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IPAC Firefly
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Firefly-324: Fixed: when a catalog is reloaded from the background manager its color changes.
Latest commit d9fb9e7 Aug 23, 2019


Firefly is IPAC's Advanced Astronomy WEB UI Framework. It is for building a web-based Front end to access science archives. It provides sophisticated interactive data visualization capabilities. Our efforts to create a tightly integrated and user-friendly interface have generated numerous positive feedback from scientists. Users can browse and understand large volumes of archive data in a fraction of the time it took in the past.

Note - if you are pulling, look at the branches section

Firefly Framework

Firefly is being reused for various archives because it is a framework of archive components. This has allowed us now to implement multiple archive systems at a fraction of the cost of the first system, Spitzer Heritage Archive. Firefly has undergone an extensive re-write since then, adopted React/Redux framework for the client side, making it much easier to work with other JavaScript libraries. Recently we have adopted Plotly.js graphing library.

Firefly Viewer

By default, this repository builds a default example webapp. This tool can be used for viewing FITS data, catalogs, and xyplots. It is a general viewer tool for retrieving and viewing astronomy related data.

Firefly APIs

Firefly APIs exposes the most powerful components of Firefly in a way that can be used by any web page with no prerequisites. It allows any web developer access to Firefly's FITS visualizers or Table Tool with just a very few lines of JavaScript. The goal is to make these APIs very easy to use with only a 10 minute learning curve.

An important feature is that the Firefly APIs server can be installed cross-site. In other words, it is not required to be on the same server as the web page. Firefly APIs can do this because it uses JSONP or CORS for the server communication. This allows Firefly APIs not to be limited by the server's Same Origin Policy and to give the developer a lot of flexibility. The web developer does not have to do any installation, but can simply just start using Firefly APIs.


The firefly components contain three main visualizers for astronomy data.

Tabular Data Display

Firefly has implemented “Excel-like” tables on the webpage. In an easy, interactive way, a user can sort the results, filter the data on multiple constraints, hide or show columns, or select data for download or visualization. The Firefly APIs server is optimized to show very large tables without significant performance degradation. We have tested it with over 10 million rows, 50 column tables.

FITS Visualization

Firefly provides a first-class FITS visualization on the Web without any plugins. All of the significant components you would expect to see in a basic desktop FITS application are available with data that Firefly displays. The FITS visualizer allows for plotting any table data with Lon(RA) and Lat(Dec). Therefore, users can overlay multiple catalogs over their FITS image and interact with it.

2D Graphs

Firefly shows 2D graphs interactively so that a user can read the data point values as he moves his mouse around or zooms in to investigate the data at a finer level. These graphs are used for spectrum or plotting table columns. The user can specify any column that the tables are showing. The user can also define expressions from the columns for the XY Plot, such as (col1*col2/tan(col3)). Table based charts share their data model with the table, so both table and chart can trigger or respond to the common events, such as filtering of the data. Firefly also supports histogram and heatmap graph.


There are several branches the this repository. Here are the ones that you should care about.

  • rc: the next release canidate branch. This is the most stable branch.
  • master: Update once a week. Used for our relatively stable, weekly build.
  • dev: this branch could be updated every day. It is the active development branch. It is not stable.
  • DM-xxx, IRSA-xxx : Those branches are temporary for development feature branches.



Prepare before the build

  • Make sure you have <GRADLE>/bin, <JAVA>/bin, and <NODE>/bin in your PATH.
  • Install yarn via npm: npm install yarn -g

How to build Firefly.jar:

First git clone the firefly repository or download the zip (and unzip) to your target machine. Then install the prerequisites (node, java, tomcat).

In a terminal, cd into the firefly directory, then run:

$ gradle :firefly:jar

This generates firefly.jar located at ./jars/build/. You may include this jar into your project to build advanced astronomy web applications.

How to build and deploy Firefly Viewer:

In a terminal, cd into the firefly directory, then run:

$ gradle :firefly:war

To include the API documentation and tutorial into the war archive run:

$ gradle :firefly:warAll    

This generates firefly.war located at ./build/dist/. Simply drop this file into your $CATALINA_HOME/webapps/ directory to deploy it. $CATALINA_HOME is your Tomcat server installation directory.

Goto http://localhost:8080/firefly to launch Firefly Viewer. The documentation is accessible via http://localhost:8080/firefly/docs/js/index.html

Supported Browsers

Firefly supports the following browsers:

  • safari >= 10,
  • chrome >= 67
  • firefox >= 60
  • edge >= 16

More Docs

####Firefly JavaScript API overview See (Deprecated [docs/])

####Firefly Remote API using Python overview See

####Code Examples Using Firefly APIs See (Deprecated [docs/])

####Setting up the Server correctly for FITS files See

####Changing the Firefly runtime environment See

####Adding external task launcher or Python Launcher to Firefly See

####Release branches and tags See

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