The goal of the Virtual Observatory (VO) is to allow astronomers to make best use of the large quantity of data that are archived every day in professional observatories over the world. In general, archived data are hardly usable by astronomers not directly involved in the observations because instruments, data format, procedures, and software differ from one observatory to the other. Even the access to the data via internet is often all but easy. Until recently, this situation has been the cause of a substantial underutilization of observations that are often very expensive.
VO will allow astronomers to obtain observations already archived in any of the VO compliant observatories as if these observations would have been taken all at the same observatory. VO will develop standard software tools for data visualization and analysis. VO will thus hide to the user the complexities caused by the differences between various instruments and observatories and will allow the easy learning curve of a single virtual observatory. Finally, VO will also develop network infrastructures and software tools needed to bring observations to the workstation of any astronomer anywhere in the world.
VO activities are coordinated by the International Alliance of Virtual Observatories that includes 17 VO projects at the national or supernational level.
EuroVO is the European VO project that is a member of the IVOA. This project, funded by Europe, has three main branches dealing with, respectively:
An important part of EuroVO is its infrastructure and interface toward users, either professional astronomers or general public: it is developed within a specific European project called Astronomical Infrastructure for Data Access (AIDA). AIDA's goal is to move EuroVO from the development phase to full operation. AIDA consists of several activities, or WorkPackages, including those that aim at bringing EuroVO resources to both astronomers and general public.
Within AIDA, WorkPackage 5 (Support Activities to Higher Education and Outreach) is dedicated to developing dedicated software and other educational material in order to attract the public, and in particular students and teachers, to the use of VO resources also thanks to the easy access to the data guaranteed by simple interfaces and to a choice of interesting use cases.
EuroVO-AIDA WP5 is a collaboration of 5 Institutes in 4 European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain) led by INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste (Italy).
INAF - Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica
CDS - Centre de Donnèes astronomiques de Strasbourg
ESO - European Southern Observatory
ARI - Astronomisches Rechen-Institut Heidelberg
INTA - Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aerospacial