IVOA Exec Telecon TM18

January 18 2006 @ 17.00-18.00 GMT

Agenda (draft)

  • Roll Call and Agenda
  • Minutes of FM17
  • Review of Actions
  • Participation of Brazilian VO
  • Preparation status of the spring IVOA Interoperability meeting in Canada
  • IAU in Prague : status report
  • IVOA demonstration stand during the IAU GA in Prague
  • AOB
    • IVOA Email configuration (Bob)
    • IVOA/GGF workshop in Tokyo (Nic)
    • Summary of this meeting
    • Date and Venue of the next exec meeting
  • Summary of Actions

Reports from the Projects

(please upload you projects here - or email to Nic Walton) -- NicholasWalton - 10 Jan 2006


The EURO-VO Technology Centre project VO-TECH is now approximately one year into its three year development program for VO systems and tools. VO-TECH was funded with EC FP-6 money and contributions from ASTROGRID, U.Edinburgh, U.Leicester, UCambridge, ESO, INAF, Dravo, CNRS, CDS, VOFrance and ULP. See http://wiki.eurovotech.org/bin/view/VOTech/WebHome for a project overview and progress. Andy is leading VOTC and will report further.

There is some good news on the EURO-VO Data Centre Alliance front. A new proposal under FP-6 has been invited to start contract negotiations. The new DCA proposal is lead by Francoise and involves CNRS-INSU, ESA, ESO, INAF, INTA, MPG, NOVA and AstroGrid (ULeicester lead). We hope to get ~1.5 million Euro over 2 years to start DCA activities of VO take- up and "alliance" for data centres, VO theory efforts and community support. Francoise will comment on specific issues.

The EURO-VO Facility activity began with the workshop in Munich last June. The EURO-VO Science Advisory Committee is now being formed by the Exec and expects to have it's first meeting this quarter. Nic, Mark Allen and Paolo (the principal scientists of the VOTC, DCA and VOFC respectively) will sit on the VOSAC (Paolo as sec.). The VOFC is a joint ESO/ESA effort and we will be happy to support the IAU IVOA activities with help on web presence etc. An additional VOFC organized EURO-VO workshop is foreseen for 2006 (date TDB).

Peter Quinn - 18 Jan 2006


Progress report of China-VO

Since the last IVOA exec meeting, the China-VO obtained some progress in the following areas.

First, Chinese Virtual Observatory annual meeting for year 2005 (China-VO 2005) was held successfully at Shandong University at Weihai from November 25th to 27th. About 30 representatives from National Astronomical Observatories, Beijing Normal Univ., Central China Normal Univ., CNIC CAS, Tianjin Univ., Yunnan Univ. and Shandong Univ. at Weihai, attended the meeting. 20 talks were presented on all VO related fields, esp. on China-VO R&D. All related materials about the meeting including slides, pictures and other documents are available at: http://www.china-vo.org/cn/events/cvo05/. I am sorry the website was written in Chinese. smile

On the meeting, several highlights of the project ware demonstrated, including: JDL (Job Description Language) architecture and CompuCell interface/module, which will be the core of the China-VO testbed. Detailed design and Alpha version development have finished. A Beta version will be completed in the first half of the year.

VO_IMPAT, an imaging processing and analysis tool, which is an interactive imaging tool. The VO_IMPAT allows the users to visualize DSS image of any part of the sky and interactively access other catalogs provided by our data base system, i.e. BADC (Beijing Astronomical Data Center). Now, the functions of the VO_IMPAT are very limited, mainly copied from the CDS Aladin. In the future, its functions will be enhanced by adding many spectra analyze and data mining toolkits.

SkyMouse, an intelligent astronomical on-line service access client system. Several popular services, for example, SIMBAD name resolver, NED, ADS abstract service, are integrated. A screen word pickup client is also included in the system. In the summer of the year, a public version will be released to the public.

Preparation work for the IVOA 2007 Interoperability meeting has begun. Several documents required for funding application have completed and submitted to related authorities and organizations.


Reports on recent developments at VO-I

The Virtual Observatory - India project has now entered a new funding phase (three years with possible extension for a fourth year), and I have the collaboration of Persistent Systems, as in the first phase of the project. In addition to the people from Persistent, I will have the support of two software people appointed on the project at IUCAA, and a post-doctoral fellow (physics-astronomy background) working full time on the project. there are also two full time MTech project students who have joined the project for six months.

