Pleinpot introduction Programmer's manual Users's manual Installation manual


Version 8.12 (2016/04/05)


Pleinpot is a software environment for astronomical data reduction and analysis available for different flavours of UNIX, including Linux. The software is designed for an easy access to data from the Virtual Observatory (VO) and helps to publish data or results in the VO. Pleinpot is the software support of the Hyperleda database.

The different tools available are:

Pleinpot is freely available under the termes of the GNU/GPL license.

The documentation is available either in man format callable from the command line or in HTML.


PLEINPOT offers tools to support the work of astronomers, from the preparation of observations to the data analysis and to their publication in a database registered in the Virtual Observatory. It gives access to the HyperLeda database (to study the physics of galaxies) and provides programs to manage, reduce and analyse FITS data.

The pleinpot library counts more than 1000 documented routines which can be linked with a program written in Fortran or in C. They deal with user's interface, database access, FITS data access, data processing and fitting, graphic output. The library gather also a number of specialized astronomical functions to deal for example with celestial positions, Galactic extinction...

Strength and limitations

The main strengths are (1) to provide a powerful interface to HyperLeda both from within the user's programs (linked with the pleinpot library) or from the shell or web. (2) To provide a variety of functions that are not available elsewhere. (3) To offer easy interface with the environment and with the data within a program. (4) To offer a good users-support.

The two strongest present limitations are (1) a documentation which is not enough organized (it is hard to find which routine to use for a particular task), and (2) an unsufficient error handling (it is not always simple to understand the reason of an error).


PLEINPOT was born in 1985, on December 25. The meaning of the acronym is "Petit Logiciel d'Exploitation des Images Numeriques Pour l'Observatoire de Toulouse" (Ph. Prugniel did his thesis in Toulouse in 1985-1988). It derives from STII/CDCA, the image processing system developed at Observatoire de Nice by A Bijaoui and collaborators, in the seventies. Since 1994 it has evolved toward the development of ``instruments'' to what became now the Virtual Observatory.

Version 1: 1985, PdP 11, Observatoire de Toulouse
Version 2: 1987, Vax 750, Observatoire de Toulouse
Version 3: 1989, Vax 8600, ESO/Garching
Version 4: 1994, UNIX/IBM, Observatoire de Lyon
Version 5: 1997, UNIX & LINUX, Observatoire de Lyon
Version 6: 1998, UNIX & LINUX, Observatoire de Lyon (readline)
Version 7: 1998/Dec, UNIX & LINUX, Observatoire de Lyon (fitsio)
Version 8.1: 2002/09/17, (include Postgres server)
Version 8.3: 2003/01/20, (LEDA on the Postgres server)
Version 8.5: 2003/05/09 (LEDA and Hypercat on the Postgres server)
Version 8.9: 2004/05/04 (uprade web module, first release of PLAPIS1)
Version 8.11: 2006/03/11
Version 8.12: 2016/04/05


The distribution also includes some GNU packages which are installed whenever they are needed and are not available on the platform. They are: the readline library, wget and postgres. Pleinpot uses the autoconf utility to prepare the configuration scripts.

Several modules have been adapted from other systems, in particular from STII/CDCA (the historical origin of the system, image processing algorithms). The graphic driver xwgraph is due to G. Castagnoli, OHP. The driver for generating GIF output is based on the gd package, by Thomas Boutell. The cfitsio library (B. Pence) is used for all the accesses to FITS files. The celestial coordinates systems in images are handled with the wcs library

Many routines were written, improved or corrected by many contributors, in particular, Rumen Bogdanovski, Igor Chilingarian, J. Cuenot Emmanuel Davoust, Vladimir Georgiev, Regis Haigron, Isabelle Jegouzo, Sergey Koposov, Roch Mangenot, Jean-Luc Nieto, Sebastien Soilen and Ivan Zolotukhin

Some other pieces of software were borrowed to other packages and references to the authors are given, when those were identified. If anything breaks a license policy, this is not intentional, let it know to Philippe Prugniel.

Installation and/or update

The installation manual uses a configuration script and makefiles.

The installation is almost GNU standard. In short, you will type:

       mkdir $HOME/pleinpot; cd $HOME/pleinpot
       wget "" -O- | tar -xzf -
       make install-whole


The user's manual describes how to use Pleinpot.

The programmes can be executed as command line (ie. the parameters are provided after the name of the program), or, if the parameters are not given on the command line, the user is prompted for their value.

The other major mode of operation is through an http server (cgi), as for the HyperLeda database.

The application programs are presented in: pleinpot_applications

Programmer's manual

The programmer's manual describes how to create programs in Fortran, C, Python, PHP or Perl.

Small examples are: patutorial and ctutorial.

User's support and acknowledgments

We provide support if you have difficulties. In any case, we would appreciate to be informed of your use of PLEINPOT (prugniel at

In addition a small note to acknowledge the use of PLEINPOT in your publications would be welcome to help justify the extra-time spent to distribute the S/W. Please, keep us informed of what you are doing with PLEINPOT.

Pleinpot documentation (Wed Aug 30 22:23:34 CEST 2017 )