General Questions


Note that you can (should) use the \facilities call in AASTeX to acknowledge IRSA as a facility you used in your journal article. Similarly, you can acknowledge missions: \facility{Spitzer}, \facility{WISE}, etc.

The standard IRSA acknowledgment is:

This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive, which is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and operated by the California Institute of Technology.

The standard 2MASS acknowledgment is:

This publication makes use of data products from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, which is a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation.

The standard Spitzer acknowledgment is:

This work is based on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA.

The standard WISE acknowledgment is:

This publication makes use of data products from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The standard Herschel acknowledgment is:

Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.

There does not seem to be a standard IRAS acknowledgment. The canonical IRAS reference is Neugebauer et al. 1984. You may wish to include this in the acknowledgements:

The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) was a joint project of the US, UK and the Netherlands.

The standard AKARI acknowledgment is:

This research is based on observations with AKARI, a JAXA project with the participation of ESA.

The standard POSS/DSS acknowledgment is:

The Digitized Sky Survey was produced at the Space Telescope Science Institute under U.S. Government grant NAG W-2166. The images of these surveys are based on photographic data obtained using the Oschin Schmidt Telescope on Palomar Mountain and the UK Schmidt Telescope. The plates were processed into the present compressed digital form with the permission of these institutions."

The standard SDSS acknowledgment is:

Funding for SDSS-III has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The SDSS-III web site is SDSS-III is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS-III Collaboration including the University of Arizona, the Brazilian Participation Group, Brookhaven National Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Florida, the French Participation Group, the German Participation Group, Harvard University, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, the Michigan State/Notre Dame/JINA Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, New Mexico State University, New York University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the Spanish Participation Group, University of Tokyo, University of Utah, Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, University of Washington, and Yale University.

What kinds of data are available at IRSA?

IRSA is chartered to curate the science products of NASA's infrared and submillimeter missions, including many large-area and all-sky surveys. In total, IRSA holdings include all-sky surveys in 20 bands, 88 billion rows of catalog data, 100 million images, and over 100,000 spectra. Approximately 10% of all refereed astronomical journal articles cite data sets curated by IRSA.

IRSA offers access to digital archives through powerful query engines (including VO-compliant interfaces) and offers unique data analysis and visualization tools. IRSA exploits a re-useable architecture to deploy cost-effective archives, including 2MASS, Spitzer, WISE, Planck, and the multi-mission COSMOS data set.

For more details, see a list of missions with data served by IRSA.

Which infrared telescopes have looked at my favorite source?

To find data for a specific target in IRSA, use our Data Discovery service, which searches science data products across all of IRSA's data sets based on a target name (e.g., M31) or coordinates (e.g., 17h44m34s -27d59m13s).

How do I access IRSA's holdings?

You can search IRSA's holdings in several different ways:

How can I get an answer to a question?

If you cannot find the answer to your question in the Knowledgebase, submit a ticket. First, go to the Help Desk at: Then click on "Submit a Ticket" near the top of the page. You may log in for more options in managing your ticket, or just fill in the form.

Can I download an entire mission dataset in IRSA's holdings?

IRSA does not routinely provide the ability to download entire data sets for its mission holdings. In some cases, mission data may have small enough volume that it is straight-forward to download using IRSA's program interface. For most recent missions, however, IRSA's holdings are too large to support bulk download of the entire thing without negatively impacting the bandwidth for other users. In such cases, please contact us directly by submitting a ticket to the Help Desk.

Can I input a list of object names to search for, or a catalog into IRSA's tools?

Yes, some tools allow a list of objects to be uploaded. Your uploaded table has to be IPAC table format, which is basically ASCII text with headers explaining the type of data in each column, separated by vertical bars.

The simplest possible input file looks like this example:

|              ra|              dec|
|          double|           double|
|             deg|              deg|
 266.461876096161 -28.9303475510113 
 317.385694084404 -41.1537816217576 
 267.210580557307 -27.7929408211594 
 229.172700517754   0.2598861324350

If you can make an IPAC table file that is close to this format, the easiest path to success is to take your "almost there" file and use the IPAC table check tool to check and reformat your input table before the table upload.

Note: Your uploaded table must have RA and Dec, not just target names. However, the IPAC table check tool can also resolve names into coordinates for you.

My multi-object table search or self-generated catalog does not work! Or, I get an error message saying IRSA could not recognize this table format. Why?

