National Virtual Observatory

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About the National Virtual Observatory


The NVO is the National Virtual Observatory, the US-based Virtual Observatory project that is collaborating with the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) to make it possible for astronomical researchers to find, retrieve, and analyze astronomical data from ground- and space-based telescopes worldwide.

The origin of the NVO can be traced to the establishment in the early 1990s of wavelength-oriented science archive centers for NASA mission datasets. These were the first comprehensive astronomy archive facilities having a close connection between data and expertise in calibrating and using the data. Also, during the 1990s several large-scale digital sky surveys were begun, most notably the Sloan and 2MASS surveys. The images and source catalogs derived from these surveys demonstrated the value of homogeneous, on-line datasets. In April 1999, the concept for a "National Virtual Observatory" arose at a meeting of the Decadal Survey Panel on Theory, Computation, and Data Discovery. In the following two years, a series of workshops and conferences were held to flesh out the concept of the VO. In September 2001, NSF's Information Technology Research program awarded $10M to a 17-organization collaboration led by Alex Szalay (JHU) and Paul Messina (Caltech) to build the infrastructure for the VO. Both the US NVO project and the Astrophysical Virtual Observatory, the European pilot VO effort, released their first science prototypes in January 2003.

Access the Data



AstroGrid is the doorway to the Virtual Observatory (VO). We provide a suite of desktop applications to enable astronomers to explore and bookmark resources from around the world, find data, store and share files in VOSpace, query databases, plot and manipulate tables, cross-match catalogues, and build and run scripts to automate sequences of tasks. Tools from other Euro-VO projects inter-operate with AstroGrid software, so you can also view and analyse images and spectra located in the VO.


SkyView Virtual Observatory

Contents of the Data


  • Use DataScope to find everything that's known about a given target or region of the sky. DataScope will query hundreds of VO-enabled data resources and organize the results for your viewing.


  • The NVO Inventory Service gives you a count of the number of entries, in each of many hundreds of catalogs and data collections, that are within a user-specified radius of a given position or list of positions on the sky. You can upload a list of sky positions and/or a list of catalogs and data collections of interest. You can examine individual datasets in detail, download the matched catalog entries for local analysis, or send results to other Data Discovery tools for further investigation.


Enter terms in the text box that describe the type of data you are looking for. Results will show catalogs and data collections that have these terms as part of their descriptions.


Integrate data from multiple positions and datasets.