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SkyView provides a network service by which astronomers around the world can interactively request images of the sky. SkyView currently provides data in wavelengths ranging from the radio through the high-energy gamma-rays using a single interface. Since its introduction four months ago SkyView has fielded as many as several hundred requests for data per day. We discuss the features of the current system and our plans for its development.
More generally we discuss a problem inherent in the current information explosion in astronomy: How will astronomers be able to assimilate the various data streams that are beginning to deluge our field? While the adoption of FITS and other data standards address this issue to a degree, we believe that SkyView 's approach of transforming data according to the user's requirements will be an essential feature of future data archives. SkyView automatically performs coordinate transformations, precessions, rotations, scalings and resamplings of data to meet user's needs. As it becomes ever more critical to match data from different instruments and wavelengths, we must reduce the geometric drudgery this frequently entails.
This problem is not limited to the geometric issues with which SkyView currently deals. We envisage that as the number, complexity, contents and accessibility of astronomical archives increase -- seemingly exponentially in the past few years -- we shall have to revisit the current paradigm of an archive. Now an archive may at best provide help in choosing the bits of data in which a user is interested. The archive of the future will be a sophisticated AI system which can interpret the astronomical requirements of its users and transform data to forms that are immediately useful to their research.
SkyView is supported by NASA's ADP program, grant NAS5-32068.
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