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Last modified: November 12, 2001
Astronomical Instrument Markup Language (AIML)

[January 27, 1999] The Astronomical Instrument Markup Language (AIML) "is the first implementation of the more general Instrument Markup Language (IML). Both AIML and IML are vocabularies based on the W3C standard, the Extensible Markup Language (XML). These vocabularies are under development by NASA/GSFC and Century Computing. Dialects such as PAML (Pipeline Algorithm ML) and IGS (Instrument GUI Stylesheet [XSL]) will be added in the near future. AIML is an instrument description that encompasses instrument characteristics, control commands, data stream descriptions (including image and housekeeping data), message formats, communication mechanisms, and pipeline algorithm descriptions. AIML also supports role-specific documentation and GUI component generation." A draft XML DTD and a sample AIML (XML) document for the Astronomical Instrument Markup Language are available online. An XML for Astronomy Mail Archive is hosted on the GSFC Web site. See also the related effort, (with which the AIML group is attempting to coordinate) "Astronomical Markup Language."


  • Astronomical Instrument Markup Language Home Page

  • AIML XML DTD [local archive copy]

  • Sample AIML (XML) document - the HAWC instrument. [local archive copy]

  • "Using Java Technology and XML for Astronomical Instrument Control." By Troy J. Ames, Lisa Koons, Craig E. Warsaw. 'NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and AppNet, Inc. have developed an astronomical instrument remote control architecture that combines the platform-independent processing capabilities of the JavaTM platform with the power of Extensible Markup Language (XML) to express hierarchical data in an equally platform-independent, as well as human readable manner.' See the full abstract.
  • XML for Astronomy Mail Archive - Subscribe to the list with the message "subscribe xml <your_email_address>" sent to

  • "Using XML for Instrument Description, Communication and Control of the SOFIA / HAWC Instrument." From the 193rd Meeting of the AAS (January 1999).

  • NASA Goddard Astronomical Data Center (ADC) XML Resources Page By Kirk D. Borne. "ADC is developing a standardized way to exchange data between researchers, publishers, and archives. Converting astronomical tables to XML will enable greatly expanded search capabilities."


  • [July 24, 1999] "Describing Astronomical Catalogues and Query Results with XML." By Alberto Accomazzi, Miguel Albrecht, Allan Brighton, Pierre Fernique, Damien Guillaume, et al.. July [16], 1999. "This short document details the first attempt of XML usage for tabular output description following the Strasbourg meeting June 23-25, 1999." With XSL stylesheet. See also the sample XML document, <ASTRO xmlns:astro="">. See "XML for Astronomy", and Astronomical Data Center at the Goddard Space Flight Center.y [local archive copy]

  • Instrument Control Markup Language (ICML)

  • See also: "Astronomical Markup Language"

  • XML for Astronomy - Links from NASA/GSFC Pioneer Public Web

  • [November 12, 2001] "XML for Instrument Control and Monitoring. Exchanging Data Between Instruments." By David Cox. In Dr Dobb's Journal [DDJ] (November 2001) #330, pages 83-85. [Embedded Systems. The Instrument Markup Language is an XML dialect designed to aid in the exchange of data and commands with remote instruments. Additional resources include listings, ixml.txt.] "Objects are used for machine-to-machine communications. However, both Microsoft's DCOM object technology and the Object Management Group's CORBA are "multiport protocols," which means they don't work too well with firewalls that limit the number of open ports. So much for efficient machine-to-machine communications. Partly because of this, Microsoft introduced a third protocol -- the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) -- that piggybacks on the single port protocol, HTTP. All three protocols -- DCOM, CORBA, and SOAP -- let client applications create objects that appear to be local, but really execute elsewhere on a network. In the near term, DCOM, CORBA, and SOAP will likely remain the preferred choices for distributed computing. Even in the world of instrument monitoring and control, for instance, COM and DCOM have been adopted as a standard for controlling instruments, at least in terms of the Open Process Control (OPC) Standard, promoted by the OPC Foundation. However, efforts are underway to use XML for electronic data interchange and all types of business transactions, as people begin exchanging everything from purchase orders to medical records as XML-formatted messages... a group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is using a dialect of XML called the "Instrument Markup Language" (IML) to control remote instruments. IML is being developed by NASA and Commerce One with the goal of creating a very general and highly extensible framework that applies to any kind of instrument that can be controlled by a computer. The Astronomical Instrument Markup Language (AIML) is the first implementation of IML. Although AIML was created for the astronomy domain in general and infrared instruments in particular, both AIML and IML were designed to apply to just about any instrument control domain... IML is a specification for using XML to aid in the exchange of data and commands with instruments. XML itself is not sent between computer and instrument. However, XML is used to describe the commands and data that can be transferred. For instance, a software tool reads the XML, automatically creates an appropriate user interface for issuing commands, and finally sends the commands in response to user input. When responses come back, the same tool can -- using the XML specification -- interpret the incoming data and automatically present it with an appropriate user interface. The original version of IML was written as an XML Data Type Declaration (DTD). The most recent version is written as an XML Schema..." [cache, text only]

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