The file must be in IPAC table format, which is basically ASCII text with headers explaining the type of data in each column, separated by vertical bars.

Your table must be in a plain text ASCII file, NOT as a *.docx, *.rtf, *.xlsx, *.fits, etc.. If you are using Microsoft Word, be aware documents may appear to be in plain text, but can still contain hidden formatting if saved in any file format other than plain text (*.txt). For the best results, create the file in a plain text editor such as vi, emacs, Notepad in Windows, or TextEdit in Mac. If your data is in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, you can save the file as a .csv file, and then edit it to adjust the formatting. Make sure that you save it as a unix-compliant text file -- Excel is notorius for inserting carriage returns (CR) but not line feeds (LF), which means that the IRSA tools will see it as a file that is one long line.

Some tools will complain if there are unusual characters in the table file name. Some tools might complain if the file is *.txt rather than *.tbl.

If you believe that you have made a compliant IPAC table file, but the tool is still complaining, the easiest path to success is to take your "almost there" file and use the IPAC table check tool to check and reformat your input table before the table upload.

Note: Your uploaded table must have RA and Dec, not just target names. However, the IPAC table check tool can also resolve names into coordinates for you.

When I upload a table, I get an error message saying that records in the table do not contain uniform number of columns. What does that mean?

This error indicates that the table you uploaded contains too many data columns and too few column names, and it may be just in one line deep in the file (not the first line necessarily).

If you are using IPAC ASCII Column-Aligned, or tab- or comma-delimited formats, the number of cells containing data must not exceed the number of column names. Placing data under the vertical bars in the header can also result in this error message and/or a "failed to parse" error message.

In the following example, there are three named columns: A, B, and C. However, there is a row with four cells of data:

In the above example, the "11" is orphan data because it is not aligned with column A, B, or C.

This can also happen if you are using code to create the table file, but one line has a value that has overflowed its column:

|            col1|             col2|            col3|
|          double|           double|          double|
|             deg|              deg|             deg|
 266.461876096161 -28.9303475510113 266.461876096161 
 317.385694084404 -41.1537816217576 317.385694084404 
 267.210580557307****************** 267.210580557307 
 229.172700517754   0.2598861324350 229.172700517754 
In this case, the value for column 2 in the third row is a larger number than was requested by the print command, so the computer printed an 18-character field of asterisks. But then it looks to the computer like row three has only two columns.

When I upload a table, I get an error message saying "We cannot identify columns to use as coordinates or a column to use as object names/locations." Help!

Sometimes, this error happens because the column header is "RA" rather than "ra" or "De"/"Dec" rather than "dec", or the reverse. If your columns are RA/Dec and they don't work, try changing them to ra/dec.

The tools are looking for locations on the sky, like ra, dec, glon, glat, etc. If you have 'unusual' column headers, clean up the column names so they are recognizable by IRSA services. See Supported Coordinate Systems for more information.


| jcgRA    | jcgDec  | size   |
  150.3814   2.3606    60.0
  150.2794   2.1560    60.0
  149.8873   2.0789    60.0
  150.2323   1.9599    60.0
  150.5407   2.5196    60.0
  149.9343   2.4426    60.0

Here, there is extraneous text appended to the headers of RA and Dec, rendering the column name unrecognizable to the tool.

When uploading a table, I get an error saying "Failed to parse the table." Help!

Here are three of the most common errors that may result in this error message.

Reason #1: When using IPAC Table Format, data are located beneath the vertical bars in the header.
Solution: Align the data with the columns in the header. (See IPAC Table Format.)

Reason #2: Space is used as data delimiter, but also exists within the data, making it uninterpretable.
Solution: If you are using the tab-delimited format, carefully check your data for extra tabs that the system is interpreting as new columns. Be aware that tabs are not visually obvious when viewed on screen or in print; it's best to use a text editor that will allow you to view the file's underlying formatting. (See Best Practices For Successful Table Upload)

Reason: #3 Table contains non-printable ASCII characters.
A non-printable ASCII character in a table, such as ^[ (escape) or ^\\ (file separator), can create problems during the upload process. Tabs are one of the most common causes of failed uploads because they are considered characters, even if they don't appear on print-outs, or even on-screen. When used in a table, the tab character is translated into its ASCII counterpart (^I), which is not interpretable during table upload. So, you need to remove the characters from the file. Cleaning up tabs is done differently, based on your operating system and text editor:

