[AstroPy] Python version of IDL Astron library

Paul Barrett barrett at stsci.edu
Wed Sep 8 09:17:57 CDT 2004

<x-flowed>Federico Nati wrote:
> Hi,
> very good idea.
> if this project is just a Python version of IDL Astron library then I
> think this can help all of us who use python to have some useful
> routines not yet included in other packages. Everyone of us has his own
> small program or module to do that coords conversion or that file
> format handling and so on, and this project can help in joining the
> efforts.
> I will be happy to help this project.
> But I think another issue is making people migrate from IDL to
> Python.
> The question is: why people (I mean astronomers) use IDL? Or, better,
> which features make IDL more suitable for astronomers than Python? 
> I think this is beacause:
> 1- they have Astronomy User's Library
> 2- they have one, only one, standard, easy (and nice!) way to make plots
> 3- they have specific library and tool written for IDL, one example is
>    Healpix:  http://www.eso.org/science/healpix/
> and I would add that they are used to it... but there is no solution for
> this...
> This project should help in point 1, but if we really want to complete
> the task we should solve also the other points.

Yes.  My intention for this project is to make the transition easy for IDL 
users, hence the desire for similar functionality and behavior.  Though later we 
may find that some routines can be replaced by better ones in future.

> IMHO point 2 can be solved (or maybe is already almost solved) by using
> Gnuplot and Python's interface to it, eventually extending it to make it
> slightly easier for users.

I think this point is solved by matplotlib 
(http://sourceforge.net/projects/matplotlib/).  In my opinion, the general 
consensus at ScyPy '04 is that matplotlib solves or is very close to solving 
this problem. Take a look at it and tell us what you think.

> Point 3 requires specific efforts.

Well we have pyfits as a start.  We just need an high-energy astronomy to take 
the lead in developing a healpix module.  Want to take the lead?

  -- Paul

Paul Barrett, PhD      Space Telescope Science Institute
Phone: 410-338-4475    ESS/Science Software Branch
FAX:   410-338-4767    Baltimore, MD 21218
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