How can we find a faint, currently undetected body that could be a binary companion? Through the use of a Virtual Observatory (VO). A VO is a collection of interacting astronomical databases (data grid) accessed by specifically created software tools, run on powerful computers by specially trained experts. A Virtual Observatory is a “virtual telescope” capable of processing many years of archived astronomical data for patterns or tracks of faint orbiting bodies.

An example of the power of a Virtual Observatory is the discovery last year of the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2001 KX76. In a month and a half, 18 years of past data was analyzed by Astrovirtel (European Virtual Observatory) to discover the orbit of KX76. There had been many faint images of KX76, but it was the power of a Virtual Observatory that “recognized” the orbital pattern of the KBO.

The following URLs have more information on virtual observatories.