The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope has received the first year of afour-year, $14.2 million award from the National Science Foundation todesign and develop a world-class, 8.4-meter telescope scheduled forcompletion in 2012.
This award will allow engineers and scientists to complete designwork already underway so that the LSST can begin construction in 2009.This unique system for surveying the heavens is made possible byadvances in several technologies including:
* Large optics fabrication to create the telescope's distinctive3-mirror design, which includes a convex 4-meter secondary mirror, thesize of many primary mirrors on today's large research telescopes.
* Data management systems to process and catalog the 30 terabytes of data generated nightly, the equivalent of 7,000 DVDs.
* New detectors needed to build the LSST's 3 billion pixel digital camera, the largest ever created.
The LSST will image an area of the sky roughly 50 times that of thefull moon every 15 seconds, opening a movie-like window on objects thatchange or move on rapid time scales. Such objects include supernovaeexplosions that can be seen halfway across the universe, nearbyasteroids which might potentially strike Earth, and faint objects inthe outer solar system far beyond Pluto. Using the light-bendinggravity of dark matter, the LSST will chart the history of theexpansion of the universe and probe the mysterious nature of darkenergy.
The LSST data will be "open" to the public and scientists around theworld - anyone with a web browser will be able to access the images andother data produced by the LSST. "The LSST is a public-privatepartnership and will offer a 'New Sky' available to everyone," saidLSST Director J. Anthony Tyson of the University of California, Davis."Curious minds of all ages will be able to ask new questions of theLSST's public database and zoom into a color movie of the deepuniverse."
The LSST Corporation awarded a $2.3 million contract to theUniversity of Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Lab in January, 2005,to purchase the glass and begin engineering work for the LSST's8.4-meter diameter main mirror. Although the final site for the LSSThas not been decided, the telescope will be placed in one of threecandidate locations -- Las Campanas, Chile; Cerro Pachon, Chile; or SanPedro Martir, Baja California, Mexico.
The LSST has been identified as a national scientific priority inreports by several National Academy of Sciences and federal agencyadvisory committees. This judgment is based upon the LSST's ability toaddress some of the most pressing open questions in astronomy andfundamental physics, while driving advances in data-intensive scienceand computing. The National Academy of Sciences "Quarks-to-Cosmos"report recommended the LSST as an incisive probe of the nature of darkenergy. The LSST will open a new frontier in addressing time variablephenomena in astronomy, according to a May 2000 academy report"Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium."
In 2003, the University of Arizona, the National Optical AstronomyObservatory, Research Corporation, and the University of Washington,formed the LSST Corporation, a non-profit 501(c)3 Arizona corporation,with headquarters in Tucson, AZ. Membership has expanded to includeBrookhaven National Laboratory, Harvard-Smithsonian Center forAstrophysics, Johns Hopkins University. Lawrence Livermore NationalLaboratory, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University,University of California, Davis, and the University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign.
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