NOIRLab IRAF v2.18 for MacOS

Release: January 2024


The NOIRLab IRAF v2.18 release is a product of the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC) and US National Gemini Office (US NGO) at NSF's NOIRLab. It's purpose is to upgrade the IRAF-based Gemini reduction software to provide a fully supported system capable of running natively on modern hardware. This work includes:

The project provides a bridge solution until the DRAGONS software is available for all facility instruments and modes, as well as additional benefits to the wider IRAF community. Results show a 10-20X speedup of reductions using the native 64-bit software compared to the virtualized 32-bit solutions now in use. Results are even better on Apple M1/M2 platforms where the additional overhead of Intel CPU emulation can be eliminated.

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System Requirements

Before You Begin

Quick Start Guide

To install the applications: To start IRAF/PyRAF from a running terminal window (once initialized by starting from the /Applications directory): To use the PyRAF Python environment:
     pyraf            Start the PyRAF command interpreter.
     pyraf_python     Start the Python interpreter used by PyRAF.
     pyraf_pip        Run the PyRAF environment ‘pip’ command to install new packages.

What’s New

The IRAF v2.18 system is primarily a platform update release and functionally is the same as the earlier v2.16 systems last released in 2013. The most significant update is a port of the system to Apple M1/M2 systems and the upgrade of the GEMINI reduction package.

For users, the most noticeable change will be improved speed of tasks using native binaries. GEMINI users will see up to 20X better performance in reducing data using the native 64-bit binaries.

For developers, these updates mean that the system will once again build easily on modern MacOS and Linux platforms.

Support for Gemini Data Reduction

The primary driver for this release is the port of the GEMINI data reduction package to support native 64-bit binaries, greatly speeding up the time taken for reducing Gemini data that still require IRAF tasks. As part of this, dependent tasks from the STSDAS and TABLES packages were extracted to a new ST4GEM external package. Other than minor changes required to use ST4GEM instead of STSDAS, the GEMINI tasks themselves were not changed.

Availability of some STSDAS tasks

The ST4GEM package is exclusively comprised of STSDAS tasks used by the GEMINI package but could be expanded to include 64-bit ports of other tasks/packages if needed. While some tasks had equivalents in the core system, porting the STSDAS task minimized any changes that may have lead to bugs or changes being introduced in the GEMINI results.

For users, this package brings back the IGI plotting tool and PSIKERN postscript graphics kernel as well as other utility tasks for header editing fitting and image tools.

For developers, table manipulation and graphics libraries (e.g. stxtools, gflib/gilib and tbtables) used by some external packages are once again available.

What’s Included

This installer contains the following software for both Apple and Intel systems: Additionally,

Installing the Applications

To manually install IRAF or other Applications on a Mac, follow these instructions:
  1. Double-click the NOIRLab-IRAF-v2.18.dmg disk image file to mount it on the desktop
  2. Double-click the NOIRLab-IRAF-v2.18 volume
  3. Drag and Drop each of the desired application icons to the ‘Applications’ folder in the Finder window
Note: If the DMG installer was downloaded using a web browser, you may see security popups when installing or launching the applications. These can be avoided in several ways:

Once the DMG is downloaded, remove the quarantine attribute before opening the image with the following command:
% xattr -c NOIRLab-IRAF-v2.18.dmg
Download the DMG file using cURL instead of a web browser, e.g.:
% cURL -OL

Configuring the Applications

The applications in this distribution have a limited set of configurable options to set user preferences. These options are beyond what can be configured using the standard IRAF or X11 methods. To accomplish this, the IRAF or PyRAF apps must be executed at least once in order to initialize the startup environment created in the $HOME/.iraf/initrc file. This file is a Bourne-shell script used by each of the application startup scripts and can be used to pass options into the startup process.

