Announcement: First ESO public release of data products from the VISTA public surveys

The ESO Science Archive Facility now provides community access to the first data products from the VISTA public survey projects. Following one year and a half of successful scientific operations of the VISTA telescope, the VISTA public surveys have returned nearly 6 TB of reduced data products, which can be queried for and downloaded by the international community via dedicated query interfaces at the ESO Science Archive Facility.

The survey programmes on the near-infrared 4-metre Visual and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) are a suite of well-coordinated and challenging scientific projects that range from pencil beam –deep observations of extragalactic fields - to whole hemisphere surveys. These surveys projects were approved during the OPC meeting #79 in November 2007 and effectively started surveying the Southern sky in April 2010, following the successful commissioning of the VISTA telescope at the La Silla-Paranal observatory. A summary of their scientific goals and observing strategies is available at the following URL:

As stated in the ESO council document on the VLT/VLTI science operation policies, the ESO Science Archive Facility is the collection point for the survey products and the primary point of publication/availability of these products to the ESO community. The policies that ESO implemented to manage the survey projects on behalf of the community entail the submission and publication of data products according to an agreed cadence before new telescope time allocation is granted to the continuation of each survey. The first of such review milestone is set one year and a half after the starting of scientific operations at the VISTA telescope. The survey teams have submitted the agreed-upon data products, the first of which are now publicly available for community access and scientific investigation.

The current data release covers mostly the period from February 2010 to September 2010. It primarily consists of astrometrically and photometrically calibrated mosaiced and coadded images, covering each 1.5 deg2 of sky, their weight maps, and associated single band source lists, in the different bands of each survey projects. The data products from the first VISTA public release can be queried for and retrieved at this URL:

A summary table with the survey project name, release content, sky coverage and the NIR filters is provided in Table 1.

Survey Project Release content Sky coverage (sq.deg) NIR filters
VVV Contiguous patch of bulge and disk region including multi-epoch data in Ks 520 ZYJHKs
VMC 2 pointings in the LMC, one overlapping with 30 Doradus and the other with the South Ecliptic Pole 3.0 YJKs
VHS VHS DES: 120 sec in JHK
VHS ATLAS: 60 secs in YJHKs
VHS GPS: 60 secs in JKs
1910 YJHKs

Each data release is accompanied by an accurate release description which provides information on the area coverage, the content of the release (i.e. bands, depth, etc) and additional details on the calibrations and results from quality control. These release descriptions are available at this URL:

The mechanism set in place by the Phase 3 process for the reception, validation, and publication of data products from public survey projects ensures a high homogeneity and uniform standards for the data products accessible via the ESO archive query interface plus accurate release descriptions which support the scientific use of the products by the international community beyond those initial goals identified by the survey teams.

By accessing the first VISTA public release, the ESO community benefits from joint efforts by ESO, the PIs of the VISTA public survey projects and their collaborators, including the data centers at CASU, (Cambridge, ) and WFAU (Edinburgh, ).