The Astronomer's Telegram: A Web-based Short-Notice Publication System for the Professional Astronomical Community
The Astronomer's Telegram (ATEL) is a web-based short-notice (<4000 characters) publication system for reporting and commenting on new astronomical observations, offering for the first time in astronomy effectively instantaneous distribution of time-critical information for the entire professional community. It is designed to take advantage of the World Wide Web's simple user interface and the ability of computer programs to provide nearly all the necessary functions. This makes ATEL fast, efficient, and free. In practice, one may post a Telegram, which is instantly (<1 s) available at the web site and is distributed by e-mail within 24 hours through the Daily Email Digest, which is tailored to the subject selections of each reader. In addition, authors reporting new outbursts of transients or coordinates of new objects (for example, gamma-ray bursts or microlensing events) may request distribution by Instant Email Notices, which instantly (~minutes) distributes their new Telegram by e-mail to self-identified workers interested in the same topic. This speed in distribution is obtained because no editing or reviewing is performed after posting-the last person to review the text before distribution is the author. Telegrams are enumerated chronologically, permanently archived, and referenceable. While ATEL will be of particular use to observers of transient objects (such as gamma-ray bursts, microlenses, supernovae, novae, or X-ray transients) or in fields that are rapidly evolving observationally, there are no restrictions on subject matter.