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Manual Reference Pages  -  ASTRO::SIMBAD::CLIENT (3)

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Astro::SIMBAD::Client - Fetch astronomical data from SIMBAD 4.



 use Astro::SIMBAD::Client;
 my $simbad = Astro::SIMBAD::Client->new ();
 print $simbad->query (id => Arcturus);


As of release 0.027_01 the SOAP interface is deprecated. The University of Strasbourg has announced that this interface will not be supported after April 1 2014.

Because the SOAP interface is still sort of functional (except for VO-format queries) as of June 4 2014, I have revised the transition plan announced with the release of 0.027_01 on October 28 2014.

What I have done as of version 0.031_01 is to add attribute emulate_soap_queries. This is false by default. If this attribute is true, the query() method and friends, instead of issuing a SOAP request to the SIMBAD server, will instead construct an equivalent script query, and issue that. The deprecation warning will not be issued if emulate_soap_queries is true, since the SOAP interface is not being used.

I intend to make the default value of emulate_soap_queries true in the first release on or after October 1 2014, assuming SOAP queries work for that long.

When the SOAP servers go out of service (and I notice) SOAP queries will become fatal, and the default value of emulate_soap_queries will become true if it is not already.

Eventually the SOAP code will be removed. In the meantime all tests are marked TODO, and support of SOAP by this module will be on a best-effort basis; that is, if I can make it work without a huge amount of work I will — otherwise SOAP will become unsupported.


This package implements several query interfaces to version 4 of the SIMBAD on-line astronomical catalog, as documented at <>. This package will not work with SIMBAD version 3.B> Its primary purpose is to obtain SIMBAD data, though some rudimentary parsing functionality also exists.

There are three ways to access this data.

- URL queries are essentially page scrapers, but their use is documented, and output is available as HTML, text, or VOTable. URL queries are implemented by the url_query() method.

- Scripts may be submitted using the script() or script_file() methods. The former takes as its argument the text of the script, the latter takes a file name.

- Queries may be made using the web services (SOAP) interface. The query() method implements this, and queryObjectByBib, queryObjectByCoord, and queryObjectById have been provided as convenience methods. As of version 0.027_01, SOAP queries are deprecated. See the NOTICE section above for the deprecation schedule.

Astro::SIMBAD::Client is object-oriented, with the object supplying not only the SIMBAD server name, but the default format and output type for URL and web service queries.

A simple command line client application is also provided, as are various examples in the eg directory.


The following methods should be considered public:
$simbad = Astro::SIMBAD::Client->new (); This method instantiates an Astro::SIMBAD::Client object. Any arguments will be passed to the set() method once the object is instantiated.
$string = $simbad->agent (); This method retrieves the user agent string used to identify this package in queries to SIMBAD. This string will be the default string for LWP::UserAgent, with this package name and version number appended in parentheses. This method is exposed for the curious.
@attribs = $simbad->attributes (); This method retrieves the names of all public attributes, in alphabetical order. It can be called as a static method, or even as a subroutine.
$value = $simbad->get ($attrib); This method retrieves the current value of the named attribute. It can be called as a static method to retrieve the default value.
$result = Parse_TXT_Simple ($data); This subroutine (<B>notB> method) parses the given text data under the assumption that it was generated using FORMAT_TXT_SIMPLE_BASIC or something similar. The data is expected to be formatted as follows:

A line consisting of exactly ’---’ separates objects.

Data appear on lines that look like

 name: data

and are parsed into a hash keyed by the given name. If the line ends with a comma, it is assumed to contain multiple items, and the data portion of the line is split on the commas; the resultant hash value is a list reference.

The user would normally not call this directly, but specify it as the parser for ’txt’-type queries:

 $simbad->set (parser => {txt => Parse_TXT_Simple});

$result = Parse_VO_Table ($data); This subroutine (<B>notB> method) parses the given VOTable data, returning a list of anonymous hashes describing the data. The $data value is split on ’<?xml’ before parsing, so that you get multiple VOTables back (rather than a parse error) if that is what the input contains.

This is <B>notB> a full-grown VOTable parser capable of handling the full spec (see <>). It is oriented toward returning <TABLEDATA> contents, and the metadata that can reasonably be associated with those contents.

