What is a Virtual Observatory?
The Virtual Observatory is an international astronomical community-based initiative.
It aims to allow global electronic access to the available astronomical data archives
of space and ground-based observatories, sky survey databases. It also aims to enable
data analysis techniques through a coordinating entity that will provide common standards,
wide-network bandwidth, and state-of-the-art analysis tools.
It is now possible to have powerful and expensive new observing facilities at wavelengths
from the radio to the X-ray and gamma-ray regions. Together with advanced instrumentation
techniques, a vast new array of astronomical data sets will soon be forthcoming at all
wavelengths. These very large databases must be archived and made accessible in a systematic
and uniform manner to realise the full potential of the new observing facilities.
The Virtual Observatory aims to provide the framework for global access to the various
data archives by facilitating the standardisation of archiving and data-mining protocols.
New Paradigm for Researchers
The Virtual Observatory initiative is a global collaboration of the
world's astronomical communities under the auspices of the recently formed
International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA).
The EURO-VO project aims at deploying an operational VO in Europe.
with the European astronomical infrastructural networks
and through membership and support of the IVOA, EURO-VO is seekiing to obtain
the following objectives:
- support to the scientific community to utilise the new VO infrastructure
through dissemination, workshops, project support, and VO facility-wide
resources and services;
- building of an operational VO infrastructure in response to new scientific
challenges via development and refinement of VO components, assessment of new
technologies, design of new components and their implementation.
- technology take-up and full VO compliant data and resource provision
by astronomical data centres in Europe;
The EURO-VO project is open to all European astronomical data
centres. Initial partners include ESO,
the European Space Agency,
and six national funding agencies, with their respective VO nodes:
Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF, Italy),
Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers (INSU, France),
Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial (INTA, Spain),
Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor Astronomie (NOVA, Netherlands),
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC, UK),
and Rat Deutscher Sternwarten (RDS, Germany).