For users working in astronomy and space sciences, IRAF is a long-standing software application having a variety of powerful and relevant tools. Although IRAF contains numerous packages for very specific applications and instrumental reductions, Mira and IRAF have many common capabilities. Another similarity is that Ph.D. level experts contribute to the algorithms and techniques used in both. However, IRAF is free of charge while Mira is a commercial product. If you don't need the specialized instrument reduction packages in IRAF, why should you consider moving to Mira? Here are 10 reasons:
Shorter Learning Curve
Mira commands and procedures are easier to learn and use, allowing researchers and students alike to get results quicker. For example, users have reported producing magnitude-calibrated aperture photometry within 5 minutes after first installing Mira — and before reading the manual.
Versions for Different Levels and Needs
IRAF provides a single, megalithic version. Mira comes in 4 platforms — Pro, AP, AL, and MX — designed for users having different needs and different levels of knowledge or experience. Whether you are a Ph.D. researcher, a non-science major, a high school student, or somewhere between, there is a Mira platform that works for you. All platforms share a common user interface, making it easier to move from one platform to another. And instructors find it invaluable having access to powerful tools in their platform while keeping needless complexity away from students.
Mira executes data reduction and image processing tasks faster than any other software on the same computer hardware. And Mira's scripting language is also one of the fastest available.
Faster Image Display and Plotting
Mira is faster at displaying images and data and in updating the display after changes. Significantly faster display means you finish work sooner and it don't fear interrogating images, exploring "what if" scenarios, or trying some type of processing that can be immediately undone if needed.
Modern User Interface
IRAF has its foundations in a 1970's model of computing and user interfaces. Mira is a product of 21st century software and hardware architecture. While Mira and IRAF each contain some tools not found in the other, Mira adds numerous unique concepts such as processing, measuring, and plotting images in groups called "image sets".
Powerful, yet easier Scripting Language
Like IRAF, Mira offers a programming extension language to create custom scripts that leverage its core processing routines. But scripting capability in Mira is more heuristic, enabling users having even a modest knowledge of C, C++, or Basic or similar language to begin writing, editing, and running scripts minutes of first use. Mira MX Scripting includes more than 1000 functions and Mira Pro Scripting provides more than 600 functions plus dozens of sample scripts to get you going. You also can transparently extend the included script library and share your tools with other Mira users.
Fast, Expert Technical Support
You can phone or E-mail Mirametrics to get technical support when you need it. With Mira, your only recourse isn't just to post questions on a web forum and wait until another IRAF user answers it.
Less System-Level Knowledge is Required
Mira installs cleanly under Windows or a Windows environment without the need for system-level expertise on optimizing swap partitions, installing virtual machines, building component packages, or setting up command-line user environments.
Ongoing Code Development
IRAF development and bug repair by its authors has stopped. In contrast, Mira is an active product that continues to evolve in response to our vision and the needs of our users.
Thorough Documentation is Standard
All Mira platforms include a detailed User's Guide that presents topics in a richly illustrated publication quality format appropriate for both beginners and experts. The standard documentation includes numerous examples and how-to cookbooks.