The VAO Network
The VAO Network comprises telescopes and many research institutions that house data archives, data search tools, and data analysis tools. At the end of the network, of course, is the user who is requesting the data. All this user needs is a computer connected to the internet. They can be located anywhere in the world.
The network starts with the telescopes that capture light and transfer that light information as data readable on a computer. These telescope data are stored in data archives. There are data archives spread out across the world. Many data archives contain data from multiple telescopes. Any person that requests data of a specific object, for example, the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), will use the online web-based VAO data search tools that search the entire network of data archives for telescope images and/or spectra of the Pinwheel Galaxy. The search through the data archives is invisible to the person requesting data. The user gets back the results from all archives that house telescope data of the Pinwheel Galaxy. The user can also take advantage of tools being developed by various institutions that help to analyze and make sense of the data.
The Participating Telescopes page lists telescopes with data accessible via the VAO network. For an example of how to use the VAO data search tool, see the Use VAO Now section.