The Australian Virtual Observatory


The Australian Virtual Observatory (AVO) will be an integral component of the International Virtual Observatory (IVO), which will link the archives of all the world's major observatories into one distributed database, with powerful tools to optimise the extraction of science from the data. As a result, data from all the world's major observatories will be available to all users, and to the public. A user can simply request some data or an image of some particular part of the sky, or perhaps the result of some operation on several data sets, and the IVO will provide the result to the user. If the data does not yet exist, the IVO may tell the user how to obtain it, or might in some cases direct a robotic telescope to obtain the data.

The Australian contribution will be in four distinct areas:


The concept of a Virtual Observatory is based on the fact that scientific discoveries are generated as much by use of archive data as by use of "live" observations. For example, data from the Hubble Space Telescope typically gets used four times: once by the original investigator and three times more by other astronomers accessing the HST archive. To extend this grand concept to all major observatories requires a great deal of IT development, and there is a strong effort in the US and Europe to develop this concept, funded at a level of tens of millions of dollars. Australia has some of the world's major observatories and some key expertise required to develop the IVO, and both Australian science and the Australian IT industry stands to gain from Australian involvement in the IVO. The IVO is likely to become the primary means of accessing astronomical data, with gains in productivity and cost-effectiveness of the observatories that participate in it.


We propose to set up an Australian component of the IVO which we call the "Australian Virtual Observatory", which will work closely with its counterparts in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. In collaboration with our overseas partners, we will aim to:


Document last modified: 5 February 2001