The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope has received the first year of a four-year, $14.2 million award from the National Science Foundation to design and develop a world-class, 8.4-meter telescope scheduled for completion in 2012.
This award will allow engineers and scientists to complete design work already underway so that the LSST can begin construction in 2009. This unique system for surveying the heavens is made possible by advances in several technologies including:
- Large optics fabrication to create the telescope's distinctive 3-mirror design which includes a convex four-meter secondary mirror, the size 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 fifty times that of the full moon every 15 seconds, opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move on rapid time scales – supernovae explosions which can be seen halfway across the universe, nearby asteroids which might potentially strike Earth, and faint objects in the outer solar system, far beyond Pluto. Using the light-bending gravity of dark matter, the LSST will chart the history of the expansion of the universe and probe the mysterious nature of dark energy.
The LSST data will be “open” to the public and scientists around the world – anyone with a web browser will be able to access the images and other data produced by the LSST.
“The LSST is a public-private partnership and will offer a 'New Sky' available to everyone,” said LSST director J. Anthony Tyson of the University of California at Davis. “Curious minds of all ages will be able to ask new questions of the LSST's public database and zoom into a color movie of the deep universe.”