LSST lays first stone

April 15, 2015
A photograph and a rendering mix, showing a view of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope's exterior building, from the road leading up to the site, a mountain peak in northern Chile called Cerro Pachon. Credit: LSST

A new ground-based telescope promises unprecedented information about distant galaxies, nearby asteroids and even the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our universe.

Today, collaborators from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Chile's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Technológica (CONICYT) and several other international public-private partners will gather outside La Serena, Chile, for a traditional Chilean stone-laying ceremony to celebrate the construction launch of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

The LSST will be an 8-meter wide-field survey telescope that will image the entire visible sky a few times each week for 10 years, providing an unprecedented amount of information while transforming the emerging discipline of data-enabled science. It is expected to see first light in 2019 and begin full operation in 2022.

"Today, we embark on an exciting moment in astronomical history," said NSF Director France A. Córdova, an astrophysicist. "NSF is thrilled to lead the way in funding a unique facility that has the potential to transform our knowledge of the universe."

A rendering of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, from May 2013. The LSST will be an 8-meter wide-field survey telescope that will image the entire visible sky a few times each week for 10 years. The LSST will reveal unprecedented information about distant galaxies, nearby asteroids and even the mysterious dark energy that is expanding the universe. Credit: LSST

Equipped with a 3-billion pixel digital camera (the world's largest digital camera), LSST will observe objects as they change or move, providing insight into short-lived transient events such as astronomical explosions and the orbital paths of potentially hazardous asteroids. LSST will take more than 800 panoramic images of the sky each night, allowing for detailed maps of the Milky Way and of our own solar system and charting billions of remote galaxies. Its observations will also probe the imprints of dark matter and dark energy on the evolution of the universe.

"We are very excited to see the start of the summit construction of the LSST facility," said James Siegrist, DOE associate director of science for high-energy physics. "The LSST's digital camera—which is DOE's responsibility—will shed light on the nature of dark energy, the name we give to the mysterious force accelerating the universe's expansion. By collecting a unique dataset of billions of galaxies, LSST will provide multiple probes of , helping to tackle one of science's greatest mysteries."

NSF and DOE will share responsibilities over the lifetime of the project. The NSF, through its partnership with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), will develop the site and telescope, along with the extensive data management system, as well as coordinate education and outreach efforts. DOE, through a collaboration led by its SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will develop the large-format camera.

In addition, the Republic of Chile will serve as project host, providing (and protecting) access to some of the darkest and clearest skies in the world over the LSST site on Cerro Pachón, a mountain peak in northern Chile. The site was chosen through an international competition due to the pristine skies, low levels of light pollution, dry climate and the robust and reliable infrastructure available in Chile.

LSST will take more than 800 panoramic images of the sky each night, allowing for detailed maps of the Milky Way and of our own solar system, and charting billions of remote galaxies. Its observations will also probe the imprints of dark matter and dark energy on the evolution of the universe. Credit: NSF/Adrian Apodaca

"Chile has extraordinary natural conditions for astronomical observation, and this is once again demonstrated by the decision to build this unique telescope in Cerro Pachón," said CONICYT President Francisco Brieva. "We are convinced that the LSST will bring important benefits for science in Chile and worldwide by opening up a new window of observation that will lead to new discoveries. By 2020 our country is expected to concentrate 70 percent of the world's astronomical infrastructure, and in this process the collaboration and trust of institutions like NSF and AURA is vital."

"This is not just another telescope," said Diane Souvaine, Tufts University vice provost for research and former National Science Board (NSB) chairman of the Committee on Programs and Plans. "What makes LSST so exciting is a data set that will be immediately available to scientists and the general public. Tens of thousands of transient events each night will be available to the entire world, reaching social networks, citizen scientists, and students everywhere. This instrument will leave an unparalleled legacy of data and lives touched."

The NSB voted to approve the LSST project in August 2012, clearing the way for NSF to include funds for construction in NSF's annual budget request. Private donors, including the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, and Bill Gates, also played a critical role in supporting LSST construction. A complete list of LSST institutional members is online.

Explore further: World's most powerful camera receives funding approval

Related Stories

World's most powerful camera receives funding approval

January 9, 2015

Plans for the construction of the world's largest digital camera at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have reached a major milestone. The 3,200-megapixel centerpiece of the Large Synoptic Survey ...

Scientists prepare for Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

March 10, 2015

When the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope begins in 2022 to image the entire southern sky from a mountaintop in Chile, it will produce the widest, deepest and fastest views of the night sky ever observed – and a flood of ...

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope deemed top priority

August 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), in which Lawrence Livermore plays a large role, has been ranked by a key scientific committee as the top priority for the next large ground-based astronomical facility.

Recommended for you

NASA telescope studies quirky comet 45P

November 22, 2017

When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial ...

Uncovering the origins of galaxies' halos

November 21, 2017

Using the Subaru Telescope atop Maunakea, researchers have identified 11 dwarf galaxies and two star-containing halos in the outer region of a large spiral galaxy 25 million light-years away from Earth. The findings, published ...

Cassini image mosaic: A farewell to Saturn

November 21, 2017

In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.