To configure your application environment simply edit the ‘$HOME/.iraf/initrc’ file with your favorite editor and modify any desired settings. Options that can be changed include:

cmd_shell      The IRAF command shell to be used. Values may be ‘cl’ or ‘pyraf’
start_dir      The starting directory for an IRAF session.  
               This defaults to the user’s home directory.

terminal       The graphics terminal to start for an IRAF or PyRAF session.  
               Values may be ‘xterm’ or ‘xgterm’.
bg_color       Terminal window background color.
fg_color       Terminal window foreground color.
nrows          Terminal window number of rows (height).
ncols          Terminal window number of columns (width).
font_name      Terminal window font name.

xim_bg         XImtool window background color
xim_fg         XImtool window foreground color
xim_width      XImtool window width (pixels)
xim_height     XImtool window height (pixels)
xim_toolbar    Display XImtool ToolBar on open (true | false)
xim_panelbar   Display XImtool PanelBar on open (true | false)

Known Problems

Although the core IRAF system and external package have undergone testing, bugs are always expected in a new release and will be handled in future patch releases or thru the Help Desk. Bugs found in the earlier v2.16.1 release, and subsequently by the iraf-community release, have been fixed in this release as part of the platform upgrade work with the following exceptions:

  1. Background jobs in the CL:
  2. Description: Some recent operating systems use a Position Independent Code model that breaks the forking of backgrounds jobs by the CL preventing results from being returned properly to the parent CL. Work done in the iraf-community release appears to fix this problem, however the changes required were still under review at the time of this release.
    Resolution: This problem will be fixed in the next patch release.

License Problem Mitigation Performed

The use of Numerical Recipes (NR) algorithms in the original IRAF system was legitimately raised as a licensing issue for the distribution of IRAF according to the Numerical Recipes licensing terms. This has been detailed on the IRAF-Community site at:

This release addresses each of those files both in the core system and where they appear in external packages distributed as part of this release. Specific changes are documented as part of the repository change history and in numerous ‘Issues’ attached to the repository itself.

In general, Numerical Recipes code changes were addressed in one of the following ways:


This work is supported by NOIRLab, which is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. In particular, US NGO staff were critical in science testing the new GEMINI package to ensure proper results. We are grateful to our colleagues at Gemini for useful discussions and internal access to their package test environment.

The NOIRLab IRAF project also benefited greatly from the earlier work done by the ‘iraf-community’ ( project to identify and fix bugs in the system. Their replacements to the Numerical Recipes code with open-source equivalents were adopted almost in their entirety in this release.

Appendix I: External Packages

The NOIRLab IRAF v2.18 release comes with all available (i.e. public packages with no outstanding licensing issues) external packages pre-installed. Individual packages may still be downloaded from the repositories or updated by users as described in the package README files. Additional packages may be added in future updates.

External packages have not been tested as extensively as the core system, however they have also not been modified as part of this release, just recompiled. Please contact the help desk with any issues.

This release includes the following packages:

New or Updated Packages:
gemini      	Gemini data reduction package
st4gem      	A subset of STSDAS tasks for use by the GEMINI package
General Reduction and Utility Packages:
ctio        	CTIO utilities and tasks
fitsutil    	FITS utility tasks
gmisc       	Miscellaneous Gemini related Tasks
guiapps     	IRAF GUI applications package
mem0        	MEM0 image deconvolution package
mscdb      	 MSCRED database directory files for use with NOAO Mosaic Data
mscred      	CCD mosaic reduction package
nfextern    	NEWFIRM/IR reduction package
rvsao       	A package to obtain radial velocities from spectra (from SAO)
sptable     	Tools to deal with spectra stored as tables
xdimsum     	Experimental Deep Infrared Mosaicing Software (DIMSUM variant)
Instrument-specific Packages:
cfh12k      	CFH 12K mosaic reduction package
deitab      	DEIMOS table format tools
esowfi      	ESO WFO mosaic reduction package
iue         	Tools for IUE data
optic       	Utilities for the ESO OPTIC instrument
song        	Stellar Oscillations Network Group package (Coude Feed data)
sqiid       	SQIID instrument reduction package
ucsclris    	Mask design tools for the Keck LRIS instrument
upsqiid     	Updated package for SQIID instrument reduction
Miscellaneous Utility Packages:
adccdrom    	IRAF tools for accessing the ADC CD-ROM
finder      	FINDER astrometry tools
mtools      	Various utilities from Jeff Munn
steward     	A suite of IRAF based packages developed at Steward Observatory

Appendix II: XGTerm and XImtool Binaries

The X11IRAF tools, i.e. XGTerm and XImtool, are provided with this release on as as-is basis. They were built from unaltered sources available from

While the Help Desk may be able to provide answers to questions about using these tools, bug reports (and ideally, fixes) should be reported to the repo as an new Issue on the task.

