Astrobetter has a guest post by Niall “in the gutter” Deacon of the University of Hawaii on one of my favourite pieces of astronomical software, Topcat. Developed as part of the UK’s Virtual Observatory program Astrogrid, Topcat gives astronomers Tools for Operations on Catalogues and Tables. That doesn’t sound very sexy, but for anyone who deals with data from large public surveys or needs to cross-match several large datasets, Topcat is the grease in the cogs of their productivity.
Niall recorded a cool screencast to show off some of Topcat’s functionality, which I’ve embedded above. There’s also some useful discussion in the comments on Astrobetter, including one from Mark Taylor who actually wrote Topcat.
I use Topcat almost exclusively in conjunction with image viewer Aladin. Connecting the two via the SAMP protocol, which is done at the click of a button, allows you to send targets back and forth between the two, visualise catalog data or create tables from image data. Recent versions of DS9 are also VO-enabled, though I find the VO functionality of Aladin, i.e. searching catalogs, images and archives, more efficient and versatile.