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IRAF 30th Anniversary

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  • Tuesday, January 19 2016 @ 05:36 PM GMT
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This year marks 30 years since the first public release of IRAF (on magtape) to a handful of lucky sites. Since then, more than 100 external packages have been developed and the latest release is in use by more than 5000 users in >60 countries around the world. On average, somebody somewhere in the world starts up the CL every 15 seconds of every day.

Although active development has ramped down considerably in recent years, use of IRAF remains heavy and continues to enable science by the community to the tune of ~800 journal papers/year. We would appreciate hearing your experiences/remembrances of IRAF in the comments section below.

SPTABLE Package for Tabular Spectra Now Available

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  • Wednesday, September 24 2014 @ 04:35 PM GMT
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The SPTABLE external package is the first release of the IRAF spectral tasks intended to support data in various tabular formats. These formats currently include text files and FITS tables (direct support for the VOTable format is still pending) that are increasingly being used to store spectra as multi-column tables of wavelength/frequency and flux in a variety of formats.

The new package may be installed on a V2.16 system using the commands:

    % cd $iraf/extern
    % make self_update
    % ./configure     # even if done earlier
    % make sptable
For manual installation the needed tarballs are available from

This release of the SPTABLE package should be considered an Alpha release as many possible table formats or use-cases have not yet thoroughly been tested. The detailed guide to the package below provides additional information on using the package and adding your data files to the list of recognized formats. Please report any problems or questions to the forums.

A Million Logins: Some IRAF Usage Stats

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  • Tuesday, May 13 2014 @ 10:52 PM GMT
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Sometime earlier today the IRAF v2.16.1 release passed a milestone which may have happened before, but couldn't be directly measured. Namely, the 1,000,000th login to the CL since the 10/12/13 public release of the system.

Update 06/12/14: Thanks to a very busy machine in Nagoya, the 2,000,000th login was reached just 29 days later ...
Update 06/15/14: ... and then the 3,000,000th login was reached just 3 days, and it's still going ......
Update 06/17/14: ... and then the 4,000,000th login was reached just 2 days, and it's still going ......
Update 06/23/14: ... and then the 5,000,000th login was reached just 5 days, and and finally slowing down ......
Update 09/03/14: ... and finally over the 10,000,000th login this past weekend.

In this release there is an IRAF version checker at each CL login that effectively pings our web site, that counter rolled over earlier today and refers *only* to the v2.16.1 system, so actual usage numbers for all IRAF installations in the community are certainly higher. Combined with the FTP logs, we can derive some interest usage stats:

  • More than 1,000,000 logins to the IRAF v2.16.1 CL
  • 5143 unique IP address from 66+ countries (44 US States)
  • 1815+ second-level domains (e.g. noao.edu, implies # of institutions)
  • 3348+ third-level domains (e.g. tuc.noao.edu, implies # of 'departments')
  • 41.2% of institutional domains are in the US (7.9% of those are NOAO)
  • 96.5% of logins were on 64-bit systems, (=> 3.5% were 32-bit)
  • 64.3% of logins were on Linux systems (=> 34.7% were OSX)
  • 83% of sites were on 64-bit systems (=> 17% were 32-bit)
  • 70.4% of sites were on Linux systems (=> 20.9% were OSX)
  • 15093+ downloads of the v2.16.1 distribution
  • 54.6% were 64-bit, 22.4% were 32-bit single-architecture downloads
  • 15% of downloads contained multiple archs (e.g. combined 32/64-bit)

In the past we've estimated IRAF usage as being ~5000 users at ~2000 sites, these numbers indicate that estimate is probably low when you consider the number of users still running pre-v2.16.1 systems.

IRAF v2.16.1 Patch Now Available

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  • Tuesday, October 22 2013 @ 02:40 AM GMT
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An IRAF v2.16.1 Patch release is now available from the IRAF anonymous ftp archive at

This patch is a minor update of the IRAF v2.16 release for all 32- and 64-bit Linux and Mac OSX systems. Thsi release fixes a number of known bugs in the system but primarily features a greatly simplified installation procedure for users without root access on the machine. Major features of this release include:

     Non-root Install default      Global login
     C-shell not required          32-bit OSX changes
     Automatic update checking     X11IRAF tools included

Numerous other bug fixes, feature updates and enhancements are included as well. Details of this patch and upgrade instructions may be found in the release announcement below. Users running the original IRAF v2.16 release can update using the commands:

    % cd $iraf ; make latest

Update 10/30/13: 1) External packages have all been relinked against v2.16.1 (except the 32-bit only STSDAS/TABLES) and can be updated with a "make latest" command from the $iraf directory. PPC binaries are coming. 2) more bugs than I would like in the new install scripts have been fixed, existing installations can likewise update to get the updates. 3) No problems seen with new OSX Mavericks update in this version (however you must update XCode and reinstall XQuartz).

IRAF Development Roadmap Available

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  • Monday, September 30 2013 @ 04:51 AM GMT
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NOAO is taking the opportunity to begin substantial development of IRAF before evolving priorities shift both focus and resources to new challenges starting in 2016. To this end, we have developed a roadmap of projects wewill complete over the next two years, after which time IRAF support will be limited to maintenance, user support, and development of science applications. These enhancements may be categorized in the following areas:

  • CL Language Enhancements
  • In-Memory CL Image Operators
  • Spectral Package Enhancements
  • Parallel Execution
  • Python Task Interface

We very much would appreciate your feedback on our plans for IRAF. Please feel free to comment below, or contact fitz@iraf.net if you don't wish to comment publically.

