While GNU/Linux might struggle with the simple things like getting more game developers on board, there is one area where this open source operating system has never had trouble: high performance scientific software. It’s no wonder, as Linux runs on most of the worlds most powerful supercomputers. If you’re a scientist looking to get a lot of numbers crunched on one of the top performing computers on the planet, you better get your software written for Linux.
One such piece of software is the Image Reduction and Analysis Facility (IRAF), a suite of tools developed by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) to process and analyze astronomical images. This software is used by professional and amateur astronomers to process the images taken with high powered telescopes for the purposes of combining images, reducing noise, measuring redshift, etc.
But like many tools designed for running in high performance mainframe environments, IRAF is controlled entirely via the command line and through scripts. This can pose a problem for casual users who just want to process images as quickly and as easily as possible, which is where MYRaf comes in.
MYRaf is not the first graphical user interface developed for IRAF, there have been a number before this which never seemed to take off. Whether it’s because the IRAF userbase is happy enough working on the command line, or if the previous projects didn’t live up to expectations, is yet to be seen.
While MYRaf certainly isn’t the first, it’s definitely the most modern. The previous attempts at bringing a GUI to IRAF date back many years, when Linux UI technology was, arguably, not quite where it needed to be. Perhaps a modern take on the problem is what’s needed to turn MYRaf into a success in the scientific community.
A number of open source projects have been combined to create the GPLv3 licensed MYRaf, including:
- Python – Interpreted programming language
- Qt - Cross platform application framework
- PyRAF - Python wrapper for IRAF tasks
- alipy – Python tool for identifying geometrical transforms
According to the official MYRaf site, the team’s new tool isn’t quite ready for release just yet. A countdown on the page indicates we are down to just 7 days before this software will be released for professional and amateur scientists alike to judge. It’s certainly a tough audience to impress, and we wish the MYRaf team the best of luck.
While no binaries or sources have been released, the team has setup a SourceForge project page for MYRaf which you can keep an eye on if you want to grab the source release when it goes live. You can also follow the project’s page on Google+ for updates and information directly from the team.