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ABSTRACT: . This paper announces the release at CDS of a substantial set of point sources detected by the the DENIS project. DENIS is the first astronomical survey of the Southern sky in two near-infrared bands (J at 1.25 m, and K s at 2:15m) and one optical band (Gunn-i at 0.82 m), conducted by a European consortium, using the 1m telescope at ESO, La Silla (Chile). The first data release, described here, consists of a preliminary set of about 17 million extracted point sources, corresponding to 102 strips (2% of the Southern sky), and resulting from observations performed in 1996. Data are available through a World-Wide Web server at the CDS (Strasbourg astronomical Data Center): http://cdsweb.u-strasbg.fr/denis.html. Key words: Infrared: stars -- Galaxy: stellar content -- Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs -- Astronomical databases -- Surveys Send offprint requests to: S. Derriere ? Based upon observations collected at the European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile Correspondence to: d...