The National Virtual Observatory: The National Virtual Observatory (NVO) will unite astronomical databases of many earthbound and orbital observatories, taking advantage of the latest computer technology and data storage and analysis techniques.
The goal is to maximize the potential for new scientific discoveries and insights from the data by making them available in an accessible, seamlessly unified form to professional researchers, amateur astronomers, and students.
The initial phase of this new project is funded by a five-year, $10 million Information Technology Research grant from the National Science Foundation. Organizers characterize their initial goal as "building the framework" for the National Virtual Observatory.
Data Gathering: Data from many earthbound and orbiting observatories are collected and archived within participating sites of the National Virtual Observatory.
Data Discovery: An NVO user studying objects, such as active galaxy M87, requests data by connecting to an NVO interface. The NVO portal responds with a list of all relevant data available from the various databases of observatories residing within the NVO.
The NVO dispatch handler sends out the multi-wavelength data requests to the various NVO portals sites across the nation (indeed the world). These portals sites process the data request and "beam" the data back to the NVO user.
Data Mining: The NVO user can then submit additional requests via the NVO interface portal to search for correlations or patterns in the multi-wavelength data, and perhaps to find on similar objects. The various NVO portals across the nation and around the world process the data request, access advanced computing resources if necessary, and "beam" an integrated data report back to the NVO user.
Research Discoveries and Publication: The NVO user is then able to complete his/her research and quickly publish the results - often within the NVO itself. The derived data and research results are then incorporated into the NVO, making them available to the astronomical community worldwide.
Animation Credit: Greg Bacon and James Gitlin (STScI)