Astronomical archives and databases: a WWW-accessible example
Currently-existing archives and databases in astronomy, although being
of great scientific interest, lack a truly distributed client-server
architecture, and are therefore sometimes awkward to use. Those using
commercial DBMS's need to export software at the user's site, and thus
have licence and software distribution problems, or their usability is
limited to a small number of computer platforms. Furthermore, the
approaches to data access and distribution are often completely different.
In this paper, an astronomical archive containing 2-D (images) and 1-D
(spectra) data is described, with particular reference to its user
interface, based on NCSA/Mosaic and allowing it to be accessible through
World-Wide-Web. The architecture allows database browsing by specifying
query constraints inside forms to be filled by the user, display of 1-D
and 2-D quick-look data, graphical visualization of numerical results
derived from a query, retrieval of observational data from the data bank.
All of the information on the user interface is dynamically stored in
the database (handled by an SQL-based relational DBMS), allowing the Mosaic
screens to be prepared on-the-fly; no additional software needs to be run
on the user's computer.