We have recently released VOMegaplot, for dealing with a large number of points. Plotting millions of points, and holding on to information regrading each one of them, for later operations, has required a different approach from VOPlot, which involves creating a series of auxillary files for each catalogue. This has to be done just once, and the stored files can be sued in all subsequent studies of the catalogue. The package has limited features at the present, but we will add new ones as we go along, and comments from the community will be most useful. I would like to emphasis here that VOMegaplot is not a replacement for VOPlot.

We will continue to support VOPlot and VOPlot3D, and in fact are adding enhancements, and again suggestions are welcome.

We have released the source code for VOPlot.

We have released (I got the news this morning, 17th Jan, Indian time) a new streaming version of the C++ parser.

Our collaboration with CDS is continuing,a nd Francois Ochsenbien will be visiting us in February. We are also setting up new collaborations, and an interesting one will be with Caltech and Penn State regarding a new and improved version of VOStat, which will soon be ramped up. We are also discussing the possibility collaborating on the Quest survey data.

With JHU, we will be setting up on line morphological processing of galaxy images, and also take up related issues.

In India, we are entering the domain of grid computing in a collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Computing. I am also starting discussions for visualization of ecological data. It will be really interesting to extend our techniques to other fields.

These are exciting times, but we are still open for setting up projects, which can roll out over the months and years. So I welcome suggestions for working together, particularly on science driven projects.

There is a growing demand for organizing a VO workshop/school in India on the lines of the NVO schools, and I would like to start discussions for such an event to be organized in India in the last quarter of this year, and call upon IVOA friends to help with this venture.

Ajit Kembhavi


Canadian Virtual Observatory Report David Schade

Innovative query capabilities have been developed where the user specifies the wavelength sampling or time sampling that is required for a set of spatially coincident data. The actual position on the sky is not of interest, although it can be constrained. The point of this is to explore very large datasets looking for regions with multi-wavelength or with good coverage in the time domain for studies of variability or proper motion, for example.

These query prototypes were intended to harvest metadata using SIA services and using that metadata as input for the processing of associations that are needed to do these queries. They cannot be done in a distributed fashion with present capabilities. The work has revealed areas where improvement is needed in the deployment of SIA services and it suggests areas of future development to make SIA and other access protocols more powerful for developing advanced applications.

The development of CVO functionality and our implementation of SIA services on existing CADC data collections have compelled us to reevaluate the way that these advanced access modes (and those that we foresee in the VO world of the future) interact with existing data archive infrastructure. As a result, we have developed a Common Archive Data Model (CADM) which provides a common internal CADC representation of all of our archive data collections. The CADM is designed to support archive functionality but also to support all VO access and query modes so that implementation of a new VO service at CADC will automatically provide access, with respect for proprietary data rights, to all CADC collections. This will eliminate the current problem of developing and maintaining a series of “one-off” pieces of software for VO functionality on each archive which has been a problem. This represents a major step forward in the design of multi-collection data centres.

DRACO (now becoming VObs.it)

The DRACO project reached its end in December 2005, successfully achieving the main purpose of its activity, i.e. porting on the grid a number of applications of astrophysical interest. To fulfil the obligations of the Euro-VO MoU, the INAF Board has decided to fund separately grid and VO activities through its Information Systems Unit (INAF-SI). The VO-related project is called VObs.it and will be the official representative of the Italian community within IVOA. The amount of the funding for fiscal year 2006 is around 120 KEuro on top of what assigned to the separate archives, which allows a level of general “survival”. Efforts to complement the INAF contribution with external funding are in any case being pursued.

IA2, the INAF data centre, is releasing a first IVOA-compliant alpha version for restricted use (friends-only...) to allow access to TNG data, aimed at supporting in the future access to the LBT data acquired during the Italian time. Other centres involved in VObs.it are at the INAF sites of Turin and Milan. There was a meeting between ASI and INAF to include the ASI Science Data Centre (ASDC) within VObs.it activities.

A second meeting on the Italian Theoretical VO (TVO) was organised, to solidify the data storage model, to be proposed to the IVOA Special Interest Group, and at the workshop to be held in February in Cambridge. This work is coordinated with the INAF contribution to the Design Study (DS) #4 of the VO-Tech project (building tools to compare theoretical and observational data), funded by EU/FP6. Within the VO-Tech project (Stage02), work on generalised UCDs and ontology (DS5) and on 3D visualisation and data mining techniques (DS6) has been furthermore done.

