||Tool for OPerations on Catalogues And Tables or TOPCAT is a graphical viewer for table data. It offers a variety of ways to work with data tables, including a browser for the cell data, viewers for information about table and column metadata, dataset visualization, and even analysis. We discuss a small subset of TOPCAT’s functionalities in this chapter.
TOPCAT was originally developed as part of the Starlink program in the United Kingdom. It is now maintained by AstroGrid. The program is written in pure Java and available under the GNU General Public License. It is available for download and a version is included in the software distribution accompanying this book. TOPCAT is a GUI interface on top of the STIL library. A command line interface to this library, STILTS, described in Chapter 21 provides scriptable access to many of the capabilities described here.
The purpose of this tutorial is to provide an overview of TOPCAT to the novice user. The best place to look for and learn about TOPCAT is the web page maintained by Mark B. Taylor. There, TOPCAT documentation is provided in HTML, PDF, via screen shots, etc. In this chapter we take the user through a few examples that give the general idea of how TOPCAT works. The majority of the functionality of TOPCAT is not included in this short tutorial.
Our goal in this tutorial is to lead the reader through an exercise that would result in a publication quality figure (e.g. for a journal article). Specifically, we will use TOPCAT to show how the color-magnitude relation of a galaxy cluster compares to that of all galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (York et al. 2000). This diagnostic is used not only in cluster finding, but its linear fit can provide insight into the age and/or metallicity of the oldest galaxies in galaxy clusters (which are some of the oldest galaxies in the Universe).
The data we need for this exercise are: 1) the entire spectroscopic galaxy catalog from the SDSS, with galaxy positions, galaxy redshifts, and galaxy magnitudes and 2) galaxy members of a known galaxy cluster. For the former, we will download data directly from the SDSS servers to our local machine for analysis. For the latter, we will use TOPCAT’s ability to call live cone search services.