This WWW form allows the user to obtain "postage stamp" FITS or jpeg images of selected, small fields from the VLA FIRST Sky Survey. This survey is being done with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array telescope at a wavelength of 20 cm (1.4 GHz) and is producing images of a large area of sky around the North Galactic Cap and a further strip around declination 0 degrees, all with a resolution of 5".4 .
The images are typically 34.5'x46.5' (0.45 sq deg) with some mutual overlap. The desired region of a "postage stamp" to be made from these files is specified by a central Right Ascension and declination and the width of the field in Right Ascension and declination. Other aspects of the geometry in the resultant image can also be specified. The specified region of the closest FIRST field (if it exists) is returned as a FITS format or JPEG format image or a postscript CONTOUR plot. If the requested "postage-stamp" overlaps the boundary of the closest FIRST field the area beyond the boundary is filled with blank (NaN) pixels. In addition, some fields may contain blank regions for which no observations are yet available - these regions are also represented by blank (no value defined) pixels in the returned "postage-stamp" image. For a FITS or JPEG image any blank regions should be obvious when the image is viewed. For a CONTOUR plot regions of blank pixels will not be obvious, so if the area includes blank pixels a warning message is printed along the top of the plot. If such a warning message is present the corresponding FITS or JPEG should be retrieved and viewed to check which part of the CONTOUR plot is affected. If you have hit the edge of a FIRST field, the missing data may be available from an adjacent field by submitting an offset target position. Note that single isolated blank pixels occur occasionally but are generally not a problem as the CONTOUR will interpolate across them.
Descriptions of individual fields on this form follow:
This is the equinox of the coordinates to be used for input coordinates. The resulting FITS file will use this equinox for coordinates.
FIRST only provides images of Stokes' parameter I (total intensity)
This string gives the name of the object, no embedded blanks are allowed (use '_' instead). This is used for labeling purposes only and is not used to obtain the position. The default is "No_Name".
The desired position on the sky is expressed in terms of its celestial position which consists of a Right Ascension (like longitude but expressed in hours) and declination (like latitude). The central Right Ascension at the specified equinox is given as hh mm ss.sss (hours minutes and seconds of time). Values should be expressed in the range 0 0 0.000 to 23 59 59.999 .
The central declination is given as +/-dd mm ss.ss (degrees, minutes and seconds of arc).
These values specify the field size for the returned image in RA and Declination in degrees. The returned image may be padded with blanks if the requested area overlaps the boundaries of the original FIRST field nearest to the target position.
There are a number of supported projections of the (spherical) sky onto a
FIRST images normally have a pixel spacing of 1.8 arcseconds in each dimension but the image can be interpolated to other spacings. Note: a larger value will lose information in the image.
The image can be rotated relative to the input image by the amount specified here in degrees. The rotation is in the sense that north rotates towards east. Note: the axis labeling on the contour plots cannot accurately represent data with a rotation on the sky. Do not use a non zero rotation for contour plots.
The returned image may be one of several types.
2^0, 2^(1/2), 2^1, 2^(3/2), 2^2, ... = ie: 0.5x(1, 1.414, 2, 2.828, 4, ...) Using a smaller pixel size (e.g. 0.6 arcsec) may make a better looking plot. A cross will be plotted marking the location of the input position. The labeling of the axes assumes zero rotation and a rectangular coordinate grid. Since the sky is curved this approximation breaks down towards the celestial pole, but it should be a good approximation over a (small) postage-stamp area, given that the upper dec limit of the FIRST survey is about 65 degrees. Occasionally the plot may include a region of blank pixels. Please therefore take a moment to read the following two caveats :
Web browsers use external viewers to display files like FITS images which they do not understand. In order to invoke an external viewer, it is necessary to associate a particular viewer with a particular MIME type. The FIRST postage stamp server can return a FITS file with the MIME type of image/x-fits; your browser needs to be told a suitable display program for FITS files.
There are a number of programs which can read and display FITS images but most of these are inadequate for the high dynanic range of the FIRST images and lose all of the astronomical information. The limited dynamic range is a problem because the brightest pixels in a given image are typically many times brighter than the faintest; thus the general result is a few white dots on a black background. At very least, control over the contrast and brightness is needed if not some control over the range of values displayed in order to get the best display of the objects in the image. One suitable external viewer is the FITSview family of FITS image viewers is available for a variety of computer systems. For flavours of Unix saoimage, saotng and ds9 are also generally available.
In order to use an external viewer with your Web browser you need to install the software on your computer. Then the browser needs to be told to associate MIME type image/x-fits with your broswer. The details of this depend on the particular browser; consult the documentation for your browser for details. For Unix systems this can generally be done in the .mailcap file in your home directory by inserting an entry like:
image/x-fits; XFITSview %sin which XFITSview is the desired external viewer.