<B>NOTEB> that as of version 0.026_01, the requisite modules to support VO format are <B>notB> required. If you need VO format you will need to install XML::Parser or XML::Parser::Lite

The return is a list of anonymous hashes, one per <TABLE>. Each hash contains two keys:

  {data} is the data contained in the table, and
  {meta} is the metadata for the table.

The {meta} element for the table is a reference to a list of data gathered from the <TABLE> tag. Element zero is the tag name (’TABLE’), and element 1 is a reference to a hash containing the attributes of the <TABLE> tag. Subsequent elements if any represent metadata tags in the order encountered in the parse.

The {data} contains an anonymous list, each element of which is a row of data from the <TABLEDATA> element of the <TABLE>, in the order encountered by the parse. Each row is a reference to a list of anonymous hashes, which represent the individual data of the row, in the order encountered by the parse. The data hashes contain two keys:

 {value} is the value of the datum with undef for ~, and
 {meta} is a reference to the metadata for the datum.

The {meta} element for a datum is a reference to the metadata tag that describes that datum. This will be an anonymous list, of which element 0 is the tag (’FIELD’), element 1 is a reference to a hash containing that tag’s attributes, and subsequent elements will be the contents of the tag (typically including a reference to the list representing the <DESCRIPTION> tag for that FIELD).

All values are returned as provided by the XML parser; no further decoding is done. Specifically, the datatype and arraysize attributes are ignored.

This parser is based on XML::Parser.

The user would normally not call this directly, but specify it as the parser for ’vo’-type queries:

 $simbad->set (parser => {vo => Parse_VO_Table});

$result = $simbad->query ($query => @args); This method is <B>deprecatedB>, and will cease to work in April 2014. Please choose a method that does not use SOAP. See the NOTICE above for details.

This method issues a web services (SOAP) query to the SIMBAD database. The $query specifies a SIMBAD query method, and the @args are the arguments for that method. Valid $query values and the corresponding SIMBAD methods and arguments are:

  bib => queryObjectByBib ($bibcode, $format, $type)
  coo => queryObjectByCoord ($coord, $radius, $format, $type)
  id => queryObjectById ($id, $format, $type)


  $bibcode is a SIMBAD bibliographic code
  $coord is a set of coordinates
  $radius is an angular radius around the coordinates
  $type is the type of data to be returned
  $format is a format appropriate to the data type.

The $type defaults to the value of the type attribute, and the $format defaults to the value of the format attribute for the given $type.

The return value depends on a number of factors:

If the query found nothing, you get undef in scalar context, and an empty list in list context.

If a parser is defined for the given type, the returned data will be fed to the parser, and the output of the parser will be returned. This is assumed to be a list, so a reference to the list will be used in scalar context. Parser exceptions are not trapped, so the caller will need to be prepared to deal with malformed data.

Otherwise, the result of the query is returned as-is.

<B>NOTEB> that this functionality makes use of the SOAP::Lite module. As of version 0.026_01 of Astro::SIMBAD::Client, SOAP::Lite is not a prerequisite of this module. If you wish to use the query() method, you will have to install SOAP::Lite separately. This can be done after Astro::SIMBAD::Client is installed.

$value = $simbad->queryObjectByBib ($bibcode, $format, $type); This method is <B>deprecatedB>, and will cease to work in April 2014. Please choose a method that does not use SOAP. See the NOTICE above for details.

This method is just a convenience wrapper for

 $value = $simbad->query (bib => $bibcode, $format, $type);

See the query() documentation for more information.

$value = $simbad->queryObjectByCoord ($coord, $radius, $format, $type); This method is <B>deprecatedB>, and will cease to work in April 2014. Please choose a method that does not use SOAP. See the NOTICE above for details.

This method is just a convenience wrapper for

 $value = $simbad->query (coo => $coord, $radius, $format, $type);

See the query() documentation for more information.

$value = $simbad->queryObjectById ($id, $format, $type); This method is <B>deprecatedB>, and will cease to work in April 2014. Please choose a method that does not use SOAP. See the NOTICE above for details.

This method is just a convenience wrapper for

 $value = $simbad->query (id => $id, $format, $type);

See the query() documentation for more information.

