Herschel Interactive Processing Environment: Open to the world and the future

Paul Balm (Herschel Science Centre)


Herschel is ESA's space-based infrared observatory. It was launched on May 14, 2009 and is in routine science operations. The Herschel Interactive Processing Environment, HIPE, is Herschel's interactive analysis package. HIPE has a user-base of approximately 1,000 users and a major new version is released twice a year.

HIPE is the first open-source astronomy data analysis package fully written in Java and Jython, which allows it to provide a modern GUI with command echoing, sophisticated interoperability and extensibility, with access to the vast amounts of Java libraries. These aspects may make HIPE the seed for the astronomy working environment of the future.

Among its advanced features are direct access to all processing levels of the 7,500 public and 15,000 proprietary observations, that currently exist in the Herschel Science Archive, and the possibility to modify and run the official pipelines on this data.

The flexibility of HIPE is founded on the modularity of the data reduction pipelines, which are built from individual tasks. This allows bright ideas from the community to be integrated into the system quickly and easily. HIPE features excellent support of the FITS format, allowing it to read data from all ESA astronomy archives. It also has advanced support for VO tables and ASCII tables.

HIPE is well connected to the Virtual Observatory. While analysing your data, it is at any time a single click to send images to Aladin or SAOImage DS9, or spectra to VOSpec or SPLAT-VO, to compare with data from other missions. All data can also be sent back to HIPE for a combined analysis.

HIPE can easily be extended using plug-ins to make it useful for other projects, similarly versatile to add-ons in Firefox. Publicly available HIPE plug-ins exist to add specific photometric and spectral analysis and line identification tools and viewers, spacecraft engineering database access, and more. Using plug-ins it is easy to add support for mission-specific data formats, for example.

HIPE plug-ins also promote collaboration in a distributed environment. They can be used to share scripts, Java libraries and even data. HIPE can automatically notify users of new versions of plug-ins, which greatly eases propagating updates to the entire community.

The Herschel Data Processing System is a joint development by the Herschel Science Ground Segment Consortium, consisting of ESA, the NASA Herschel Science Center, and the HIFI, PACS and SPIRE consortium members.

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