Astronomers worldwide will be able to plug into a single internet database using a common interface which was launched yesterday.
Astrogrid is a three-year £5m project that attempts to put a single interface on all astronomical archives and datasets held online.
Scientists say it will give astronomers access to all the information they need at the touch of a button.
It will also help scientists cope with the tidal wave of data that new telescopes and satellites will be generating.
Nicholas Walton, project scientist for Astrogrid, said the system was inspired by research into ways of using the computers attached to the net as a coupled supercomputer or a storage system with almost limitless capacity.
He said astronomers spent far too much time hunting for data and converting it into a usable format.
Astrogrid creates a standard method of querying an astronomical database by defining a 'metadata' format that can be used to interpret sets of data so they can be queried through one interface similar to a web browser.
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