$release = $simbad->release (); This method returns the current SIMBAD4 release, as scraped from the top-level web page. This will look something like ’SIMBAD4 1.045 - 27-Jul-2007’

If called in list context, it returns ($major, $minor, $point, $patch, $date). The returned information corresponding to the scalar example above is:

 $major => 4
 $minor => 1
 $point => 45
 $patch => 
 $date => 27-Jul-2007

The $patch will usually be empty, but occasionally you get something like release ’1.019a’, in which case $patch would be ’a’.

Please note that this method is <B>notB> based on a published interface, but is simply a web page scraper, and subject to all the problems such software is heir to. What the algorithm attempts to do is to find (and parse, if called in list context) the contents of the next <td> after ’Release:’ (case-insensitive).

$value = $simbad->script ($script); This method submits the given script to SIMBAD4. The $script variable contains the text if the script; if you want to submit a script file by name, use the script_file() method.

If the verbatim attribute is false, the front matter of the result (up to and including the ’::data:::::’ line) is stripped. If there is no ’::data:::::’ line, the entire script output is raised as an exception.

If a ’script’ parser was specified, the output of the script (after stripping front matter if that was specified) is passed to it. The parser is presumed to return a list, so if script() was called in scalar context you get a reference to that list back.

If no ’script’ parser is specified, the output of the script (after stripping front matter if that was specified) is simply returned to the caller.

$value = $simbad->script_file ($filename); This method submits the given script file to SIMBAD, returning the result of the script. Unlike script(), the argument is the name of the file containing the script, not the text of the script. However, if a parser for ’script’ has been specified, it will be applied to the output.
$simbad->set ($name => $value ...); This method sets the value of the given attributes. More than one name/value pair may be specified. If called as a static method, it sets the default value of the attribute.
$value = $simbad->url_query ($type => ...) This method performs a query by URL, returning the results. The type is one of:

 id = query by identifier,
 coo = query by coordinates,
 ref = query by references,
 sam = query by criteria.

The arguments depend on on the type, and are documented at <>. They are specified as name => value. For example:

 $simbad->url_query (id =>
    Ident => Arcturus,
    NbIdent => 1

Note that in an id query you must specify ’Ident’ explicitly. This is true in general, because it is not always possible to derive the first argument name from the query type, and consistency was chosen over brevity.

The output.format argument can be defaulted based on the object’s type setting as follows:

 txt becomes ASCII,
 vo becomes VOTable.

Any other value is passed verbatim.

If the query succeeds, the results will be passed to the appropriate parser if any. The reverse of the above translation is done to determine the appropriate parser, so the ’vo’ parser (if any) is called if output.format is ’VOTable’, and the ’txt’ parser (if any) is called if output.format is ’ASCII’. If output.format is ’HTML’, you will need to explicitly set up a parser for that.

The type of HTTP interaction depends on the setting of the post attribute: if true a POST is done; otherwise all arguments are tacked onto the end of the URL and a GET is done.


The Astro::SIMBAD::Client attributes are documented below. The type of the attribute is given after the attribute name, in parentheses. The types are:

 boolean - a true/false value (in the Perl sense);
 hash - a reference to one or more key/value pairs;
 integer - an integer;
 string - any characters.

Hash values may be specified either as hash references or as strings. When a hash value is set, the given value updates the hash rather than replacing it. For example, specifying

 $simbad->set (format => {txt => %MAIN_ID\n});

does not affect the value of the vo format. If a key is set to the null value, it deletes the key. All keys in the hash can be deleted by setting key ’clear’ to any true value.

When specifying a string for a hash-valued attribute, it must be of the form ’key=value’. For example,

 $simbad->set (format => txt=%MAIN_ID\n);

does the same thing as the previous example. Specifying the key name without an = sign deletes the key (e.g. set (format => ’txt’)).

The Astro::SIMBAD::Client class has the following attributes:
autoload (boolean) This attribute determines whether setting the parser should attempt to autoload its package.

The default is 1 (i.e. true).

debug (integer) This attribute turns on debug output. It is unsupported in the sense that the author makes no claim what will happen if it is non-zero.

The default value is 0.

delay (integer) This attribute sets the minimum delay in seconds between requests, so as not to overload the SIMBAD server. If Time::HiRes can be loaded, you can set delays in fractions of a second; otherwise the delays will be rounded to the nearest second.

