Large Synoptic Survey Telescope nears final design phase
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope just received another boost. The National Science Foundation announced today that it has received the go-ahead from the National Science Board to advance the giant telescope to the final design stage.
This milestone allows the NSF director to include funds for its part of the joint NSF-Department of Energy project in a future budget proposal.
"LSST will provide an unprecedented view of the sky while leading the emerging discipline of data-enabled science," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "The project will foster international collaboration and offer unique methods for discovery in this new age of Big Data."
From a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes, LSST will view the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky, taking more than 800 panoramic photos each night. By stitching these individual images together, LSST will create a full portrait of the southern sky twice a week. And by stacking the composites together, researchers will generate the largest and most detailed sky maps to date. In all, LSST is expected to generate more than five petabytes of data each year.
That’s possible thanks to LSST’s 3.2-billion-pixel camera, the largest digital camera ever constructed. Designed by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera is the size of a small car and will produce extremely high-quality data with little downtime and maintenance.
With this data, researchers will study the mysterious nature of dark matter and dark energy, and will provide insight into objects that change or move quickly—such as supernovae or near-Earth asteroids.
NSF's announcement follows the DOE's April Critical Decision 1 approval for the camera project, clearing the way for its detailed engineering design.
"CD1 approval assured us we could go ahead with the camera," said SLAC's Steve Kahn, who is LSST project leader at SLAC and deputy director of LSST. "But that was always assuming the NSF moved forward as well. Now we know the project as a whole can move forward."
Construction on the telescope is expected to begin in 2014, with first light about five years after that.
LSST is jointly funded by NSF and the Department of Energy. NSF maintains responsibility for the development of the site and telescope as well as the data management system, while DOE, through the SLAC-led collaboration, is responsible for development and delivery of the LSST camera.