New Web Service Opens Astronomy Archive to Public

Jared Crossley, Ron DuPlain, and Nicole Radziwill

The NRAO End-to-End Operations team has produced a new Web service that makes astronomical image archives easily accessible by the public through use of the Google Sky desktop application. The new service, called KML Now!, takes advantage of Virtual Observatory protocols to give users easy access to astronomical data in over 150 image archives covering the full electromagnetic spectrum, including seven NRAO image collections. KML Now allows image data to be automatically opened and displayed in Google Sky, using Google’s Keyhole Markup Language (KML) data format.

With KML Now, users can search for astronomy images by entering search coordinates and selecting one or more Virtual Observatory image archives. KML Now returns a KML file that the user can open in Google Sky. For successful queries, this file tells Google Sky where to find the desired images and how to project the images on the digital sky. Astronomy image data formats can be difficult to use for non-professionals, but KML Now performs the image format conversion “behind the scenes”, making the process of acquiring and viewing images very easy. More detailed information about KML Now can be found on its home page.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Side-by-side comparison of the Milky Way's center, showing (left) Google Sky's default optical imagery (obtained from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) and (right) a KML Now-imported overlay of an Infrared Astronomical Satellite image.


Figure 2

Figure 2: The Kepler supernova remnant as seen (left) with Google Sky's default imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope and Sloan Digital Sky Survey; and (right) overlaid with an image from the NRAO VLA Archive Survey.