Appendix III: PyRAF Environment

The PyRAF application in this release is based on a Python 3.8 MiniConda system with a minimal set of other python packages installed that may be useful for general astronomical scripting. Environments for both Apple and Intel systems are included in the PyRAF app but only the binaries appropriate for the current machine will be used. Installing the IRAF application creates convenience commands in $HOME/.iraf/bin to allow users to access this environment. Additional packages may be added to your PyRAF conda system with the command:

% pyraf_pip install <pkgname>

The PyPi package for PyRAF used here originates from the repository at Bug reports for PyRAF errors should be reported as new Issues on that repository. Usage questions will be forwarded to the appropriate Help Desk as required.

The base environment was built with the following packages:

Base Miniconda version: Miniconda3-py38_23.1.0-1-MacOSX

Additional Packages Installed:

astrocalc       	astroml           astroplan         astropy
astropy-healpix   	astropy-helpers   astroquery        fitsio
ginga             	h5py              httplib2          ipython
matplotlib        	numpy             pandas            passlib
pathlib           	photutils         pyraf             pyvo
pyds9			speclite          specutils

A complete manifest of the environment is:

# Name                    Version                   Build  Channel
appnope                   0.1.3                    pypi_0    pypi
asdf                      2.15.0                   pypi_0    pypi
asdf-astropy              0.4.0                    pypi_0    pypi
asdf-coordinates-schemas  0.2.0                    pypi_0    pypi
asdf-standard             1.0.3                    pypi_0    pypi
asdf-transform-schemas    0.4.0                    pypi_0    pypi
asdf-unit-schemas         0.1.0                    pypi_0    pypi
asdf-wcs-schemas          0.3.0                    pypi_0    pypi
astrocalc                 0.4.2                    pypi_0    pypi
astroimtools              0.3                      pypi_0    pypi
astroml                   1.0.2.post1              pypi_0    pypi
astroplan                 0.9.1                    pypi_0    pypi
astropy                   5.2.2                    pypi_0    pypi
astropy-healpix           0.7                      pypi_0    pypi
astropy-helpers           4.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
astroquery                0.4.6                    pypi_0    pypi
asttokens                 2.4.1                    pypi_0    pypi
attrs                     23.1.0                   pypi_0    pypi
backcall                  0.2.0                    pypi_0    pypi
beautifulsoup4            4.12.2                   pypi_0    pypi
brotlipy                  0.7.0           py38h1a28f6b_1002
ca-certificates           2023.01.10           hca03da5_0
certifi                   2022.12.7        py38hca03da5_0
cffi                      1.15.1           py38h80987f9_3
charset-normalizer        2.0.4              pyhd3eb1b0_0
conda                     23.1.0           py38hca03da5_0
conda-content-trust       0.1.3            py38hca03da5_0
conda-package-handling    2.0.2            py38hca03da5_0
conda-package-streaming   0.7.0            py38hca03da5_0
configobj                 5.0.8                    pypi_0    pypi
contourpy                 1.1.1                    pypi_0    pypi
cryptography              38.0.4           py38h834c97f_0
cycler                    0.12.1                   pypi_0    pypi
decorator                 5.1.1                    pypi_0    pypi
docopt                    0.6.2                    pypi_0    pypi
docutils                  0.20.1                   pypi_0    pypi
exceptiongroup            1.2.0                    pypi_0    pypi
executing                 2.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
fitsio                    1.2.1                    pypi_0    pypi
fonttools                 4.47.0                   pypi_0    pypi
fundamentals              2.6.1                    pypi_0    pypi
future                    0.18.3                   pypi_0    pypi
ginga                     4.1.1                    pypi_0    pypi
gwcs                      0.18.3                   pypi_0    pypi
h5py                      3.10.0                   pypi_0    pypi
html5lib                  1.1                      pypi_0    pypi
httplib2                  0.22.0                   pypi_0    pypi
idna                      3.4              py38hca03da5_0
imexam                    0.9.1                    pypi_0    pypi
importlib-metadata        7.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
importlib-resources       6.1.1                    pypi_0    pypi
iniconfig                 2.0.0                    pypi_0    pypi
ipython                   8.12.3                   pypi_0    pypi
jaraco-classes            3.3.0                    pypi_0    pypi
jedi                      0.19.1                   pypi_0    pypi
jmespath                  1.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
joblib                    1.3.2                    pypi_0    pypi
jsonschema                4.17.3                   pypi_0    pypi
keyring                   24.3.0                   pypi_0    pypi
