What I do. What do you do?

From: Rob Seaman <seaman_at_noao.edu>
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 16:31:03 -0700 (MST)

A useful exercise from other mailing lists and conferences and such
is simply to get to know each other and how we all fit into the puzzle
under discussion.

I'm personally acquainted with several of the members of the
astronomical software community who belong to this list. Sometimes
I know their precise duties and how these would connect to relying
upon the UTC standard on a day to day basis. In other cases, I only
know that they are members of the astronomical community. For other
folks on this list, I have not the slightest knowledge of what
interest they may have in the UTC standard.

Perhaps it would help our discussions to simply describe our professional
(or otherwise) connections to UTC and other precision timing issues.

I'll start.

I work for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. We manage
several telescopes in both hemispheres for the U.S. astronomical
community as well as provide public outreach and other facilities.
I'm a member of NOAO's Data Products Program. We provide software
systems that manage the data flow from the telescopes, as well as
directly providing those data and software to the world astronomical
community. My job responsibilities include the NOAO Science Archive
and various software (and related support) for systems connected
more-or-less directly to data acquisition at our telescopes.

An example of how UTC is integral to what I do is the development and
support of software for the derivation of astrometric world coordinate
systems for imaging data. (Take a picture at a certain time, compare
it to catalog objects from a different time, determine the coordinate
system.) Another example is spectral data acquisition software targeted
toward asteroseismology. (Take 40,000 spectra of Polaris over several
months at a precise barycentric cadence and look for evidence of
oscillatory modes.) Just one more example (among many) is my long
time participation in the FITS standards process. FITS is astronomy's
universal data format, whose metadata standards rely explicitly on
UTC. I suppose I could keep adding examples all the way back to two
semesters of the history of astronomy as an undergraduate.

The notion of discarding the connection between UTC and GMT is not
just philosophically distasteful - it clearly would make my job more
difficult for zero benefit.

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Received on Tue Jan 28 2003 - 15:31:16 PST

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