Fabio Pasian, 18 Jan 2006


Main activities of France VO during last four months:

(1) Organisation of the 'CNRS Thematic School' The Virtual Observatory: a new tool for scientists - 7-9 November 2005, Obernai (near Strasbourg)

The Thematic School gathered 50 participants. Nearly all French laboratories were represented, and the science usage of VO in different disciplines was discussed (Sun-Earth relations, Planets, Stars, Interstellar Medium, Galaxies, Cosmology), with also additional discussion on Data (images, spectra, temporal series), Numerical simulations, commonalities between the study of stars and galaxies, commonalities between Solar System studies.

Thanks to Enrique Solano (SVO) who presented one of the introductory talks.

The program, talks and list of participants can be found in the meeting Web site (mostly in French):


(2) A workshop on Workflows (in particular to discuss the needs and requirements) has been organised in Strasbourg on 10 November 2005. The discussion will continue in the coming months.


(3) The first 2006 AO will close on 20 January 2006. The aim is to support travel for collaborative work between teams, the organisation of thematic workshops, and French participation in the Victoria Interoperability meeting (or similar meetings in the other disciplines covered by France VO).


(4) A second tutorial on VO standards and tools will be organised in Strasbourg (30 January - 1 February 2006). 22 persons have registered, in particular from laboratories which had no participants attending the first France-VO tutorial (October 2004) nor at the Euro-VO Workshop (June 2005) and have since then expressed willingness to develop VO services.


A specific workshop on Web service implementation will take place the following day.

(5) A report summarizing the activities of the Action Specifique Observatoire Virtuel France will be published in the Proceedings of the 2005 meeting of the Frech Astronomical Society. It is available from http://www.france-vo.org/twiki/pub/Exposes/WebHome/ovfrancesf2a2005.pdf

Françoise Genova, 18 January 2006


(1) Personnel: There has been no change on the JVO project members.

(2) Funding proposals: The JSPS proposal that was submitted in September, 2005, to extend the Core-to-Core program for three years (2006-2009) was successfully accepted by the JSPS. It was announced that two or three proposals out of ten were accepted. This means that the Virtual Observatory activity in the world has been highy recognized in Japan.

(3) Development report: JVO designed Workflow Description Language based on BPEL4WS and implemented a part of the WF functionality in the JVO system. The WF is described in XML, and is converted into the Groovy script before execution. JVO plans to relaese this experimental operational system to limited users in Japan in the end of March 2006.

(4) VO as the core of Japanese Astronomical Data Center: It has long been discussed to reorganize NAOJ to enhance astronomical data management, and VO has been recognized to play the key roll. The discussion finished, and the NAOJ has decided to place the VO as a core of the new Data Center of the observatory. JVO team members will become members of the new Data Center. The new Data center starts from April 2006.


Work in the first quarter of FY2006, the fifth year of the NVO development project, was primarily focused on developing new and enhanced applications and services. These were made available to the astronomy community in conjunction with the January 2006 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC. The selected appli-cations were as prioritized by the NVO Science Steering Committee at its meeting in July 2005. To highlight the availability of these applications we updated the NVO website, providing direct links to each tool.

We also conducted peer reviews and made awards for Research Initiatives stipends to 15 proposals (of 42 submitted). These awards of $25,000 provide seed-money for VO-enabled research and VO tools development. A number of the successful proposers had attended NVO Summer School I or II.

Technical work has been concentrated in several areas:

  • Prototyping a distributed data storage management system, VOStore, and its associ-ated user authentication procedures.

  • Developing a system for logging usage of VO services and tracking VO service requests.

  • Incorporating a resource validation flag into the registry to allow us to filter out poorly documented or non-compliant VO services. An automated tester for cone search services was also developed.

  • Completing the Simple Spectrum Access Protocol and discussing extensions to the Simple Image Access Protocol.

  • Continuing development of the Astronomy Data Query Language (ADQL) in col-laboration with the IVOA Query Language Working Group.

The NVO Education and Outreach Coordinator organized a special session on incorporat-ing VO resources into education at the January 2006 AAS Meeting. Attendance was excellent and enthusiasm was high.

Financially the project remains in good condition, with spending proceeding at expected levels and sufficient carry-forward funding to retain the project team throughout the final year of development.

The full report is available at http://us-vo.org/pubs/files/FY06Q1plusRI.pdf.





