3.4 Billion Pixel Telescope Plans Move One Step Further
April 26, 2012

3.4 Billion Pixel Telescope Plans Move One Step Further

Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com

The U.S. Department of Energy has given the go ahead for a proposed 3.4 billion pixel Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) to move on to the next step of development.

Now that the project has received approval from the department, it will begin the engineering design, scheduling, and budgeting portion of the project.

The telescope received a "Critical Decision 1" approval, making a big step toward being one of the widest, fastest and deepest view telescopes of the night sky.

The Department of Energy is funding the design, and the final instrument will be funded by it and the National Science Foundation.

“This is the culmination of years of work by a large group of dedicated people,” SLAC´s Steven Kahn, LSST deputy project director and leader of the DOE-funded effort on LSST, said in a statement. “I´ve personally been working on this since 2003, and it is tremendously satisfying to finally see this move forward to the point when we can begin to carry out the project.”

Once the telescope becomes operational, it will survey the entire visible sky on a weekly basis, producing about 6 million gigabytes of data a year.  This is the equivalent of an 8-megapixel camera shooting about 800,000 images every night.

Nadine Kurita, LSST project manager at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, said the instrument will have 189 sensors, and over 3 tons of components in it.

“But given the enormous challenges required to provide such a comprehensive view of the universe, it´s been an incredible opportunity to design something so unique," Kurita said in a statement.

Scientists hope to have the telescope, which will feature a 28-feet primary mirror, operational sometime in 2014 at a Chilean site.

LSST will help deliver images of near-Earth asteroids, Kuiper belt objects and other galactic structures.  It will also perform important research into dark energy and dark matter.

Once the telescope's data becomes publicly available, astronomers all over the world will be able to view faint and rapidly changing objects and create 3D maps and time lapses of the night sky.

"Not only should LSST revolutionize our understanding of the universe, its contents and the laws that govern its behavior, but it will also transform the way all of us, from kindergarteners to professional astrophysicists, use telescopes,” Tony Tyson, LSST director and a professor of physics at the University of California, Davis, said in a statement. “These are exciting times!"


Image Caption: An artistic rendering of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, with a man standing beside for perspective of the camera's size. (Image courtesy LSST Project)