Miriad review

Miriad has been an essential tool for the Compact Array for many years. Due to the diligent and careful work of Bob Sault, it has supported the key science of the Compact Array while maintaining a reputation for simplicity, robustness, and excellent documentation (thanks in large part to the work of Neil Killeen).

On 9 June 2006, in response to a request from the ATUC, the Director convened a panel to review the future of Miriad at the ATNF. The panel members were Steven Tingay (Swinburne, Chair), Tim Cornwell (ATNF), Naomi McClure-Griffiths (ATNF), Tony Wong (UNSW/ATNF), and Vince McIntyre (ATNF, ex officio). The terms of reference for the committee and a brief summary of the response follows:

  • Do users still see Miriad as a useful radio astronomy package?

    Yes. The overwhelming response of users is that Miriad has been and is currently a highly successful radio astronomy package, specifically for observations using the Compact Array.
  • Could the review panel comment on Compact Array upgrades that they see as essential for Miriad to support in the near future?

    The review panel identified the CABB upgrade as the highest priority Compact Array project for which Miriad support is critical in the near-term.
  • Is there other important functionality missing in Miriad?

    The review panel received many submissions from many users (emailed and verbal). The following list should not be taken as complete, given the time available for the review, but is sufficient to illustrate the fact that there are many minor developments that need to be addressed in Miriad:

    • Completion of port to 64-bit machines;
    • Solution to XMTV 24 bit display problems;
    • Inclusion of w-projection imaging algorithms;
    • Improved coordinate handling;
    • Inclusion of better methods for rotation measure calculation;
    • Ability to use calibration sources with structure in MFCAL and GPCAL;
    • More consistent and more complete use of PGPLOT functionality in interactive plotting tasks;
    • Ability to load data from Australian Long Baseline Array (new VLBI capabilities; circular polarisations).

  • Given the transition to pipelines based on the AIPS++ toolkit for future instruments such as the xNTD and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), what role do users see for long-term development in Miriad?

    The review panel felt that the base level answer to this question is that as long as the Compact Array is operational, Miriad should be the primary data reduction package.

  • Given competing resources, can the review panel comment on attempts to merge US and Australian Miriad?

    The review panel did not see a strong argument to reunify Australian and US versions of Miriad, recognising that there may be benefits for Compact Array users, but also recognising that there were likely to be very significant overheads in a reunification process.

The ATNF is drawing up a plan to address these recommendations, taking into account the impending needs of CABB in particular. Meanwhile, we have asked Mark Calabretta to take responsibility for maintenance of the code base following the departure of Bob Sault. He has made excellent progress in easing the installation and upkeep of Miriad on various platforms. His report follows.

Dave McConnell and Tim Cornwell
(David.McConnell@csiro.au, Tim.Cornwell@csiro.au)