[AstroPy] AstroLib vs Astlib vs APLpy vs ...

Marshall Perrin mperrin@ucla....
Wed Jun 24 18:53:27 CDT 2009

Hi all,

I'm a member of that great teeming horde of not-really-using-Python- 
yet astronomers, slowly trying to wean myself from IDL and onto  
Python.  I've written a handful of little things in Python but want to  
dive in fully for my next project. As part of that process, I'm trying  
to figure out what the real must-have list of python modules is for  
everyday astronomical tasks.  In IDL, there's sort of a consensus  
library that most folks use, at least in part: the Goddard IDL Astro  
library, Craig Markwardt's MPFIT library, Dave Fanning's display  
routines, and so on.

It doesn't seem like Python yet has that consensus, once you get much  
beyond the triumvirate of scipy, numpy, & matplotlib.  Am I wrong? As  
far as I can tell there are several different libraries aspiring to be  
"*the*" astronomy library in Python - AstroLib and AstLib both, for  
instance.  You can display nice plots with AstLib.ImagePlots or APLpy,  
manipulate coordinates with AstLib.coords or PyWCS, and so on. Which  
of these should I prefer, as a relative python neophyte? Which have  
the most developer momentum behind them right now?  It's all a bit  
confusing, and I'd rather try to spend my time being confused about my  
science objects rather than my software choices. ;-)

It seems like there was a brief attempt to start a discussion about  
this problem here last year (see http://mail.scipy.org/pipermail/scipy-user/2008-April/016062.html 
  and followups) but as far as I know, nothing really came of that.

I don't expect any easy answers here. I'm just curious to hear what  
'the community' is mostly using these days - if there even is a  
consensus! - and what the recommendations are for someone trying to  
make the big switch away from IDL. Thanks very much!

- Marshall
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