New telescopes and facilities coming online in the next three to five years will produce data in volumes never previously experienced in Australian astronomy. To gain maximum scientific benefit from this data flood, the federation of datasets from all types of astronomical facilities in Australia will be needed. This will involve creating the hardware, tools and services to bring together data from radio telescopes, optical telescopes and supercomputers, covering all parts of the southern sky, under a Virtual Observatory.
After consultation with the Australian astronomy community, two Australian astronomical facilities were chosen to form the first pillar of the All-Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO):
- Optical data from the Southern Sky Survey, obtained using the SkyMapper telescope at The Australian National University's (ANU) Siding Spring Observatory. This dataset comprises the most detailed and sensitive digitised map of the southern sky at optical wavelengths. Researchers are invited to test out the SkyMapper Test Data Release, which provides a preview of the characteristics and data access protocols for the SkyMapper Node. The first major data release of fully calibrated data is expected in December 2015.
- The Theoretical Astrophysical Observatory (TAO), developed at Swinburne and launched in March 2014, houses a growing ensemble of theory data sets and galaxy formation models, with tools to map the simulated data onto an observer’s viewpoint, and the application of custom telescope simulators including SkyMapper.
The ASVO provides a direct and vital link between the theoretical and observational aspects of data collection and analysis.
ASVO will enable federated data access and analysis by providing International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) compliant services and data access mechanisms. ASVO is designed to be flexible and expandable, with the potential for future incorporation of next-generation radio telescope datasets from SKA, ASKAP, and MWA, and optical data from the new instruments on the AAT (e.g. HERMES).
Indeed, we are in the early stages of designing and developing the following two new Nodes:
- The Murchison Widefield Array Node (in design phase) will provide access to key data products from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) official precursor radiotelescope, the MWA. Operational since mid-2013, MWA has already collected over 5PBs of data and is making new science discoveries due to its unique wide-field view of the Universe at the low-frequency end of the radio spectrum.
- The Anglo-Australian Telescope Node (in development phase) will provide access to a growing collection of key AAT optical datasets, ranging from imaging to integral-field spectroscopy.
PARTNERS: The All-Sky Virtual Observatory project involves Astronomy Australia Ltd, Swinburne University of Technology, the The Australian National University, the National Computational Infrastructure, the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and Intersect Australia Ltd.
FUNDING: The following organisations have assisted in funding the All-Sky Virtual Observatory:
- The NeCTAR project. NeCTAR is an Australian Government project conducted as part of the Super Science initiative and financed by the Education Investment Fund.
- The Department of Education and Training through AAL-managed Education Investment Fund (EIF) and National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) grants.
- The Australian National Data Service, which is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Program.