- Press Release
- August 6, 2022
Press Meeting 20 January 2003: First Light for Europe’s Virtual Observatory
Imagine you are an astronomer with instant, fingertip access to all
existing observations of a given object and the opportunity to sift
through them at will. In just a few moments, you can have information
on all kinds about objects out of catalogues all over the world,
including observations taken at different times.
Over the next two years this scenario will become reality as Europe’s
Astrophysical Virtual Observatory (AVO) develops. Established only a
year ago (cf. ESO PR 26/01), the AVO already offers astronomers a
unique, prototype research tool that will lead the way to many
outstanding new discoveries.
Journalists are invited to a live demonstration of the capabilities of
this exciting new initiative in astronomy. The demonstration will take
place at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Manchester, in the United
Kingdom, on 20 January 2003, starting at 11:00.
Sophisticated AVO tools will help scientists find the most distant
supernovae – objects that reveal the cosmological makeup of our
Universe. The tools are also helping astronomers measure the rate of
birth of stars in extremely red and distant galaxies.
Journalists will also have the opportunity to discuss the project with
leading astronomers from across Europe.
The new AVO website has been launched today, explaining the progress
being made in this European Commission-funded project:
To register your intention to attend the AVO First Light
Demonstration, please provide your name and affiliation by January 13,
2003, to: Ian Morison, Jodrell Bank Observatory (full contact details
below). Information on getting to the event is included on the webpage
Programme for the AVO First Light Demonstration
For more information about Virtual Observatories and the AVO, see the
website or the explanation below.
Notes to editors
The AVO involves several partner organisations led by the European
Southern Observatory (ESO). The other partner organisations are the
European Space Agency (ESA), AstroGrid (funded by PPARC as part of the
UK’s E-Science programme), the CNRS-supported Centre de Donnees
Astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS), the University Louis Pasteur in
Strasbourg, France, the CNRS-supported TERAPIX astronomical data
centre at the Institut d’Astrophysique in Paris, France, and the
Jodrell Bank Observatory of the Victoria University of Manchester,
: This is a joint Press Release issued by the European Southern
Observatory (ESO), the Hubble European Space Agency Information
Centre, AstroGrid, CDS, TERAPIX/CNRS and the University of Manchester.
Peter J. Quinn
European Southern Observatory (ESO)
Tel: +49-89-3200 -6509
University of Manchester/Jodrell Bank Observatory
Tel: +44-147-757-26-25 (0147 in the United Kingdom)
University of Manchester/Jodrell Bank Observatory
Tel: +44-147-757-26-10 (0147 in the United Kingdom)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org email: email@example.com
Lars Lindberg Christensen
Hubble European Space Agency Information Centre
Tel: +49-89-3200-6306 (089 in Germany)
Cellular (24 hr): +49-173-3872-621 (0173 in Germany)
Richard West (ESO EPR Dept.)
ESO EPR Dept.
What is a Virtual Observatory? – A short introduction
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
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. The AVO will
also take advantage of state-of-the-art advances in data-handling
software in astronomy and in other fields.
The Virtual Observatory initiative is currently aiming at a global
collaboration of the astronomical communities in Europe, North and
South America, Asia, and Australia under the auspices of the recently
formed International Virtual Observatory Alliance.
The Astrophysical Virtual Observatory – An Introduction
The breathtaking capabilities and ultrahigh efficiency of new ground
and space observatories have led to a ‘data explosion’ calling for
innovative ways to process, explore, and exploit these data.
Researchers must now turn to the GRID paradigm of distributed
computing and resources to solve complex, front-line research
problems. To implement this new IT paradigm, you have to join existing
astronomical data centres and archives into an interoperating and
single unit. This new astronomical data resource will form a Virtual
Observatory (VO) so that astronomers can explore the digital Universe
in the new archives across the entire spectrum. Similarly to how a
real observatory consists of telescopes, each with a collection of
unique astronomical instruments, the VO consists of a collection of
data centres each with unique collections of astronomical data,
software systems, and processing capabilities.
The Astrophysical Virtual Observatory Project (AVO) will conduct a
research and demonstration programme on the scientific requirements
and technologies necessary to build a VO for European astronomy. The
AVO has been jointly funded by the European Commission (under FP5 –
Fifth Framework Programme) with six European organisations
participating in a three year Phase-A work programme, valued at 5
million Euro. The partner organisations are the European Southern
Observatory (ESO) in Munich, Germany, the European Space Agency (ESA),
AstroGrid (funded by PPARC as part of the UK’s E-Science programme),
the CNRS-supported Centre de Donnees Astronomiques de Strasbourg
(CDS), the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, the
CNRS-supported TERAPIX astronomical data centre at the Institut
d’Astrophysique in Paris, France, and the Jodrell Bank Observatory of
the Victoria University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
The Phase A program will focus its effort in the following areas:
* A detailed description of the science requirements for the AVO will be
constructed, following the experience gained in a smaller-scale science
demonstration program called ASTROVIRTEL (Accessing Astronomical
Archives as Virtual Telescopes).
* The difficult issue of data and archive interoperability will be
addressed by new standards definitions for astronomical data and trial
programmes of “joins” between specific target archives within the
* The necessary GRID and database technologies will be assessed and
tested for use within a full AVO implementation.
The AVO project is currently working in conjunction with other
international VO efforts in the United States and Asia-Pacific
region. This is part of an International Virtual Observatory Alliance
to define essential new data standards so that the VO concept can have
a global dimension. The AVO partners will join with all astronomical
data centres in Europe to put forward an FP6 IST (Sixth Framework
Programme – Information Society Technologies Programme) Integrated
Project proposal to make a European VO fully operational by the end of