New funding to widen access to astronomy data

April 30, 2018


 Investments totalling more than $900,000 have been announced to expand access and use of Australian astronomy data, paving the way for new discoveries about the universe.


The All Sky Virtual Observatory (ASVO) already supports optical astronomy through the ANU Skymapper and Anglo Australian Telescope nodes, radio astronomy through the CSIRO ASKAP node and theoretical astronomy through the Swinburne University Theoretical Astronomical Observatory (TAO) node.


The project will add functionality to support the Curtin University led Murchison Widefield Array (MWA,) a low-frequency radio telescope which performs large-scale observations of the entire Southern Hemisphere sky, adding a new set of eyes to study the universe. It will also enhance and extend the TAO capability.


"The ASVO project has enabled almost 20 petabytes of data from the MWA to be made available to astronomers of the world, one of the largest publicly available databases in global science.  Astronomers can discover and download data in a form suitable for a very wide range of projects and processing, thanks to the enormous flexibility of the MWA instrument,” stated John Curtin Distinguished Prof. Steven Tingay (Executive Director, Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy & Deputy Executive Director, International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.)


The MWA is located in Western Australia at the site of the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, and is one of four telescopes designated as a precursor for the SKA.


"The ASVO is therefore lowering the barrier for astronomers to enter the world of Big Data processing.  Further steps in the development of the ASVO for the MWA over the next year will enhance functionality substantially and elements of the development can form the basis for what comes next, the $1B Square Kilometre Array (SKA)" said Prof. Tingay.


Partners for the project are:

  • Astronomy Australia Limited (AAL) [lead contract partner]

  • Curtin University

  • Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

  • Swinburne University

  • University of Western Australia.


The project is backed by an investment of $425,000 by ANDS, Nectar and RDS through their joint Data Enhanced Virtual Labs (DEVL) program. Project partners are also contributing an additional $498,925 in co-investment (cash and in-kind).


The MWA node will bring together radio observation data in anticipation of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and make it widely available. The TAO enhancements will augment this with a theoretical astronomy data generation environment that does not exist anywhere else.


Both of these are aligned with the two priority areas for astronomy infrastructures in the recently released national research infrastructure roadmap.


The MWA is already performing large surveys of the Southern Hemisphere sky and acquiring deep observations on targeted regions.


The primary endeavour is the hunt for intergalactic hydrogen gas that surrounded early galaxies. The MWA will also provide new insights into the Milky Way galaxy and its magnetic field, pulsing and exploding stellar objects, and the science of space weather that connects our Sun to the environment here on Earth.


Bringing radio, optical and theoretical results together under the ASVO umbrella will support the growing area of multi-messenger observation and lead to new insights into the growth  and development of the universe. And it doesn’t get bigger than this!


About ANDS, Nectar and RDS


The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) makes Australia’s research data assets more valuable for researchers, research institutions and the nation.


The National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (Nectar) provides online infrastructure that supports researchers to connect with colleagues in Australia and around the world, using and sharing data, models, analysis tools and workflows.


The Research Data Services project (RDS) enables researchers to easily store, discover, access and share their data in a nationally supported environment, resulting in better research outcomes. 


Find out more about ANDS, Nectar, RDS at


ANDS, Nectar, RDS, AAL and Pawsey are projects of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program, an initiative of the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training.


For any enquiries about this project, please contact the ANDS/Nectar/RDS project coordinator Andrew Treloar (


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This website relates to activity between July 2017 and June 2018.


Please visit the ARDC website for all activity post June 2018.

Monash University is the lead agent of ANDS.

The University of Melbourne is the lead agent of Nectar.

The University of Queensland is the lead agent of RDS.

This activity received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

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