Programmatic Interfaces

JWST data may be queried and accessed via community tools or user-written programs through an Application Programming Interface, such as the MAST API, or various Virtual Observatory tools.

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Programmatic interfaces allow a user to discover and access JWST data through scripted queries in various programming languages, instead of going through the standardized web interface. This affords a greater degree of complexity and customization in searches and retrievals. Through this mechanism the user may also cast a wider search net in an effort to discover any and all data related to a particular object or location. The two primary methods of performing these queries are through the MAST API or various Virtual Observatory services.


The Mashup Application Programming Interface (API) provides a way to access data stored in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) through a programming language of the user's choice. It does this by translating customized URL requests into database queries, which allows the user to create scripts designed to assemble specific query parameters and to send those queries in batches.

Beyond simple queries, the MAST API is able to extend much of the functionality of the MAST web portal to a programming environment.  This includes the ability to perform cross-matching searches with various data catalogs, cone searches of a specific target location, table filtering based on specific columns, and target name resolution. For detailed service descriptions, instructions, and examples of this API in use with Python, please refer to the Mashup API page. This page also includes a Jupyter notebook-style example of a Python MAST data search and retrieval.

VO services

The NASA Astronomical Virtual Observatories (NAVO) program aims to provide access to data stored in some of NASA’s largest archives by creating a standardized interface for submitting queries across multiple datasets. These archives include MAST along with the High-Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), the Infrared Science Archive (IRSA), and the NASA Extragalactic Database (NED)

Similar to the Mashup API, VO services also primarily function by translating customized URL requests into database queries. The four primary types of available queries follow:

SCS, SIAP, and SSAP queries all provide broad methods of data discovery within certain search parameters, while TAP is better suited to finding specific data as it supports more complex SQL-like queries.

More information on VO access to MAST holdings can be found here. Table 1 lists additional VO resources and tools.

Table 1. Additional VO resources

AstroGridVO services hosted at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh. (last updated 2012, defunct?)
Canadian Virtual ObservatoryVarious VO tools hosted by the CADC.
CasJobsA tool for creating custom databases using MAST and GALEX data.
DataScopeTarget name and position searches hosted by HEASARC.
International Virtual Observatory AllianceThe IVOA sets standards and facilitates international VO cooperation. A good deal of VO information and links to more tools can be found here.
selesteGUI and command line VO tools from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Virtual Observatory ServicesA collection of VO tools developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.


International Virtual Observatory Alliance

Mashup API for MAST

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