Accessing Astronomical Data Has Never Been Easier

The All-Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO) is making it easier to understand and explore the stars, galaxies, planets, dark matter and many things in between.
An array of telescopes set against a night sky full of stars and nebulare

The All-Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO) is making it easier to understand and explore the stars, galaxies, planets, dark matter and many things in between. The ASVO enables researchers to access data across a federated network of datasets from all types of astronomical facilities in Australia, helping many astronomers achieve their research outcomes faster.

Over the last eight years, the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and its predecessors Nectar and ANDS have been key partners and supporters of the ASVO. This investment has seen the ASVO grow into a coordinated network of facilities that allow researchers to access datasets from five different facilities.

“The ASVO started out as a series of nodes looking at the universe through many different lenses, and has become a coordinated and sophisticated piece of transformational research infrastructure enabling researchers to search data and bring together different types of data from a range of facilities,” Dr Andrew Treloar, Director Platforms and Software, ARDC said.

The five ASVO nodes are:

  • Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) — a low-frequency radio telescope. The MWA has contributed to many scientific discoveries since it started scanning the Earth’s southern skies in 2013.
  • AAO Data Central (ADC)-Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) — a platform that provides solution and query tools for astronomical data from all AAT surveys of major national significance, maximising the ability for astronomers to make new discoveries
  • CSIRO ASKAP Science Data Archive (CASDA) — provides automatic processing and long term storage for ASKAP (Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder) data products, as well as the hardware and software facilities that enable astronomers to make use of these. Once processed, the data products are archived and stored, ready to be accessed at Pawsey.
  • SkyMapper — the primary portal for astronomers to gain access to data generated by the SkyMapper Southern Sky Survey, a high-fidelity digital record of the entire Southern Sky. This enables astronomers to discover the oldest stars in the galaxy, and new dwarf galaxies in orbit around the Milky Way. SkyMapper also maps the growth of the most extreme black holes in the early Universe.
  • Theoretical Astrophysical Observatory (TAO) — houses queryable data from multiple cosmological dark matter numerical simulations and galaxy formation models which astronomers can access via the cloud anywhere in the world.

Over the last couple of years, the ARDC has invested to improve ASVO data interoperability and reduce the barriers for the Australian astronomy community to discover, download and use more datasets and images. This project was successfully completed earlier this year.

We’ll be writing a number of stories about the astronomical achievements and breakthroughs that feature the use of ASVO nodes. Subscribe to our newsletter and stay tuned!