4 mins read 03 Jul 2020

Want Astronomical Data? You Got it!

Astronomy data from a range of Australia’s leading institutions is readily available for researchers and the Australian public, through the All-Sky Virtual Observatory portal.

Credit: ASVO.

Astronomical data has never been easier to access, especially now with the All-Sky Virtual Observatory (AVSO) providing researchers with the opportunity to tap into a federated network of datasets from several research facilities around the country – making it easy to complete their goals and share their findings with the world.

The five platforms, collated in one place by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) provides a number of different nodes for researchers to utilise – including data obtained by some of the country’s leading radio telescopes, optical telescopes, and theoretical platforms.

“The ASVO started out as a series of nodes looking at the universe through many different lenses, and has become a coordinated and sophisticated piece of transformational research infrastructure enabling researchers to search data and bring together different types of data from a range of facilities,” Dr. Andrew Treloar, Director Platforms and Software, ARDC said.

A number of institutions are currently involved in the AVSO project from across the country, including Astronomy Australia Limited, Swinburne University of Technology, the Australian National University, National Computational Infrastructure, the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and Australia’s leading science agency, CSIRO.

Murchison Wide-Field Array (MWA)

Credit: CSIRO.

The Murchison Wide-Field Array is an odd-looking instrument, made up of a number of stations – which feature spider-looking dipole antennas, positioned in a 4 x 4 arrangement. The instrument operates in the low-frequency radio wavelength range and has been in operation since 2013. The ASVO-MWA provides seamless access to national and international researchers to different MWA data products via online services and tools.

Access to the MWA node is available here.

CSIRO ASKAP Science Data Archive (CASDA)

CSIRO/A. Cherney.

CSIRO manages and operates the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) instrument – an array of 36 dish antennas in the remote radio quiet zone of central Western Australia. The telescope produces enormous volumes of raw data (roughly 75 petabytes per annum), and once processed data products are stored at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth. Researchers can access these data products through the CSIRO ASKAP Science Data Archive (CASDA) which can be thought of as the end stage of this process. Hardware and software facilities are also made available for astronomers to utilise.

Access to CASDA is available here.

AAO Data Central (ADC)-Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT)

Credit: Australian Astronomical Observatory.

The 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope is the largest optical telescopes to be built in Australia and contributed deeply to the field of astronomy and astrophysics through global surveys and collaborations, studying distant galaxies, spectra from astronomical objects, supernovae, and looking for the ratios of visible and invisible matter in the Universe.

Data products from the AAT are distributed through the AAO Data Central which serves up spectra, data cubes, tables, and image datasets to researchers, whilst providing solutions and query tools for astronomical data from all AAT surveys of major national significance, maximising the ability for astronomers to make new discoveries.

Access to the AAO Data Central node is available here.


Credit: RSAA/ANU.

Utilising a 1.3-metre telescope at Siding Springs Observatory, the SkyMapper Southern Sky Survey produces high-fidelity imaging of the night sky, enabling astronomers to discover the oldest stars in the galaxy, and new dwarf galaxies in orbit around the Milky Way. SkyMapper also maps the growth of the most extreme black holes in the early Universe.

This node features several data releases since 2015 covering nearly 100% of the southern sky, inclusive of roughly 300 million unique astrophysical objects from magnitudes 8 to 18.

Access to the SkyMapper node is available here.

Theoretical Astrophysical Observatory


In some cases, researchers need to test models through simulations or virtual experimentation, when observations cannot be undertaken. This is especially true for understanding the largest scale of the Universe, in terms of Cosmology.

The Theoretical Astronomical Observatory does just this – it houses queryable data from multiple cosmological dark matter numerical simulations and galaxy formation models which astronomers can access via the cloud anywhere in the world.

Access to the TAO node is available here.

Whilst some of the nodes require registrations, others are free to access by the public – so budding community scientists can also delve in and access the information for their own projects. For example, CASDA allows any public user to access the virtual observatories of listed surveys – so you could see the sky in X-rays, radio waves, or even infrared light.

Access the ASVO here