Delays are from the time of the last request to the server, no matter which object issued the request. The delay can be set to 0, but not to a negative number.

The default is 3.

emulate_soap_queries (boolean) If this attribute is true, the methods that would normally use the SOAP interface (that is, query() and friends) use the script interface instead.

The purpose of this attribute is to give the user a way to manage the deprecation and ultimate removal of the SOAP interface from the SIMBAD servers. It may go away once that interface disappears, but it will be put through a deprecation cycle.

The default is false, but will become true once the University of Strasbourg shuts down its SOAP server.

format (hash) This attribute holds the default format for a given query() output type. See <> for how to specify formats for each output type. Output type ’script’ is used to specify a format for the script() method.

The format can be specified either literally, or as a subroutine name or code reference. A string is assumed to be a subroutine name if it looks like one (i.e. matches (\w+::)*\w+), and if the given subroutine is actually defined. If no namespace is specified, all namespaces in the call tree are checked. If a code reference or subroutine name is specified, that code is executed, and the result becomes the format.

The following formats are defined in this module:

   a simple-to-parse text format providing basic information;
   pseudo-YAML (parsable by YAML::Load) providing basic info;
   VOTable field names providing basic information.

The FORMAT_TXT_YAML_BASIC format attempts to provide data structured similarly to the output of Astro::SIMBAD, though Astro::SIMBAD::Client does not bless the output into any class.

A simple way to examine these formats is (e.g.)

 use Astro::SIMBAD::Client;
 print Astro::SIMBAD::Client->FORMAT_TXT_YAML_BASIC;

Before a format is actually used it is preprocessed in a manner depending on its intended output type. For ’vo’ formats, leading and trailing whitespace are stripped. For ’txt’ and ’script’ formats, line breaks are stripped.

The default specifies formats for output types ’txt’ and ’vo’. The ’txt’ default is FORMAT_TXT_YAML_BASIC; the ’vo’ default is FORMAT_VO_BASIC.

There is no way to specify a default format for the ’script_file’ method.

parser (hash) This attribute specifies the parser for a given output type.

Parsers may be specified by either a code reference, or by the text name of a subroutine. If specified as text and the name is not qualified by a package name, the calling package is assumed. The parser must be defined, and must take as its lone argument the text to be parsed.

If the parser for a given output type is defined, query results of that type will be passed to the parser, and the result returned. Otherwise the query results will be returned verbatim.

The output types are anything legal for the query() method (i.e. ’txt’ and ’vo’ at the moment), plus ’script’ for a script parser. All default to ’’, meaning no parser is used.

post (boolean) This attribute specifies that url_query() data should be acquired using a POST request. If false, a GET request is used.

The default is 1 (i.e. true).

server (string) This attribute specifies the server to be used. As of January 26 2007, only ’’ is valid, since as of that date Harvard University has not yet converted their mirror to SIMBAD 4.

The default is ’’.

type (string) This attribute specifies the default output type. Note that although SIMBAD only defined types ’txt’ and ’vo’, we do not validate this, since the SIMBAD web site hints at more types to come. SIMBAD appears to treat an unrecognized type as ’txt’.

The default is ’txt’.

url_args (hash) This attribute specifies default arguments for url_query method. These will be applied only if not specified in the method call. Any argument given in the SIMBAD documentation may be specified. For example:

 $simbad->set (url_args => {coodisp1 => d});

causes the query to return coordinates in degrees and decimals rather than in sexagesimal (degrees, minutes, and seconds or hours, minutes, and seconds, as the case may be.) Note, however, that VOTable output does not seem to be affected by this.

The initial default for this attribute is an empty hash; that is, no arguments are defaulted by this mechanism.

verbatim (boolean) This attribute specifies whether script() and script_file() are to strip the front matter from the script output. If false, everything up to and including the ’::data:::::’ line is removed before passing the output to the parser or returning it to the user. If true, the script output is passed to the parser or returned to the user unmodified.

The default is 0 (i.e. false)


Thomas R. Wyant, III (wyant at cpan dot org)


Copyright (C) 2005-2016 by Thomas R. Wyant, III

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl 5.10.0. For more details, see the full text of the licenses in the directory LICENSES.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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