- What does Astrobrowse do?
Astrobrowse is a web user agent - it automates the tasks that a user would do.
In particular, it sends a query to as many resources as the user selects, using
the object information that the user provides. The user only fills out one
form and Astrobrowse takes care of interacting with all the remote databases.
- What can I search for?
Astrobrowse takes as input either the name
of an astronomical object, or celestial coordinates. Users can also specify a
radius around the object or position to search around.
- What can I expect to get?
Astrobrowse returns web pages just
as if the user had gone directly to the remote site and queried using their
form. For example, using Astrobrowse to query SIMBAD will return the same
web page as if the user had gone to the SIMBAD query form and started a query.
The advantage with Astrobrowse is that along with querying SIMBAD, the user
can simultaneously query many other data services.
On the main form the user has two choices - use one of the preselected
resource menus (lists of databases to query), or create a custom list of
databases with the search form.
- Preselected lists of data services
Selecting one of these links will show a form - at the top is a set of input
boxes for entering object information; at the bottom is a list of data services
to query. Enter either a target name (eg 3c273, sco x-1, ngc 4133, etc) or
coordinates (see the pulldown menu for format examples). The search radius is
optional. Select the resources you want to query. Your resource selections
will be saved in a cookie (if you allow the cookie to be set) so that if you
are searching for more than one object, you will not have to remember which
resources you searched.
- Quick overview listing
The first preselected menu is the quick resources overview. These data services have been chosen to provide a good starting point for a data search.
- Full hierarchical listing
The second link is to the full hierarchical resource listing. This is a structured list of all the data services queryable through Astrobrowse. Some listings are under a secondary page, designated by <Recursive>.
- The search form
The search form is used to create your own list of data services to query.
For example, if you want to query only resources that return radio data, select
"Radio" in the form. This will show you a list of those resources that say they
have radio data. The "additional keywords" box is available for creating a list
of resources matching something not listed in the menu boxes, i.e. "ROSAT" or
"galaxy". There is a more comprehensive help page on
- what kind of things can I search on?
Either use the lists of keywords in the menus, or search on keywords you'd expect to find in the description of a data service, e.g.: variable stars, standards, galaxy, cluster, RXTE, ASCA, HST, etc.
- what syntax can I use in the keyword box?
The keyword box allows grouping with parentheses, wildcard truncation with '*', and the operators
"or", "and", and "not".
The results page
After Astrobrowse has sent out the user's queries to the selected data services, it collects and caches the results. These results come back as individual web pages from the data providers. The user is shown a framed results page - the left frame is an index to the results pages, the right frame is where the results pages are displayed, and the top frame is informational.
- The index frame
This is a list of links to the cached results.
The user can switch back and forth without reissuing a query. There are three
icons by each results link: the status icon, the full-frame icon, and the
- The status icon tells the user if the request is still processing, has finished, or has died. If the status has changed, the icon will change when the user clicks on the "Status Update" button.
- The full-frame icon is the blue dot - clicking this will display the associated result page in the full window instead of inside the results frame.
- The delete icon is the red "X" - clicking this will redisplay the status frame with the associated entry removed.
- The results frame
This is where the individual results pages are displayed. Clicking on anything in the results page sends a request to the
remote site, exactly as if you had gone to that site personally instead of through Astrobrowse.
Here is an example that demonstrates Astrobrowse:
- On the main form, the user decides to try the custom resource list.
- On the search form, in order to get a list of data services that offer optical observations, the user selects "optical" and "observations" from the keyword lists and selects "Search".
- A new form is displayed, with the target info form and list of matching data services and catalogs. The user enters a target name, ie "eta carina", selects a few of the catalogs, and clicks "Start search".
- The results page is displayed, with the index listing links to the individual results. The user clicks on the index to see what the data services returned.