The archives, a scientific treasure trove

M31 observed by Herschel & XMM-Newton

The vast amounts of scientific data obtained during a space science mission have a much longer lifetime than the satellite mission itself.  The data are archived and made freely accessible online to the global scientific community, and these archives are frequently a mine of unexpected discoveries. They allow researchers to study, for instance, the evolution of a certain celestial object with time, or its appearance at different wavelengths as observed by different telescopes.

Science archives at ESAC

The archives for the majority of ESA’s astronomy and Solar System missions are kept at ESAC so researchers have a single ‘entry point’ for accessing the wealth of scientific data. Data from the Cluster, Hubble Space Telescope, EXOSAT, Herschel, ISO, Planck, SOHO, Ulysses and XMM-Newton missions and from the interplanetary spacecraft Mars Express, SMART-1 (the Moon), Rosetta (Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko), Huygens (Titan), Venus Express and Giotto (Comet Halley) are already available in ESAC’s state-of-the-art archival system, and are regularly consulted and retrieved by more than 3000 registered users.

A powerful ‘virtual observatory’

The Holden and Eberswalde craters observed by Mars Express

The World Wide Web has no borders, so why not link all of the existing astronomical archives? That is the goal of the international Virtual Observatory (VO) programme, to which the ESAC archives are contributing. As a data provider and as an active partner in these activities, ESAC is becoming the VO node for European space astronomy. Soon, scientists will be able to transparently access all astronomical data from their desktops, in much the same way as they currently access documents on the internet.

Last update: 28 January 2014

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