First in the Southern Hemisphere: South Africa gets direct access to international astronomy database

The South African Astroinformatics Alliance (SA3) on behalf of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) is pleased to announce the release of the VizieR Catalogue Service mirror in Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr. Sudhanshu Barway who is involved in the project, says, “The VizieR Catalogue Service gives access to the most complete library of published astronomical catalogues and data tables available on-line (more than 12000 catalogues to date, continuously growing). It is organised in a self-documented database and query-tools which allow the user to select relevant data tables, extract and format records matching given criteria”.

Astronomers explore the Universe using a wide variety of telescopes, space and ground based, but one of the most powerful tools they have is access to the data from observations already made and published by others. Using SALT or MeerKAT, astronomers in South Africa can have access to observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope or Europe’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile via the Virtual Observatory services, including those offered by the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS) in France. With these data and checking results from previous research, astronomers can do many things, such as matching their new radio or optical observations with preexisting X-ray measurements, avoiding rediscovering things already known or even discover things missed by those who made the original observations. The catalogue access provided by CDS, which includes list of observations from major telescopes and tables published in academic journals, is known as VizieR and is in great demand that mirror sites have been set up in Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, UK and the USA, but never before in the southern hemisphere. A mirror site is an exact copy of another remote website on the World Wide Web or internet.

Most importantly, “This site is hosted in Rosebank, Cape Town, by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) on behalf of the South African Astroinformatics Alliance (SA3). The two teams involved are from the CHPC: Sakhile Masoka and Happy Sithole and from the SAAO/SA3 : Sudhanshu Barway and Patricia Whitelock. Gilles Landais and Francoise Genova (CDS) are duly acknowledged for their support in enabling this initiative. This mirror site provides improved access to the astronomical catalogues for all scientists including those elsewhere in Africa interested in Astronomy. We encourage South African scientists to use this Vizier mirror site and provide their feedback, which will help us to actively maintain the site in collaboration with CHPC”, Dr. Barway added.

Anyone, including members of the public, can access the South African Vizier mirror at: http://viziersaao.chpc.ac.za/vizier/ or http://viziersaao.chpc.ac.za/viz-bin/VizieR

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