Metadata Standards

AVM - Astronomy Visualization Metadata

A standard defining discovery metadata for fully rendered astronomical imagery.

FITS - Flexible Image Transport System

Used by the astronomy community to originally describe telescope images, but is now a family of standards to describe multi-dimensional data including spatial, spectral and temporal dimensions and the scaling and distortions that may be present.

International Virtual Observatory Alliance Technical Specifications

A set of specifications, including metadata standards, that enable the integration of many astronomical archives into an international virtual observatory.

SDAC - Standard for Documentation of Astronomical Catalogues

Used as an alternative to FITS for archiving astronomical data in a form that is more accessible to humans and standard Unix command-line tools.

SPASE Data Model

An information model for describing the elements of the heliophysics data environment.


FITS World Coordinate System (WCS)

An extension of FITS that enables data to be defined to specify physical, or world coordinates within each pixel in an image. The conventions were orignally proposed in 2002 then incorporated into the 3.0 release of the FITS standard.

IMPEx Data Model

A simulation extention to the SPASE data model.

Resource Metadata for the Virtual Observatory

Defines metadata terms and concepts necessary for discovery and use of astronomical data collections and services.

The extension is based on Dublin Core, but with astronomy-specific extensions. Resource Metadata are collected in resource "registries" that are populated and synchronized using the OAI-PMH (Protocol for Metadata Handling). Version 1.12, March 2007. Developed and maintained by IVOA Resource Registry Working Group and NVO Metadata Working Group


AVM Adobe Metadata Panels

A set of metadata panels that can be added to Adobe Creative Suite 4 applications to allow AVM-compliant metadata to be entered directly into images.

AVM Web Tool

A web-based tool for assembling an AVM-compliant XMP packet for insertion into an image file.

FITS Image Software Packages
Software packages that display or manipulate the relatively simple class of FITS data files that containing 2-dimensional images
GAVO DaCHS - Data Center Helper Suite

The software that underlies the German Astrophysical Virtual Observatory (GAVO), packaged so that it can be used to set up other Virtual Observatory-compliant data centres.


A tool for publishing astronomical data files as online databases suitable for integration into the international Virtual Observatory.

SDAC Tools

A set of four tools for working with SDAC-compliant archives: acut can be used to edit text files in a columnar fashion; trcol removes or transforms columns from a text file; anafile verifies that data files conform to their description; tofits converts SDAC tables to FITS tables.

SPASE Metadata Editor

A web-based editor for generating SPASE descriptions.


The SPASE website's list of tools for working with SPASE metadata and the SPASE framework.

Use Cases

Aus-VO - Australian Virtual Observatory

An initiative to provide a distributed, uniform interface to the data archives of Australia's major astronomical observatories, and to archives of astrophysical simulations, as part of the international Virtual Observatory.

CDS - Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg

CDS (Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg/Strasbourg astronomical Data Centre) is a member of the ICSU World Data System, specialising in astronomical data and related information. Its VizieR catalogue system uses SDAC to organise data and metadata holdings.

ESA - European Space Agency

ESA is an international organisation with 20 Member States that coordinates the financial and intellectual resources of it's members to facilitate space related programmes and activities. Image data is released using FITS for many missions.

Euro-VO - European Virtual Observatory

A project to integrate and enable data analysis techniques over the astronomical archives of Europe, as part of the international Virtual Observatory. 


The High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) is the primary archive for NASA's (and other space agencies') missions dealing with electromagnetic radiation from extremely energetic phenomena ranging from black holes to the Big Bang.

IVOA - International Virtual Observatory Alliance

The International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) is an organisation that debates and agrees to technical standards that are needed to make the Virtual Observatory possible. FITS is one of those standards.

JAXA - Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Japan's independent administrative institution that handles research and development in space and aviation areas.


The National Space Science Data Center's registry of SPASE-described space science mission data.

SPASE Inside

The SPASE website's list of systems that use SPASE compliant metadata to enable search services.

Spitzer Space Telescope Website

The image gallery for the Spitzer Space Telescope employs AVM within its content management system, and all the images have AVM tags embedded within them.

STEREO Science Center

Archive for STEREO telemetry, mission support data, and higher level instrument data and analysis software.

US Virtual Astronomical Observatory

An initiative to integrate astronomical archives and provide associated research capabilities in the United States as part of the international Virtual Observatory.

Virtual Solar Observatory