This is the title of a talk given at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics by my colleague Giuseppina (Pepi) Fabbiano. Pepi has been involved in the VO since its earliest daya, and she currently serves as Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA), the international body that specifies protocols for uniform access to worldwide data. You can watch the full video below. It explains how the VO is embedded into the infrastructure of many projects, and astronomers use it day-to-day without realizing it.
Here is Pepi’s abstract:
“While the VO is now embedded in the fabric of data astronomy, astronomers are still largely unaware of it, and often think of it as a past, perhaps failed, experiment. Instead, chances are that if you work with data, you are already using the VO. In this talk, I will discuss VO perception and reality, and demonstrate recent VO-enabled software and interfaces. Observations of the sky by means of increasingly powerful ground-based and space telescopes (and simulations) produce a rich and ever larger volume of digital data. They constitute a tremendous Virtual Observatory for astronomers to investigate the properties and evolution of the Universe. The realization that a new infrastructure was needed to fully and easily exploit these increasingly complex, diverse and large data sets, led to the constitution in 2002 of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA), the standards organization for digital astronomy data access and interoperability. The IVOA has so far been joined by 21 national and international VO projects worldwide, and has produced standards for finding, accessing, selecting, extracting, analyzing and visualizing data. IVOA standards are increasingly implemented in all the major archives worldwide. Data centers are beginning to be built upon these standards, and new telescope projects are planning to use them. IVOA standards are used in a growing set of popular tools and interfaces in astronomy, as well as in tools used for Education and Outreach world-wide.”