Virtual Astronomical Observatory Update

Gretchen Greene,, & Robert Hanisch,

The Institute has a major role in the Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO).1 We have made a number of advances in this new program over the past six months.

In April, Brandon Lawton joined the VAO team as lead of education and public outreach.  Working in the Institute’s Office of Public Outreach, and drawing on its expertise in the areas of electronic outreach and formal and informal education, his goal is to craft an outreach program for VAO. The new program will involve collaborations with the VAO partner organizations and other groups in the outreach community. In addition to showcasing VAO-enabled research results, the new program will also highlight how network-enabled research tools are changing the way science is being done.  The Institute’s VAO outreach program was introduced to the global community this year in the first session of the International VO Alliance on education and public outreach.

The Institute provides key technical leadership in the development of VAO science applications. Tom Donaldson (Archive Sciences Branch) has been leading the development of the new VAO data-discovery website.  A beta release was recently completed, and is available for users to try out on the VAO website.  Ivo Busko (Science Software Branch) incorporated his Specview package into Iris, the VAO building and analysis tools for spectral energy distributions.  Instructions for downloading and installing Iris are now also available from the VAO website.

Theresa Dower continues her support of the VAO registry, which functions as the master directory of data collections, catalogs, and archives.  The VAO registry at the Institute is recognized in the international VAO community as the most comprehensive directory of global archive data services.  The Institute is working with the VAO group at the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center to provide validation and curation of the registry system.

Gretchen Greene coordinates all VAO efforts at the Institute, and serves as liaison to the Cosmic Assembly Near-IR Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), which is a Multi-Cycle Treasury program team.  CANDELS now distributes notices of supernova discoveries via the VOEvent protocol, and CANDELS image data is accessible through VAO image-access protocols and is searchable through the VAO data-discovery portal.

The Institute is also planning for the long-term. We will incorporate VAO protocols for data access in the requirements for the data management system for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Come check out the VAO at the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society, in Austin.  We plan to have an exhibit booth and a Sunday afternoon workshop featuring both research tools and a focus on education and public outreach resources.



1 See the VAO article in the previous Newsletter.