kiwisolver                1.4.5                    pypi_0    pypi
libcxx                    14.0.6               h848a8c0_0
libffi                    3.4.2                hca03da5_6
lockfile                  0.12.2                   pypi_0    pypi
matplotlib                3.7.4                    pypi_0    pypi
matplotlib-inline         0.1.6                    pypi_0    pypi
more-itertools            10.1.0                   pypi_0    pypi
ncurses                   6.4                  h313beb8_0
ndcube                    2.1.4                    pypi_0    pypi
numpy                     1.24.4                   pypi_0    pypi
openssl                   1.1.1s               h1a28f6b_0
packaging                 23.2                     pypi_0    pypi
pandas                    2.0.3                    pypi_0    pypi
parso                     0.8.3                    pypi_0    pypi
passlib                   1.7.4                    pypi_0    pypi
pathlib                   1.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
pexpect                   4.9.0                    pypi_0    pypi
photutils                 1.8.0                    pypi_0    pypi
pickleshare               0.7.5                    pypi_0    pypi
pillow                    10.1.0                   pypi_0    pypi
pip                       23.3.2                   pypi_0    pypi
pkgutil-resolve-name      1.3.10                   pypi_0    pypi
pluggy                    1.0.0            py38hca03da5_1
prompt-toolkit            3.0.43                   pypi_0    pypi
psutil                    5.9.7                    pypi_0    pypi
ptyprocess                0.7.0                    pypi_0    pypi
pure-eval                 0.2.2                    pypi_0    pypi
pycosat                   0.6.4            py38h1a28f6b_0
pycparser                 2.21               pyhd3eb1b0_0
pyds9                     1.8.1                    pypi_0    pypi
pyerfa                            pypi_0    pypi
pygments                  2.17.2                   pypi_0    pypi
pyopenssl                 22.0.0             pyhd3eb1b0_0
pyparsing                 3.1.1                    pypi_0    pypi
pyraf                     2.2.1                    pypi_0    pypi
pyrsistent                0.20.0                   pypi_0    pypi
pysocks                   1.7.1            py38hca03da5_0
pytest                    7.4.3                    pypi_0    pypi
pytest-astropy-header     0.2.2                    pypi_0    pypi
python                    3.8.16               hc0d8a6c_2
python-daemon             3.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
python-dateutil           2.8.2                    pypi_0    pypi                3                py38h1a28f6b_0
pytz                      2023.3.post1             pypi_0    pypi
pyvo                      1.5                      pypi_0    pypi
pyyaml                    6.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
qtpy                      2.4.1                    pypi_0    pypi
readline                  8.2                  h1a28f6b_0
requests                  2.28.1           py38hca03da5_0
ruamel.yaml               0.17.21          py38h1a28f6b_0
ruamel.yaml.clib          0.2.6            py38h1a28f6b_1
scikit-learn              1.3.2                    pypi_0    pypi
scipy                     1.10.1                   pypi_0    pypi
semantic-version          2.10.0                   pypi_0    pypi
setuptools                65.6.3           py38hca03da5_0
six                       1.16.0             pyhd3eb1b0_1
soupsieve                 2.5                      pypi_0    pypi
speclite                  0.17                     pypi_0    pypi
specutils                 1.12.0                   pypi_0    pypi
sqlite                    3.40.1               h7a7dc30_0
stack-data                0.6.3                    pypi_0    pypi
threadpoolctl             3.2.0                    pypi_0    pypi
tk                        8.6.12               hb8d0fd4_0
tomli                     2.0.1                    pypi_0    pypi
toolz                     0.12.0           py38hca03da5_0
tqdm                      4.64.1           py38hca03da5_0
traitlets                 5.14.0                   pypi_0    pypi
typing-extensions         4.9.0                    pypi_0    pypi
tzdata                    2023.4                   pypi_0    pypi
urllib3                   1.26.14          py38hca03da5_0
wcwidth                   0.2.12                   pypi_0    pypi
webencodings              0.5.1                    pypi_0    pypi
wheel                     0.37.1             pyhd3eb1b0_0
xz                        5.2.10               h80987f9_1
zipp                      3.17.0                   pypi_0    pypi
zlib                      1.2.13               h5a0b063_0
zstandard                 0.18.0           py38h1a28f6b_0

Copyright 2023-2024 Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

IRAF is in part provided by the  Community Science and Data Center (CSDC) at NSF's NOIRLab, the national center for ground-based nighttime astronomy in the United States operated by the  Association of Universities for Research in  Astronomy (AURA)  under cooperative agreement with the  National Science Foundation.