The Virtual Observatory for Amateur Astronomers

Updated 10th October 2016


The Virtual Observatory is a worldwide initiative by professional astronomers to provide the tools, data storage, processing power and high speed data links to allow the vast amount of data that has been accumulated in observatories worldwide to be accessed seamlessly wherever you are.

While the system is aimed at professional astronomers most of the facilities and data is available to the amateur community as well. So far there seem to have been little use made of this by Amateur Astronomers with the exception of Comet Hunting in SOHO & Stereo Solar images plus the use of archive images and asteroid data by supernova hunters to confirm that they have located their elusive quarry.


One challenge in writing about this field is that the tools and facilities available are changing very quickly. This particularly  applies to some of the major the software tools, they seem to have a life of only a few months before they are superceded by a new and greater version. The good news is that the vast majority of these tools can be downloaded without charge so all you need to do is to install the latest version and investigate the new facilities. A lot of the tools are designed to work under Linux but there are Windows versions of all the major ones available. A recent trend is to write the tools in Java so they will work on most platforms.


A copy of the lecture on two of the virtual observatory tools I gave to The Astronomer Annual Meeting on the 24th October 2009 is available here (6 MByte PDF)


I gave a revised version of my lecture on The Virtual Observatory to Cody Astronomical Society on 11th May 2011. A copy of the lecture in PDF is located here.


To encourage you to use the Virtual Observatory and to 'Break the Ice' I have written some exercises that are available on a new page here. I hope they encourage you to explore the VO and to us it in your projects. If you find any good tips or resources let me know.


A recent paper published on 'The Virtual Observatory and its benefits for Amateur Astronomers provides a good introduction. The paper can be found here.

John Murrell



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