About us

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The Virtual Observatory (VO) refers to a web of data, services, technologies, and software that together create an environment for conducting astronomical research on the network. In particular, it takes advantage of the wealth of data available on-line from astronomical archives around the world. This web is held together through a set of open standards that give applications common ways of doing things, such as discovering and retrieving data.

The mechanism by which this VO system will be implemented in South Africa is through a partnership of the three National Research Foundation (NRF) astronomical facilities (South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) and the Square Kilometer Array South Africa (SKA-SA)) and the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) as the South African Astronomical Alliance (SA3 pronounced “SA cubed”). In the founding document it was decided that the three primary objectives of SA3  are:

  • to facilitate access by the South African astronomical community to multi-wavelength astronomical data as well as to tools for dealing with them;
  • to ensure that data produced by facilities in South Africa are accessible to the international community (in a manner that does not violate any ownership rights);
  • to develop human capital through schools and workshops that introduce people to data and tools of the virtual observatory

SA3 will meet these objectives by:

  • Acting as the national coordinating body for the implementation of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) standards
  • Drive the use of multi wavelength astronomical data sets through the generation of data-fusion toolsets by a team of dedicated software developers
  • Promote research by hosting visiting scientists and post doctoral researchers in the field of astronomical data-fusion
  • Providing resources and training for undergraduate or postgraduate courses in astronomical data usage
  • Developing outreach resources based on VO data to increase public participation in astronomical activities