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This page focuses on VESPA. Other access modes to planetary data predated VESPA and are still in use.


VO standards used in VESPA

General IVOA standards used by VESPA

Figure 1 identifies the IVOA standards used in VESPA


  • VESPA uses a single protocol to access most data services: EPN-TAP, which is based on the TAP mechanism associated with a list of parameters describing the data, standards units to store the numerical parameters, and reference lists of values for strings parameters. This is protocol of choice to access most data in this field, which are very often available as a list of files in a dataset, or as catalogs of object properties.

EPN-TAP is used to access all possible data types; a specific client (VESPA user interface) converts from EPN-TAP standard conventions to user parameters. In this sense, the set (VESPA interface and EPN-TAP) consitutes a middleware between the user and the data.

EPN-TAP provides access to granule level as defined by data providers, not to the underlying / subgranule structure. However, post-processing may be applied to a data product retrieved via VESPA (e.g. script extracting spectra from a cube, see CRISM use case or APERICubes).

Some useful extensions still need to be defined or finalized, including Projections/cartography, Lab spectroscopy (samples), Solar System objects properties, Collaborative work.


  • However, on-line codes also need specific access. A protocol in development will use the EPN-TAP parameters to pass input arguments to such codes.

Required for VESPA development

Solar System data description and handling require specific capabilities that are not always implemented for astronomy. The most important are listed here.

Coordinate systems

• The STC does not seem practical to accommodate the variety of coordinate syst in use in the Solar system.

  • Body-fixed frames are of particular interest, both because of their ubiquity and because we want to develop the connection between the VO and GIS.
  • Although IAU provides the characteristics of reference coordinate systems on solar system bodies, they do not include a version number to identify what system is actually used in a dataset.
  • Important parameters defining a body-fixed coordinate system include: body of interest, prime meridian and rotational parameters, control point system, date or version; plus possibly planetographic/centric nature, ellipsoid body radii, origin of vertical scale (altitude counted from ellipsoid or shape model, and altitude vs distance from center)
  • Current fits kw do not allow projecting images on ellipsoids, even less on 67Ps (see Chiara's proposals)


Although Solar System specific UCDs have been proposed in the recent year, the work is still in progress (here we stick to the principle to provide a description of quantities in UCDs rather than in Utypes - this is apparently what is used by VO tools to understand the data).

  • In particular, spectroscopic and photometric measurements in the Solar system are commonly performed in reflected light and require specific description:

• Unresolved sources may be measured as incident flux

• Resolved sources are either measured in radiance or reflectance (= I/F)

• Lab measurements are provided in slightly different scales


Flux can be described as phot.flux.density;em.wl

Radiance is best referred to as phys.luminosity;phys.angArea;em.wl in UCD 1.23, which is uncomfortably complicated. More appropriate would be phys.radiance (note: phot.radiance was proposed in v 1.3 but seems TBC for the thermal range)

Observed reflectance is usually provided as I/F (= radiance factor), which is the ratio of radiance to the reflected solar flux at the target distance (provided as sr-1). The only current match is phys.albedo, which is not very specific and implies a spectrally integrated quantity. More appropriate would be phys.reflectance

For lab measurements, standard quantities are reflectance/pi or reflectance/cosine of incidence angle, TBD

Normalized spectra may also need specific descriptors

Various kinds of albedos could be identified by specific UCDs


  • Another specific area is the description of illuminated conditions

Currently, only phase angle is described in the UCD doc. Incidence (or "solar zenithal angle" in some contexts, but this may be misleading) and emergence angles at least are required (and possibly azimuth).

Obvious choices would be pos.incidenceAng, pos.emergenceAng, pos.azimuthAng, TBC


  • Other opens issues are related to in-situ measurements, and samples description (e.g., measurements in the lab).

  • Other UCDs of more general use would be useful by EPN-TAP but are currently undefined:

pos.resolution (deprecated and replaced by pos.Angresolution) was useful to provide resolution on a linear distance axis, for instance on a planetary surface.

time.update could be used to provide the date of last update in a service (e.g. to speed up mirroring actions)

+ see UCDs used to described EPN-TAP parameters.

Time variations

Daily and seasonal variations cycles are commonly studied, and may require specific UCDs (is it in Characterization?)

Use of scenarios must be considered (e.g. simulated Martian years for atmospheric studies)

Time itself need to be related to the target whenever coordinated observations are involved - this is best way to handle multispacecraft observations

ADQL queries

Several problems have been spotted so far with ADQL requests in this context:

  • Case variations must be supported to allow the use of IAU standards, e.g. in target names - otherwise, we are forced to request data providers to violate IAU naming conventions (e.g. write mars instead of Mars) - this should be in ADQL 2.0, TBC. If yes, we have a requirement to use only servers implementing ADQL 2.0
  • Multivalued lists are difficult to handle. The obvious way is to search a string with 'like', but this yields many false alarms (e.g. Io contained in Iolanda), which can be solved by imposing a list separator.
    - fixed through RegTAP functions, but a combination of #list search and LIKE would be welcome.
  • Usage of NULL values - when the parameter contains no value, we do not necessarily want it to filter out results, TBC. It is possible to impose non-filtering of occasional NULL values using and extra OR query.
  • The s_region parameter is handy for searches on the sky, and can be enlarged to searches on a sphere. What about ellipsoids or 3D shapes? Is it consistent with use by GIS?
  • Searches with s_region require a coordinate frame. We currently have to use 'ICRS', but we need at least a generic 'BODY-FIXED' frame to handle longitudes/latitudes (east-handed, 0-360°).
  • More generally, use of ADQL regions is handy provided that the coordinate system is an input parameter (as opposed to assuming RA-DEC). Cartesian frames should also be supported.

Tools / special requirements

Open issues are related to:

  •  Currently no support for reflectance or radiance in any spectral tool - related to missing UCDs.
  •  Direct EPN-TAP support in tools to be considered when the library is ready.
    - addressed through VESPA developments
  •  1D spectra: Working with IRAP for CASSIS, being tested (already grabs reflectance spectra as VOtable, but cannot convert).
  •  1D-2D spectra : Specview used with APIS service, allows local summing of 2D spectra. Does not seem maintained though. I/O could be upgraded, in particular full support to VOtable in input + eps/pdf in output.
    - is that now handled in CASSIS ?
  • Supports the LineList protocol which seems more flexible than SLAP for our purpose. - unclear if this is an actual protocol (VAMDC related) or just a function in SpecView.
  • VOspec powerful but only accepts what it knows (therefore no reflectance). Plus, input dialogue is blocking
  • SPLAT-VO is handy as a plotter at least.
  • Spectral aggregates (e.g. Virtis-H, échelle spectrometer, but also multi-channel instruments) : special format needed?- see how SED tools can be used in this context. A specific format seem required, to store several spectral parts in a single file.


Other datatypes:

  • "Slices" or series of profiles?
  • Images: projections on ellipsoids and funny surfaces (3D shapes)
  • Working with CDS to handle planetary images in Aladin
  • Spectral cubes: APERICubes demonstrator - should also support 2D cubes (VIRTIS-H); GIS might be the best solution.
  • PDS3 handling: APERICubes bottom layer (converts PDS3 in fits subsets, either images or spectra - requires GDL/IDL session on server side)




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  1. Baptiste, shall we add VOEvent or open a page for VOEvent adaptation to PSWS (and VESPA?) needs ?

    1. Indeed there is very little info on the wiki currently - needed for the report at least

  2. In Figure 1 VOEvent should appear as used by EPN; please modify

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