A Unified Release of Python & IRAF software for astronomy

Description

As astronomical software development expands from historical data reduction platforms towards more sophisticated Python applications, non-technically- focused users can struggle with installing and maintaining a large number of heterogeneous dependencies. PyRAF has successfully bridged the gap between IRAF and Python, but managing dependencies falls outside its scope. A few existing Python distributions make installation easy, but don't cater for specific needs (such as dependence on IRAF). STScI and Gemini have therefore developed a prototype, easy-to-install software distribution for Linux and OSX known provisionally as the 'Unified Release' (UR).

Currently the UR includes STScI Python and its dependencies (eg. Python, NumPy, IRAF 2.15), as well as Matplotlib & Tk, SciPy, a number of IRAF packages, DS9, X11IRAF and some testing and documentation tools. Its scope extends to complementary non-Python/IRAF software, but we do not intend to produce a comprehensive (Scisoft-like) distribution of tools for astronomy, nor to satisfy every installation preference. Our focus is on providing a simple way to run key tools, for users with minimal support resources and who may not have administrative privileges. Unlike most comparable distributions, our approach includes basic provision for in-place software additions and updates.

Recently we have completed a first internal version of the UR for both Linux and OSX, which we shall briefly demonstrate. We plan to make our first public release during the coming months.