New instruments and missions are routinely producing multi-dimensional datasets, such as Doppler velocity cubes and time-resolved movies. Observatories such as ALMA and new integral field spectrographs on ground-based telescopes are generating data cubes , and future missions such as LSST and JWST will generate ever larger volumes of them. Thus the VO, via its standards body the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA), has made it a priority by September 2014 of developing a protocol for discovering data cubes and a reference service for accessing and downloading data cubes.
The Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO), in collaboration with its IVOA partners, has been contributing to this goal, and a poster paper by Tody et al., shown below, summarizes the progress to date. To date, they have drafted a protocol, called Simple Image Access Protocol (SIAP, v2) which describes a minimal set of metadata that will enable discovery of and access to, multi-dimensional datasets. The protocol is underpinned by an Image Data Model, which describes the semantics and structure of the images independently of how they are serialized. So far, the VAO has successfully demonstrated access to a wide variety of data cubes across the electromagnetic spectrum.