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Space FAQ 03/13 - Data Sources

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Archive-name: space/data
Last-modified: $Date: 96/09/17 15:40:23 $

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
    Compilation copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 by Jonathan P. Leech. This
    document may be redistributed in its complete and unmodified form. Other
    use requires written permission of the author.



    A wide variety of images, data, catalogs, information releases, and
    other material dealing with space and astronomy may be found on the net.
    The sources with the broadest selection of material are the NASA Ames
    SPACE archive and the National Space Science Data Center (described

    A few sites offer direct dialup access or remote login access, while
    others offer file transfer over the Internet (referred to as 'anonymous
    FTP'). Sites not connected to the Internet cannot use FTP directly, but
    there are a few automated FTP servers which operate via email. Send mail
    containing only the word HELP to,, or, and the servers will
    send you instructions on how to make requests.

    Shorthand for a specific file or directory at an anonymous FTP site is


    (e.g. The format has been
    changed to valid URLs for users of the World Wide Web. If you are using
    a normal FTP client, you will connect to the sitename part of the URL
    (, in this case) and get the file specified by the
    pathname (/pub/SPACE/Index). If a '/' terminates the URL, it indicates a
    directory containing multiple files.


    WWW is a global hypermedia network carried on the Internet and
    incorporating popular protocols including FTP, WAIS, gopher, archie,
    NNTP (netnews), etc. The Web is growing at an explosive pace, and huge
    amounts of space-related information are already online. The FAQ no
    contains many URLs (Universal Resource Locators) specifying files
    available by FTP (discussed above), sites accessible by telnet (URLs of
    the form telnet://sitename), and Web hypertext documents

    If you are not familiar with the Web, you should probably begin by
    obtaining a Web browser (typically NCSA Mosaic for X, Mac, and PC) and
    exploring. The newsgroup 'comp.infosystems.www.announce' is also

    The NASA Web home page is at

    Other space-related material may be found on the Web starting with the
    overview page at

    There is also a pointer in the "information by subject" page under
    "Space Science."


    Don't ask for images to be posted to the space/astro newsgroups. They're
    clumsy to access, wasteful of net resources, and inappropriate in
    discussion groups. Retrieve images on your own using FTP or Web clients.

    The possible combinations of image formats and machines is forebodingly
    large, and I won't attempt to cover common formats (GIF, etc.) here. To
    read PDS and VICAR (and many other) formats on Unix systems running X,
    use XV 3.00, available in

    The FAQ for the Usenet group discusses image
    formats and how to get image viewing software. A copy of this document
    is available from the Usenet FAQ archives in



    CASS offers online searching of planetary science databases, including
    bibliographies, images, meeting abstracts, and other categories.
    Internet users can access CASS via
	telnet:// (login "cass", password "online")

    This system is primarily for professionals in planetary science. Note
    that CASS includes and replaces the online service formerly offered by
    the Lunar and Planetary Institute.



    DMSP is a two satellite constellation of near-polar orbiting, sun
    synchronous satellites monitoring meteorological, oceanographic and
    solar-terrestrial physics environments. DMSP sample data and information
    may be accessed on-line via:

    Contact Greg Deuel (


    Caltech's IPAC provides access to an easy-to-use interface for making
    queries of many astronomical catalogs, especially those from the
    Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) mission. You can also query the
    Bright Star catalog, SAO star catalog, a number of extragalactic
    (galaxy/quasar) catalogs, etc. Results can be saved to flat ASCII tables
    or FITS files and copied to your computer via FTP. Using the interface
    requires a machine running X Windows. You can get to IPAC via

    Log in as "xcatscan" (no password needed).

    Contact Joe Mazzarella (


    Extensive archives are maintained at NASA Ames and are available via
    anonymous FTP or an email server. These archives include many images and
    a wide variety of documents including this FAQ list, NASA press
    releases, shuttle launch advisories, and mission status reports. Please
    note that these are NOT maintained on an official basis.

