Telescopes in XML part 3

I think I may have caused some confusion over my idea for a simple telescope XML file. The plan is not to recreate the excellent efforts of the global Virtual Observatory community. They have been working for several years to developing XML exchange formats in order to control telescopes remotely, allow networks of telescopes to talk to each other, respond to events and mine astronomical databases. These, necessarily, require lots of thought, consideration and attention to the details. For instance, in a research setting it can be vital to know that the FK5 and ICRS give positions different by 0.01 arcseconds. However, my idea was simply to answer the popular question that visitors to an observatory ask - "what is it looking at?" - and do it in a common format for many telescopes.

The aim of this is to serve the interested member of the public rather than the professional astronomical community. It does not have to be perfect or try to provide all information that might possibly be wanted. However, it should be easy for those with some scripting ability, but little knowledge of the astronomical details (e.g. wavelengths, bandwidths, instruments, exposure times, and coordinate transforms), to make stuff by bringing together different feeds. That is my plan. Perhaps it is more trivial than people were giving me credit for!

Following the outline in my last post, I was left some suggestions by Mike Peel and links from real VO people. I've talked to Mike about his ideas and I like the inclusion of a field-of-view. I can imagine this being used to scale a cross-hair (or other symbol) in something like Google Sky or Stellarium and that would convey something about the instrument in a fairly unobtrusive way. In terms of the object type, Andy Lawrence pointed me towards some VO documents. I don't think the IVOA definition is appropriate, but there is a proposed list of unified content descriptors (UCD) which looks promising.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 15th Oct 2007 (18:59 BST) | Permalink
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