  • On Max OSX, Linux and Sun OS, use the Unix command cat to view a file's non-printable characters:

    cat -tev filename Example 1: cat -tev ipac_good_table.tbl
    |         lon        |           lat     |$
    |        double    |        double  |$
        237.140482     -28.797019  $
        237.3              -28.0           $
    Example 2: cat -tev tab_delim_table.txt
    M56^I289.147941100^I30.184500500 $
    ic4710^I277.158208330^I-66.982277780 $
    hoix^I149.383333330^I69.045833330 $
    This will bring your file to the screen with all hidden characters, such as tabs (^I) and end of lines ( $ ) indicated. Tabs may seem like spaces and can easily be found using this command, and fixed. Additional blank space at the end of each line causes parser errors; if the end of line ( $ ) characters do not line up, then delete the blank space until they do.
  • In Microsoft Word on Windows machines, view all tabs in a document by toggling on formatting marks (click the toolbar button that looks like a paragraph symbol, similar to the pi symbol). Remove the arrows embedded within the table, and then save the file as "text only."

Do you have any tutorial videos?

Yes. The IRSA YouTube channel has several tutorials on archives housed at IRSA -- there are playlists organized by archive as well as a set of "micro-tutorials" relevant for more than one archive. The videos are in HD and have English closed captioning; you may need to manually use the YouTube gear menu to force it to realize this.

Do you have any Program Interfaces?

Program interfaces are available for many IRSA services. Please see the program interface documentation for a list.

What do I do with the zip files I get when I download data from some of the IRSA archives?

To uncompress the files you have downloaded from the command line, type "unzip <file>.zip". To uncompress multiple files at once, type "unzip '*.zip'" (the single quotes are important), or "unzip \\*.zip" -- you just have to escape out\ the wildcard.

Double-clicking on the zipfile, regardless of platform, should also uncompress the files.

How do I subscribe/unsubscribe to the IRSA Users Mailing List?

IRSA has a mailing list to inform users of new data releases and tools. Mailings are infrequent; only a few times a year. If you would like to be added or removed from this email list, please submit a ticket to the Help Desk.

Where can I find teaching resources for my high school or college course?

IRSA is part of Caltech-IPAC, which maintains several online educational resources for teachers and students, particularly the Cool Cosmos site.

Additionally, IRSA supports the NASA-IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP). NITARP provides a unique opportunity for groups of (primarily) high school teachers and students, with the help of a mentor astronomer, to have an authentic astronomy research experience via working with professional astronomical data and tools. The research team completes the data analysis, and presents their findings to others throughout the scientific community. The teachers are also expected to give presentations at relevant teachers' conferences. The program accepts applications annually in the Fall.

Where can I find images for my presentation?

Depending on your specific needs, there are a few places you can view and download presentation-quality images:

How can I contribute data to IRSA?

If you have data that would benefit the infrared and/or sub-millimeter astronomical community, please submit a ticket through IRSA's Help Desk.

To learn more about IRSA's quality standards for contributed data, please read about IRSA's Data Validation Tools. In summary, you need to have a published (or accepted), refereed journal article and your submitted data must meet several criteria, delineated at that link.

The scroll bar is not showing up in several IRSA tools.

If you are having this problem on a mac, you need to change your preferences. Open your System Preferences-->General (under Personal in the top row). Set "Show scroll bars" to "Always". This should fix the problem.

I've created a nice image within the FITS viewer, and I have the stretch and overlays exactly the way that I want them. How do I save this?

The diskette icon will allow you to save the current image as a FITS or PNG or Regions file to your local disk or to the IRSA Workspace. Note that you control where the file is saved on your disk through your browser; your browser may be configured to store all downloads in a particular location on your disk.

Saved FITS images will not save the color stretches or overlays; it will just save the underlying FITS image. Saved PNG files WILL include any overlays or annotations you have placed on the image, but will not include the underlying FITS image. Saved regions files will not save the underlying image, but will just save the overlays as a DS9 Regions file. See the DS9 website for more information on the syntax of these DS9 region files.

Note that you can save the original or a cropped version of the FITS file; use the select region icon to crop, and then save the FITS image.

Note also that if you overlay a catalog consisting of tens of thousands of sources, only the first 500 sources will be saved in the regions file, not the full catalog.