Recent highlights

  • We have significantly improved the AstroGrid user interface, with a more consistent Workbench, and an integrated help system. Workbench versions of the Query Builder and Workflow Builder are under construction.
  • Building on the success of the US Data Scope, we built a powerful new tool called Astro Scope which polls for all known data services in the Registry, presents the results in an interactive graphical form, with automated links to MySpace, Aladin, and Top Cat.
  • We are planning a series of workshops and collaborative visits for (at different times) data centre staff, members of other VO projects, system administrators, tools writers, and astronomical end users. The first of these is taking place this week.
  • We have begun a debate about the post-AstroGrid phase, from 2008 onwards



Funding sources:

a) Ministry of Education and Research.
- From Jan 2006 to Dec 2008.
- 583 k€
- 7 FTEs from 5 Institutes. INTA-LAEFF is the core institution (4 FTEs)
- Objectives:
1) VO compliance of the archives hosted at LAEFF Data Centre
2) Development of the GTC Scientific Archive
3) Development of data mining tools

b) Ministry of Education and Research.
- From Jan 2006 to Dec 2008
- 24 k€
- 59 participants from 17 Institutes
- Objective: Creation of the Thematic Network "Spanish Virtual Observatory" with the primary goal of enhancing the collaboration among the Spanish groups with interest in VO through the organization of meetings, tutorials and workshops.

c) Madrid Regional Government.
A project for the development and scientific exploitation of astronomical instrumentation has been funded by the Madrid Regional Government from Jan 2006 to Dec 2009. The project is formed by 39 researches from 8 Institutes. Within the project, the work package "Virtual Observatory" has been granted with 1FTE for 3 years. This FTE (postdoc level) will be manly devoted to the development of data mining tools in the framework of the preparatory activities of the Darwin mission and for the GTC project.

Personnel: An Astrophysicist with working knowledge in modern computational techniques has joined the SVO project in Jan 2006.

New lines of work (since Oct. 2005):

1) GAIA project:
- Determination of Astrophysical Parameters (Coordination Unit 8): 3.8 FTEs
- Variability Classification (Coordination Unit 7): 1.5 FTEs

2) COROT project:
- Co-leadership in the Light Curve Classification Activities

Congresses, Workshops & Meetings:

1) Meeting: France-VO: Ecole thématique "Observatoire Virtuel: un nouvel outil pour les scientifiques"
- Place and Date: Obernai, France. November 2005
- Contribution: "VO Science". E. Solano (invited talk)

2) Meeting: TE-SAT / PFDAWG Darwin meeting
- Place and Date: Granada, Spain, November 2005
- Contribution: "A preparatory data server for the Darwin mission". E. Solano

3) Meeting: COROT-Week 9
- Place and Date: ESTEC, The Netherlands, December 2005
- Contribution: “Determination of stellar fundamental parameters using AI techniques". Luis M. Sarro & E. Solano. (poster)

Education & Outreach:

1) Meeting: Annual Meeting of the Secondary School Science Teachers of Galicia.
- Place and Date: Ribadeo, Galicia, Spain. November 2005.
- Contribution: "Astronomy in the XXI Century".

2) Graduate Courses
- Responsible: E. Solano
- Title: "Astronomical Databases. The Virtual Observatory" (30 hours)
- Place and Date: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. November - December 2005


The pilot-phase of the GAVO project has been terminated on November 30, 2005. Of the original 3 FTEs only Gerard Lemson is still working for GAVO, financed by MPE until the proposed and - in the meantime - accepted GAVO-II project gets official funding again.

GAVO activities of the last three months (10'05-12'05):

IVOA standards process (in particular data models (STC and SSA)): implementation of preliminary SSA protocol with emphasis on understanding data model and XML, mapping of Chandar Deep Field South optical follow up spectra as prototype for SSA implementation.

Theory VO: Further development of database for Millenium simulation and query interfaces surrounding it. Work on theory spectra. An attempt was made to push the theory IG usecases forward but response is slow. Will continue this work. In February '06 a workshop in Cambridge will help greatly in this for the subset of the usecases dealing with N-body simulations.

At MPI for Astrophysics value added services and datasets on the SDSS mirror were implemented, particularly dealing with derived products from the SDSS spectra: MOPED, PCA and line indexes were added to the database. They will be made publicly available soon.

The catalogue cross matcher developed in GAVO is being used in a science project in Spain (identification of XMM serendipity survey objects).

Together with the informatics group at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) work on an extension of catalogue cross-matcher was started.

Gerard Lemson + Wolfgang Voges - 18 January 2006


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