    A listing of files available in the archive is in

    Magellan, Voyager, and Viking CD-ROMs are online in

    Tens of thousands of images are available.

    The GIF directory contains images in GIF format. The VICAR directory
    contains Magellan images in VICAR format (these are also available in
    the GIF directory). A PC program capable of displaying these files is
    found in the IMDISP directory (see the item "VIEWING IMAGES" below).

    The NASA media guide describes the various NASA centers and how to
    contact their public affairs officers; this may be useful when pursuing
    specific information. It's in

    Contact Eugene Miya (


    The ADS is a distributed data retrieval system which is easy to use and
    provides uniform access to ground-based and space-based astronomy data
    from NASA data centers across the country. It currently has over 140
    data catalogs of radio, infrared, optical, UV, and X-ray data which can
    be queried by position or any other parameter in the catalog. The ADS
    also provides tools to manipulate and plot tabular results. In addition,
    ADS has a Beta version of an Abstracts Service which allows users to
    query over 125,000 abstracts of astronomy papers since 1975 by authors,
    keywords, title words, or abstract text words.

    ADS use requires direct Internet access. For more info and to sign up to
    become a user, email The User's Guide and
    "QuickStart" Guide (PostScript files) are in

    Contact Carolyn Stern Grant (


    A WAIS database describing servers of interest to the space community is
    described by the source file:

	   :version  3
	   :ip-name ""
	   :tcp-port 210
	   :database-name "NASA-directory-of-servers"
	   :cost 0.00
	   :cost-unit :free
	   :maintainer ""
	   :description "Server created with WAIS release 8 b5.1 on May  5 14:05:34 1993 by warnock@Hypatia

    Maintainers of WAIS databases of interest to the NASA community can
    register their databases with the NASA-directory-of-servers by sending
    the source file to Contact Archie
    Warnock (


    Operated by the JPL Public Information Office, containing news releases,
    status reports, fact sheets, images, and other data on JPL missions. May
    also be reached by modem at (818)-354-1333 (no parity, 8 data bits, 1
    stop bit).

    Contact or phone (818)-354-5011.


    JSC's digital image collection, containing thousands of images and
    descriptions covering the manned space program from Mercury to the

    Contact Kevin Marsh (


    offers technical reports. Start with files README and abstracts.92. Most
    files are compressed PostScript. The reports are also in a WAIS database
    with the following description:

	 :version 3
	 :ip-name ""
	 :tcp-port 210
	 :database-name "nasa-larc-abs"
	 :cost 0.00
	 :cost-unit :free
	 :maintainer "M.L.Nelson@LaRC.NASA.GOV"
	 :description "NASA Langley Research Center Technical Reports



    SpaceLink is an online service located at Marshall Space Flight Center
    in Huntsville, Alabama. The system is specifically designed for
    teachers. The data base is arranged to provide easy access to current
    and historical information on NASA aeronautics, space research, and
    technology transfer information. Also included are suggested classroom
    activities that incorporate information on NASA projects to teach a
    number of scientific principles. Unlike bulletin board systems, NASA
    Spacelink does not provide for interaction between callers. However it
    does allow teachers and other callers to leave questions and comments
    for NASA which may be answered by regular mail. Messages are answered
    electronically, even to acknowledge requests which will be fulfilled by
    mail. Messages are generally handled the next working day except during
    missions when turnaround times increase. The mail system is closed-loop
    between the user and NASA.

    SpaceLink also offers downloadable shareware and public domain programs
    useful for science educators as well as space graphics and GIF images
    from NASA's planetary probes and the Hubble Telescope.

    You can access SpaceLink at

    Or you can dial in at (205)-895-0028 (300/1200/2400/9600(V.32) baud, 8
    bits, no parity, 1 stop bit).


