Ureka! – A new easy-to-install IRAF + PyRAF distribution from STScI and Gemini

This is a guest post by Christine Slocum, a software engineer at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), on behalf of the Ureka team.

Last month, STScI and Gemini announced the first public beta release of the Ureka binary installer for common astronomical software (primarily for the UV/Optical/IR community). The goals of the Ureka installer are to:

  • Minimize the number of actions needed to install all the different software components.  We provide an install script that detects the user’s platform then downloads and installs the appropriate binary build.

  • Permit installation without requiring system privileges.

  • Make installs as problem-free as possible for the great majority of users.

  • Permit different Ureka installations to coexist and to easily switch between them.  This is useful if you want to try a new version of Ureka, but still want to keep an older one around as well.

  • Enable installing different versions of the same software package under a particular Ureka installation.

  • Support Macs and most popular Linux variants.

Ureka does not use the environment variable LD_LIBRARY_PATH (DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH on Macs) and thus should not affect existing software after installation or use.

Keep in mind that no installation system is completely foolproof–that’s nearly impossible to achieve. In particular, when users update or add software to the Ureka framework, they increase the risk of breaking something, but we feel that is an option users should have as long as they understand the risks.

This beta version includes IRAF 2.16 and associated packages for IRAF, DS9, and a fairly full suite of Python scientific software packages (e.g., numpy, scipy, and matplotlib). The full listing of included software can be found at this link: http://ssb.stsci.edu/ureka/1.0beta5/docs/components.html.

Ureka can be downloaded from: http://ssb.stsci.edu/ureka (choose “1.0 beta 5”). Installation and usage instructions can be found on the same web page. We have also provided an FAQ.

This is a beta release. We do expect to uncover some problems that we did not encounter during our testing.  However, Ureka has institutional support from STScI and Gemini, so if you do experience problems, send an email to help@stsci.edu for assistance. We also welcome feedback on additional software components you think we should include.

15 comments… add one
  • Abhi Jul 16, 2013 @ 11:45

    Finally! Thank you :). Uninstalled stsci_pyraf and installed the Ureka installation and it works perfectly.

    How often do you guys plan to update the python components – just wondering if I should add ur_setup to the .cshrc. I noticed for example that scipy is still at version 0.10.1 while my native scipy installation is at 0.11.0

    • Christine Slocum Aug 10, 2013 @ 16:04

      Hi Abhi,

      We plan to update the Python components regularly. We are expecting to release Ureka 1.0 beta 6 this month, and we’ve upgraded to Python 2.7.5. We’ve also upgraded many of the Python packages including matplotlib, scipy, and numpy.

      If you don’t want to have to type “ur_setup” every time you open a new terminal, adding the command to .cshrc is a good solution.


    • James Turner Aug 11, 2013 @ 14:07

      SciPy, NumPy & Matplotlib will be updated to their latest versions (assuming testing goes well) in the upcoming beta6. We’d like to keep them reasonably current.

  • Daniela Jul 18, 2013 @ 21:18

    Works perfectly, thanks!

  • Jessica Lu Aug 3, 2013 @ 5:56

    Just used it to install… works great! I did need to get a matplotlibrc file and I noticed that not all the backends were installed. The MacOSX backend worked; but not the GTKAgg ones. Is there a list of which backends are installed with Ureka?

  • James Turner Aug 11, 2013 @ 14:16

    I think we’re only providing Tk/MacOS GUI back ends at the moment. It’s difficult to ensure that all the native GUI toolkits would work out of the box (eg. by building & distributing our own GTK and/or Qt to make sure the user has the right version), but we’re looking into what more we can do to on this front.

  • Gautham Aug 12, 2013 @ 21:23

    ur_test claimed it passed all tests, but there were issues with the X11 IRAF routines. They were all showing as properly linked against 32-bit libraries even on an otherwise 64-bit OS (Crunchbang 11), but through up the usual symbol errors (this time from libXrender.so.1). Just pulling the X11IRAF 2.0 beta from http://iraf.noao.edu/iraf/ftp/iraf/x11iraf/ and replacing the executables with the ones in bin.linux fixed it.

    Some of the python packages are a bit out of date, but not terribly so.

    I wish they’d included a few other useful things like the xpatools, sextractor, swarp and the pidly and pysex python packages.

  • Jason Lozo Jun 11, 2014 @ 16:40

    I’ve tried installing Ureka several times and not once gotten Pyraf to function. I continuously get cascades of errors. Then again, I’ve never been able to make Pyraf work on my home computer. I always go down the same rabbit hole of “This doesn’t exist, install it,” go to install that and something else needs installed, go to install that and Linux won’t do it for some ambiguous reason.

    • Christine Aug 25, 2014 @ 8:48

      Hi Jason,

      Have you sent email to help@stsci.edu about this problem? We probably can help with some more information.



  • ana lalovic Aug 21, 2014 @ 8:34

    Hi all,

    all works great. Thanx. Just wondering how to add some new packages (into external) to IRAF? And how to mkpkg them?

    • Christine Sep 2, 2014 @ 11:06

      Hi Ana,

      It depends on which IRAF package you’re trying to add. I encourage you to send an email with more information to help@stsci.edu. We should be able to help.


  • horacio dottori Nov 16, 2014 @ 6:45

    I’ve a very nive problem: I can’t simple run iraf in ubuntu, although all seems to have been installed ok with eureka. Cl, ecl used to call iraf in the old version doesn’t work.
    thanks for any help

    • Fangfang Nov 9, 2016 @ 9:03

      I have installed Ureka yesterday, and it worked well yesterday. But today when I opened the computer and tried to continue my work, I found I can’t work xgterm at all. The error is:
      “xgterm: symbol lookup error: /home/songff/Ureka/iraf/lib32/libX11.so.6: undefined symbol: xcb_wait_for_reply64”
      could you help me how to fix it? Thank you!

  • Lenka Feb 8, 2017 @ 8:50

    I had the same error as Fangfang, my solution:
    first, I made a backup of the library which was producing the error:
    “cd Ureka/iraf/lib32/
    mv libX11.so.6 libX11.so.6.bac”
    in terminal I wrote: “locate libX11.so” to find this library in my system. Output looked like this:
    I chose the library for 32 bit system and copied it in Ureka iraf directory to replace the library coming with Ureka:
    “cp /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libX11.so.6 /home/lenka/Ureka/iraf/lib32/”
    Hope it helps to somebody

    • Mradumay Sadh Feb 15, 2019 @ 23:11

      Thank you Lenka for the solution

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