R. Albrecht, B. Sjöberg (ST-ECF)
The 1997 conference of the Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems Conference series was organized by ST-ECF/ESO during 14 to 17 September, 1997. It was the first time this conference was held in Europe. ADASS conferences have, over the years, developed a unique format and a rather high standard. Participants have gotten used to having guaranteed access to the Internet, to having e-mail and demo stations at their disposal, and to be able to connect to the computers in their home offices. The standard format includes the usual oral and poster sessions, but also multiple and partially parallel evening sessions (called birds-of-a-feather (BOF) sessions, i.e. splinter meetings devoted to special topics).
These requirements, plus the estimated number of more than 200 participants, made it necessary to hold the conference outside of ESO. We found the ideal venue at the Allgau Stern Hotel in Sonthofen, a resort town about 100 kilometers southeast of Munich. Sonthofen is very typical for small towns in the Bavarian Alps and, in combination with beautiful mid-September weather, made an ideal setting for the conference. However, installing a local area network of some 20 machines and connecting it to the Internet presented a considerable challenge and required some workarounds, most of which, fortunately, remained invisible to the users
There were a total of 222 registered participants: six invited talks and 33 other oral contributions were given and 90 posters were presented. Thanks to our conference sponsors, which included ESO, ESA, STScI, NRAO, SUN Microsystems, IDL/CREASO and Sybase) we were able to sponsor 13 participants.
Key topics of the conference were Computational Astrophysics, Computational Infrastructure, Future Technologies, Data Analysis Applications, Education and Public Outreach, Data Flow and Scheduling , Archives & Information Services, and Astrostatistics/Data Bases.
Spanning several of these categories the largest single group of presentations were papers which, in one way or another, dealt with the issue of "End-to-End Data Flow": the chain of events which encompasses proposal submission, planning and scheduling, execution of the observation in one of several possible modes, calibration, data analysis, and archiving of the data. This reflects a trend which was started by space borne observing facilities like the HST, and which is now becoming increasingly evident for ground based observatories as they get larger and more complex.
Several of the BOFs dealt with familiar topics like IDL, IRAF and FITS. New this year were BOFs on planning and scheduling, in line with the main emphasis of the conference, on Astrobrowse, and one BOF devoted to Linux. This is a very important development. Personal computers, typically powered by Pentium/MMX processors, are beginning to outperform Unix stations. At the same time their prices, driven by multimedia and home entertainment applications, are substantially lower than the prices for Unix boxes. This makes it attractive to consider PC/Linux based platforms as an alternative for Unix stations.
Conspicuous by their absence were contributions about Java based applications made available through the Web. The potential of Java in this respect is obvious, Java is being used successfully outside of astronomy, so it comes as a surprise that astronomers are reluctant to use it. On the other hand, object oriented languages have not really caught on in astronomy yet.
A by-product of the FITS BOF was a short excursion into the "Year 2000" problem. It is evident that all observatories should test all their software for "2000" compatibility well ahead of time. Unwanted side effects range from the benign to the annoying to the embarrassing to the catastrophic.
The proceedings uf the conference will again be published by ASP, in accordance to established procedures. There will be an electronic version available on the Web, which will come on line soon after the manuscript submission deadline. Watch for it at: http://ecf.hq.eso.org/adass/adass97.html
As an additional attraction the local organizing committee had arranged for a total eclipse of the moon to occur during the conference banquet. This, plus generous amounts of Bavarian food and free beer (and free soft drinks) made the banquet a memorable event. It was attended by 210 people, which we believe is an all-time high in the history of ADASS banquets.
It is not always easy for everybody to travel to a conference which is more than a taxi ride away from the nearest international airport. However, the scientific content of the conference and the pleasant environment have made it well worth the effort.