    The National Space Science Data Center is the official clearinghouse for
    NASA data. The data catalog is available online:
	telnet:// (login as "NODIS")

    Datasets are made available via anonymous FTP once you select the
    desired datasets from the online catalog. For non-Internet users, data
    may be ordered on CD-ROM and in other formats. Among the many types of
    data available are Voyager, Magellan, and other planetary images, Earth
    observation data, and star catalogs. For costs and service policy,

	National Space Science Data Center
	Request Coordination Office
	Goddard Space Flight Center
	Code 633
	Greenbelt, MD  20771

	Telephone: (301) 286-6695


    STEIS contains a large amount of information about the Hubble Space
    Telescope, such as status reports and newsletters, in addition to
    material oriented towards HST observers and proposers. To get started,

    Contact .


    The Space Telescope European Coordination Facility, at ESO/Garching
    provides on-line access to a huge astronomical database, featuring

	- Observation log files of several satellites/telescopes
	- Spectra and images (IUE, HST).
	- Most of the astronomical catalogues (SAO, HR, NGC, PPM, IRAS,
	    Veron, GSC and many others, more than 50) in a very convenient
	    way (give center+radius+kind of objects, and you get the
	    corresponding files!).

    Access at

	telnet:// (or STESIS on DECnet).

    Log in as "starcat" (no password). Files created can be retrieved via
    FTP. Contact: Benoit Pirenne ( (phone +49 89 320 06
    433) at ST-ECF


    The full SAO stellar database is probably not available online yet. It
    may be ordered on magnetic tape from the NSSDC. A subset containing
    position and magnitude only is available by FTP (see "Astronomy
    Programs" below).

    contains a large collection of astronomical programs for many types of
    computers, databases of stars and deep sky objects, and general
    astronomy information. This site is mainly for European users, but
    overseas connections are possible.

    is a database of 8,436 galaxies including name, RA, declination,
    magnitude, and radial velocity, supplied by Wayne Hayes

    contains constellation boundary data (files constell.*) in a form
    suitable for the construction of star charts and atlases.

    contains a number of GIFs from Voyager, Hubble, and other sources (most
    of this data is also in pub/SPACE/GIF on the Ames server). Please
    restrict access to 5pm - 8am Atlantic time.

    contains the Yale Bright Star catalog. Web users, note that this is a
    VMS site and Mosaic does not get along with their server, so this URL is
    a placeholder - run FTP manually. Contact James Dishaw

    contains Messier's catalog of Deep Sky objects, with descriptions,
    images, and background material. Contact Hartmut Frommert

    The Hubble Guide Star catalog is available on CD-ROM for the Mac and PC
    for $49.95 US (catalog #ST101).

	Astronomical Society of the Pacific
	390 Ashton Ave.
	San Francisco, CA 94112
	Phone: (415) 337-2624 9 AM - 3 PM Pacific Time
	FAX: (415) 337-5205

    For German (and possibly other European) readers, Jost Jahn
    ( has a FAX/email/paper mail service with current
    news on the observable sky. Email him if interested, or write:

	Jost Jahn
	Neustaedter Strasse 11
	D-29389 Bodenteich
	+49-581-14824 (FAX) +49-5824-3197 (Voice)


    A more complete list is posted monthly to sci.astro and available in

    This list is maintained by the SEDS chapter at U. Arizona

    Some astronomy-related programs and databases archived from
    Usenet source groups:
	    Moon phase and date routines
	    Another moon phase program
	    Show moon phase picture on Suns
	    Starchart program & Yale star data
	    Starchart program, version 3.2
	    Starchart program, update to version 3.2.1
	    Reduced SAO catalog
	    Orbit: track earth satellites
	    Plotter for Jupiter's major moons [in perl]
	    Lunisolar (not sure what this does)
	    Planet generation simulator

    Xephem is an interactive astronomical ephemeris program for X11R4/Motif
    1.1 (or later) X Windows systems. It computes lots of information about
    the planets and any solar system objects for which orbital elements are
    available. A sample database of some 16000+ objects is included in the
    release kit. It's in

    Contact Elwood Downey ( Ephem is the forefather of
    xephem designed for simple 24x80 character displays, in

