 v1.3-4 release in 2013 
URL http://www.star.bris.ac.uk/~mbt/jsamp/
 
Title STIL 
Description Library underlying TOPCAT and STILTS, used for complex pipeline catalogue manipulations. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2010 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Worldwide use. 2010 release v3.0 2011 release v3.0-1, v3.0-2, v3.0-3 2012 release v3.0-4 2013 release v3.0-5 2014 release v3.0-6, v3.0-7 
URL http://www.starlink.ac.uk/stil/
 
Title STILTS 
Description Set of command-line tools that can be used for powerful astronomical catalogue interrogation, manipulation, and plotting. 2010 releases v2.1-2, v2.2, v2.2-1 2011 releases v2.3, v2.3-1, v2.4 2013 releases v2.5, v2.5-1, v2.5-2 2014 releases v2.5-3, v3.0 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2010 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Heavily used in catalogue manipulation, world-wide. 
URL http://www.starlink.ac.uk/stilts/
 
Title TOPCAT 
Description Astronomical data-handling software 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2010 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used internationally for interaction with large distributed databases. 2010 releases v3.5-2, v3.6, v3.7 2011 releases v3.8, v3.9 2013 releases v4.0b, v4.0-1 2014 releases v4.1, v4.2 
URL http://www.starlink.ac.uk/topcat/