Python Alternative for Programming in Astrophysics


Welcome to P.A.P.A. (Python Alternative for Programming in Astrophyisics) web site, with this project we want to give an opportunity to the scientists (and in particular astrophysicians) to use Python as their main program language to elaborate and represent their data.

If you are here, perhaps you know the RSI-IDL interactive language, which is a good data language with a large amount of useful 'routines' for scientific proposes but this software is only useful to elaborate data and can't be used for anything else, if you learn this language you will also have to learn csh for scripting, IRAF for image-reduction, and maybe some general propose language as C or Fortran.

Python is a very powerful, general propose, interpreted and object oriented programming language and, at the same time, it's very clear to read an easy to learn. Many programming courses use now python to teach the basis. If you program in this language you can virtually make everything: generate a web page reading databases, make a game (or an interactive simulation, which is not so different in concepts), read a lot of data and make some preliminary graphics, parse the output of a program and interactively communicate with it or anything you can imagine to do with a computer. Python is an open source project with a particular license GPL-compatible, and our project is indeed developed under the General Public License.

With this project we are showing that is not so hard to reproduce the basic features of IDL in python. Many big companies (As Space Telescope Science Institute) have already started to develop many tools in Python as Numarray, PyRAF and PyFITS. We try to use already existing extern packages for so many tasks as possible, but we want to give an interface (mainly function names, keywords names, etc.) similar to IDL language, this makes much easier to start working in Python knowing IDL. However, it is not necessary to know IDL to work with our modules, IDL is a good toolkit, but only this: a lot of well organized tools that, in python, right now, are sparsed in a lot of little external modules (from many different companies), and in rapid development.

Thank you for being interested in our project. I hope you will find it useful.

For a more detailed description of the project you can read its Manifesto. It is a bit old and it is in Spanish but also more extensive.

Maurizio Panniello. Last update 13/2/2004

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