    Xsat 1.2.6, an X based satellite tracking program, and Xsky 2.1.6, a
    computerized sky atlas for the X Window System, are available from

    (This is a VMS FTP site; some Web browsers, such as Mosaic 2.4, may have
    trouble with these URLs). Contact Terry R. Friedrichsen

    The "Variable Stars Analysis Software Archive" is in

    This is intended for specialists in this field, and they would
    appreciate people from outside New Zealand confining their FTP access to
    the astrophys directory, as they pay a significant amount for Internet
    access. Contributions are encouraged. Contact the archive administrator,
    Timothy Banks ( For further details
    on the archive see _The Observatory_, 112, 16, 1992.

    The "IDL Astronomy Users Library" is in

    This is a central repository for general purpose astronomy procedures
    written in IDL, a commercial image processing, plotting, and programming
    language. Contact Wayne Landsman (

    Daniel Roth ( offers an astronomy software
    service for PC and Atari users in Europe. He has a large library
    available on disk and a CD-ROM with the entire library. A catalog is
    available; contact him for ordering details.


    The most recent orbital elements from the NASA Prediction Bulletins are
    carried on the Celestial BBS, (205)-409-9280. Documentation and tracking
    software are also available on this system. The Celestial BBS may be
    accessed 24 hours/day at 300, 1200, or 2400 baud using 8 data bits, 1
    stop bit, no parity.

    Orbital element sets are FTPable from the following directories:   NASA,TVRO,Shuttle
					       NASA,TVRO,Molczan,CelBBS,Shuttle   NASA,Molczan,Thomson


    Copies of back issues of Space Digest are archived on
    LISTSERV@UGA.BITNET. Send mail containing the message "INDEX SPACE" to
    get an index of files; send it the message "GET filename filetype" to
    get a particular file.


    Tom van Sant's GeoSphere Project has produced a very nice composite
    image of the entire Earth (without clouds, so all the surface is
    visible) by assembling thousands of Landsat images. This image is not in
    the public domain; any digital copies made available by anonymous FTP
    are illegal.

    GeoSphere offers the image in a variety of printed forms (posters, mugs,
    globes, etc.). Contact them at (800)-845-1522 for a catalog. They may be
    willing to license the digital database for specific uses, contact them
    for details.


    You can get black-and-white 1:1M prints, negatives, or positives for
    $10, $18, $12 respectively for any Landsat data more than 2 years old
    from EDC, (Eros (Earth Resources Orbiting Satellite) Data Center). Call
    them at (605)-594-6511. You get 80 meter resolution from the MSS
    scanner, 135x180 kilometers on a picture 135x180 mm in size. I think you
    have to select one band from (green, red, near IR, second near IR), but
    I'm not sure. Digitial data is also available at higher prices.

    Transparencies of all NASA photos available to the public can be
    borrowed from the NASA photo archive; you can have copies or prints

	 NASA Audio-Visual Facility
	 918 North Rengstorff Ave
	 Mountain View, CA  94043


    Phil Stooke ( maintains a list of maps of all mapped
    solid bodies except Earth, including sources, ordering information, and
    references, which is posted to sci.astro periodically and may also be
    found in

    along with related images and files. He has offered to answer questions
    by email.


    There are several tutorials on the Web describing the planets and other
    objects in the solar system, including literature references, images,
    and much other information. These are good starting points for questions
    you may have about planets.


    Catalogue of Cometary Orbits

    The availability of the tenth edition of the Catalogue of Cometary
    Orbits was announced on IAUC 6128 issued on 1995 Jan. 27. The 108 pages
    contain 1472 sets of orbital elements (in the J2000.0 system) for 1444
    cometary apparitions through the end of 1994. The latest edition is the
    first to utilise the new cometary designations and includes detailed
    cross-references with the pre-1995 scheme. As an entirely new feature,
    there is a special tabulation giving osculating elements for the 116
    numbered periodic comets (excluding five deemed to be lost) for the
    epochs 1995 Mar. 24 and Oct. 10. The price, postage included is US$20.00
    (US$30.00 by airmail outside North America). The main part of the
    catalogue and the table of `original' and `future' 1/a values for the
    298 long-period comets of the highest quality can by supplied by e-mail
    for US$50.00; they are also available on an MS-DOS diskette (5.25-inch
    or 3.5-inch) for US$110.00 (US$120.00 for airmail delivery), this
    including a facility for extracting individual orbits and computing
    ephemerides. Checks should be made payable to the Central Bureau for
    Astronomical Telegrams and mailed to:

	Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
	Mail Stop 18
	Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
	60 Garden Street
	Cambridge, MA 02138

    Subscribers to the IAU Circulars can have their accounts debited by the
    appropriate amount.

    Efemeridy Malkyh Planet (Ephemerides Of Minor Planets)

    This annual volume is the official IAU publication listing orbital
    elements for the numbered minor planets. It is published by the
    Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, St. Petersburg and is distributed by

	White Nights Trading Company
	520 N.E. 83rd Street
	Seattle, WA 98115

    The MS-DOS diskette version of the EMP is also available. The 1995
    edition contains orbital elements and opposition ephemerides for 5791
    numbered minor planets.

    Catalogue Of Orbits Of Unnumbered Minor Planets

    The availability of the fifth edition of this catalogue was announced on
    Minor Planet Circular (MPC) 24251. It contains orbital elements for
    15587 single-opposition minor planets, all without consideration of
    perturbations, and is complete through the 1994 Nov. 18 batch of MPCs.
    The 4553 unnumbered multiple-opposition and long-arc perturbed orbits
    are in the Catalogue of High-Precision Orbits of Unnumbered Minor
    Planets. The catalogue is available for $30.00 ($40.00 for airmail
    delivery), and the orbits are also being issued on an MS-DOS diskette
    for $120.00.

    Catalogue Of High-Precision Orbits Of Unnumbered Minor Planets

    The 1995 (third) edition of this annual publication was announced on
    Minor Planet Circular (MPC) 24133. The orbits given are for the epoch
    1995 Oct. 10.0 TT and the catalogue is complete through th 1994 Nov. 18
    batch of MPCs. Osculating elements for the epoch 1995 Oct. 10.0 TT = JDT
    2450000.5 are given for 4750 multiple-opposition and 227 long-arc
    perturbed orbits. Opposition positions and motions are given for objects
    that reach opposition between 1994 Dec. 1 and 1996 Jan. 31; more
    extensive ephemerides are given for unusual minor planets. The new
    catalogue, intended as a companion to the Efemeridy Malykh Planet (EMP),
    costs $30.00 ($40.00 for airmail delivery). The orbits are also being
    issued on an MS-DOS diskette for $120.00; the ephemerides are not
    included, but there is a PC-computer program for generating them.

    If both the Catalogue of High-Precision Orbits of Unnumbered Minor
    Planets and the Catalogue Of Orbits Of Unnumbered Minor Planets are
    desired, they are available at the special price of $50.00 ($65.00 for
    airmail delivery). The corresponding MS-DOS diskettes are available for
    $200.00 the pair.

	Minor Planet Center
	Mail Stop 18
	Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
	60 Garden Street
	Cambridge, MA 02138

    Subscribers to the IAU Circulars or Minor Planet Circulars can have
    their accounts debited by the appropriate amount.

    Minor Planet Circulars

    The Minor Planet Circulars (MPCs) (also known as Minor Planets and
    Comets) are published generally on the date of each full moon. The
    Circulars contain astrometric observations, orbits and ephemerides of
    both minor planets and comets. New numberings and namings of minor
    planets, as well as numberings of periodic comets, are announced in the
    Circulars. An average batch of MPCs runs to over 150 two-column pages
    and contains over 7000 minor-planet observations. Details from the Minor
    Planet Center (address above). Sample pages are displayed at

NEXT: FAQ #4/13 - Performing calculations and interpreting data formats

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