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I Software for Analysis of FITS table/spectra

  1. Mar 5, 2017 #1
    Hi guys, I need help, more specifically in a technical issue.

    I started my thesis with an Astrophysics professor and he gave me a topic of "M dwarf spectra with cyclotron bumps from SDSS". In short, I am given spectra of a number of cylotron bump M-dwarfs (CBMDs) from unusual quasar search from SDSS, in FITS tables format. I'm to analyze them, first by determining their types of M-dwarf and subtract them from the spectra (also check if Red Shift is significant), so I can analyze the residual - spectra of Cataclysmic variables and cyclotrons.

    So here is my problem - I have work with the FITS tables and I have no experience in those, and they cannot be opened in Excel.
    My advisor suggested me to use "ESO MIDAS", a software that can handle what I have to do - but it only works in Linux and is...in command lines, which I'm not confortable with (also it's at least 20 years old and support has been discontinued for a decade) - the reason he suggests this is because my advisor has been using for a long time and he can tell me what to do if i'm stuck - which, I clearly will be.

    I looked up another software called TOPCAT and it can open my tables and seems to have a number of good tools for analysis; but I have never used it before, I am not sure if it can fully do what I have to do, I have no experience on it as well as no technically support from my advisor (there are online manuals though).

    My advisor doesn't mind what software I use at all, I can use Excel for all he cares (but Excel can't open FITS of course), I prefer to work in Windows, with a Graphical UI instead of a command line.
    If there is no better option, I can either work with TOPCAT or suck it up and use MIDAS, but it will be very inefficient for me - setting up Linux with MIDAS is painful enough - the software has been discontinued for a long time...

    So I wonder if anyone who is familiar with this sort of thing can recommend me a software, that is simple to use and efficient? I assume what I have do is fairly simple? Just some tables and spectra to analyze with basic fitting and manipulation.

    Thanks for the help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2017 #2
  4. Mar 5, 2017 #3
    Thanks for the suggestions, are they more "graphical" in user interface? ie: With buttons to click on instead of having to do everything by command lines.
    I can't find screenshots on the site.

    Do you know of anything like these that also run in Windows? I have Linux on VirtualBox but obviously it is more convenient and compatible if it is on Windows.
  5. Mar 5, 2017 #4


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    If you're going to work in astrophysics, you need to get off of Windows and get comfortable using Linux - the sooner the better. I would recommend using Python and the pyfits module, which can read the fits files directly, and which you can then manipulate as you choose.
  6. Mar 5, 2017 #5
    Sorry I should have made it clear ISIS and BASS are both window applications with GUI.
    Regards Andrew
  7. Mar 5, 2017 #6
  8. Mar 5, 2017 #7
    Unfortunately I'm not a coder/programmer for now, so obviously I can't use Python - I need to finish my thesis before to learn to code with all the time I have afterwards.
  9. Mar 5, 2017 #8
    Thank you! Will definitely look into ISIS
  10. Mar 6, 2017 #9
    If your data is in 1d format (i.e. a reduced spectrum) you can open it in the profile window and then save it in .dat format. You should then be able to open the ,dat file in excel.

    Regards Andrew
  11. Mar 6, 2017 #10
    One more question, just how well do you think Excel can handle this kind of analysis? You think it will be sufficient?
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  12. Mar 6, 2017 #11
    I don't know as I have not tried it. You need to get a handle on the data. You can open a .fit file in Wordpad and read the FIT header. This will give you a chance to understand the data. Even with my amateur spectra the files are large and have 1000s of data points. If it is 1D and you just need to manipulate 1D profiles ISIS should be ok. VSpec ( here http://www.astrosurf.com/vdesnoux/ ) is another option which may be better for post processing 1D profiles than ISIS.

    I am inclined to agree with Phyzguy and propose the pro route via Linux and possibly IRAF if you don't want to use MIDAS. It is not programming. I have taken my first steps to using IRAF and it is not that difficult with lots of support and guides on line in English. I would be surprised if you did not have it available at your university. Don't be put of by command line processing. If you can post here you can do command lines. Instead of clicking you just type and hit return (simple to anyone as old as me who is pre even DOS).

    Regards Andrew
  13. Mar 6, 2017 #12
    I have just looked at TOPCAT and if it were me I would start with it as it seems designed for your type of task.

    Regards Andrew
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