Virtual Observatory (VO) is a collection of integrated astronomical data archives and software tools that utilize computer networks to create an environment in which research can be conducted. About ten years ago several countries initiated national virtual observatory programs that will combine existing databases from ground-based and orbiting observatories and make them easily accessible to researchers. As a result, data from all the world's major observatories will be available to all users and to the public. This is significant not only because of the immense volume of astronomical data but also because the data on stars and galaxies have been compiled from observations in a variety of wavelengths: optical, radio, infrared, gamma ray, X-ray and more. Each wavelength can provide different information about a celestial event or object, but also requires a special expertise to interpret. In a virtual observatory environment, all of this data is integrated so that it can be synthesized and used in a given study.

The International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) represents 19 national and international projects working in coordination to realize the essential technologies and interoperability standards necessary to create a new research infrastructure. Russian Virtual Observatory is one of the founders and important members of the IVOA. In December 2001, the Scientific Council on Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences strongly endorsed the Russian Virtual Observatory initiative with Centre for Astronomical Data (INASAN) and SAO RAS as coordinators. Principal RVO goals are stated as follows: i) to provide Russian astronomical community with a convenient access to the world astronomical resources and ii) to unite Russian and fSU data, to provide them to the rest of the world and to integrate them into the International Virtual Observatory.

The VO has evolved beyond the demonstration level to become a real research tool and produces scientific results based on end-to-end use of VO instruments.

The full text of the Project can be found here.

Information Infrastructure of the Russian Virtual Observatory (RVO). Second Edition