Welcome to the New iraf.net

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  • Monday, September 30 2013 @ 01:03 AM GMT
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Those of you familiar with the IRAF development cycle will not be surprised that it has taken this long to update the site, however I must still apologize for the delay. The site has essentially been rebuilt from scratch and I believe all of the old posts, forums, and user registrations have now been migrated successfully. Features such as the banner search bar, documentation and FAQ will similarly be rebuilt using tools that should make them more useful. We also plan to add new features such as interactive chatrooms once things have settled down. For now, new user registrations should be active, so post away. If you have problems or wish to request features please contact fitz@iraf.net.

Changes Coming to iraf.net

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  • Tuesday, July 26 2011 @ 02:07 AM GMT
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Starting Tuesday, July 26th, we will begin updating iraf.net to use a new version of the CMS system. This change is driven primarily by the deprecated support for the PHP4 engine currently used in the original (and ancient) code base. This is a long-overdue update but one that I hope will do much to modernize the site and add new features.

Most of the work will be done in the background and deployed once it is stable, however due to the unavoidable delays in getting around to this, parts of the current site will likely be inoperable for up to several days. This includes the ability to create new accounts, login to existing accounts, and perhaps post new messages or replies to the forums. I apologize for the inconvenience and promise to bring up all the features as soon as possible.

While the site is down, please feel free to contact us at admin@iraf.net and we'll try to answer your questions via email until the forums are fully restored. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Enhanced Image List Templates Being Developed

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  • Tuesday, May 24 2011 @ 10:50 PM GMT
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A number of system enhancements are underway as part of integrating IRAF with the Virtual Observatory, in particular is the ability to seamlessly use data tables returned by VO data services as input to IRAF tasks. This has a number of implications I'll write about later, but one early pay-off of this work is an enhanced image template interface in the core system that is now in testing internally. If you aren't sure what an "image template" is, think of the "*.fits" or @files that let you pass lists of images to IRAF tasks for processing.

In the enhanced templates, things like MEF files (and soon, tables) can be expanded automatically using the @-file operator to let any task that takes an image list process the extensions automagically. Additionally, selection of images based on image header keywrods can also be done dynamically using expressions in the template strings. For example, consider the following templates:

      @file* expand all files beginning w/ 'file'
      @file//".fits" append ".fits" to contents of 'file'
      @mef.fits expand all (image) extensions of an MEF file
      @mef.fits[SCI] select SCI extensions from MEF file
      @mef.fits[SCI,2][noinherit] select v2 SCI extns, add kernel param
      @mef.fits[1-16x2] select range of extensions from MEF file
      @mef.fits[+1-8] create a list of extensions for an MEF
      *.fits[1:100,1:100] append section to all FITS images
      @@file[1:100,1:100] append section to expanded MEFs in 'file'
      *.fits[filter?='V'] select images w/ FILTER keyword containing 'V'
      @*.fits[gain==3.0]select image extns where GAIN keyword is 3.0
      *.fits[filter?='V';gain==2.5]select using multiple OR's expressions

These templates could be used e.g. to run IMSTAT on all the extensions of a FITS file with a single command, as in

    cl> imstat @mef.fits
      instead of
      cl> imext mef.fits output=file > list.dat
      cl> if (imext.nimages > 0)
      >>> imstat @list.dat
      cl> del list.dat

where before it would have been necessary to expand the extensions explicitly using a second task into a standard @file. Notice how the other templates provide even more refined selection of the extensions, either within a single MEF or across multiple images.

These changes are all fully backward compatible but provide new syntax to give users a powerful and compact way to dynamically build image lists for use by all tasks. These new features will be especially useful for script developers tired of managing temp files of image lists, or those who just need to quickly examine MEF files or a directory of images.

Leave a message or post a comment if you're interested in getting an early peek at these new features. [Note that a small source patch to your system and a relink will be required].

IRAF v2.15.1a Patch Release Now Available

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  • Tuesday, February 22 2011 @ 07:19 AM GMT
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An IRAF v2.15.1a Patch release is now available from the IRAF anonymous ftp archive at

This patch is a minor update of the IRAF v2.15.1 release for all 32- and 64-bit Linux and Mac OSX systems. It is being made available now to address the following specific issue:

  • Potential Data Corruption on 32-bit Images

In addition, several bug that were discovered in the weeks since the initial v2.15.1 patch are also fixed in this release. We apologize for asking users to install another patch so soon after a previous release, except for the discovery of another major system bug affecting all tasks we do not forsee another patch being required for at least 6 months. The version number is meant to reflect the minor changes to the system implied by this release.

Details of this patch and upgrade instructions may be found in the release announcement below.

IRAF V2.15.1 Patch Release Now Available

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  • Wednesday, January 26 2011 @ 10:38 AM GMT
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An IRAF v2.15.1 Patch release is now available from the IRAF anonymous ftp archive at

This patch is an update of the IRAF v2.15 release for all 32- and 64-bit Linux and Mac OSX systems. It is being made available now to address the following specific issues:

  • Potential Data Corruption on 64-bit Systems
  • Support for Double-Precision FITS images on 64-bit Systems
  • Remove License Restrictions from the XYACC Compiler
  • Backward-Compatability for NHEDIT tasks

Details of this patch and upgrade instructions may be found in the release announcement below.

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