"LSST is truly an Internet telescope, which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. The 8.4-metre LSST telescope and the 3-gigapixel camera are thus a shared resource for all humanity — the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe."
Bill Gates -Microsoft co-founder.
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, partially funded by $30 million from Microsoft founders Bill gates and Charles Simyoni, the developer of Word and Excel, is projected for ‘first light’ in 2014 in Chile's Atacama Desert -the world's Southern Hemisphere space-observatory mecca. The 8.4-meter telescope will be able to survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its 3-billion pixel digital camera. The telescope will probe the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and it will open a movie-like window on objects that change or move rapidly: exploding supernovae, potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids and distant Kuiper Belt objects.
‘What a shock it was when Galileo saw in his telescope the phases of Venus, or the moons of Jupiter, the first hints of a dynamic universe,’ Simonyi said. ‘Today, by building a special telescope-computer complex, we can study this dynamism in unprecedented detail. LSST will produce a database suitable for answering the wide range of pressing questions: What is dark energy? What is dark matter? How did the Milky Way form? What are the properties of small bodies in the solar system? Are there potentially hazardous asteroids that may impact the Earth, causing significant damage? What sort of new phenomena have yet to be discovered? ’
The telescope will be constructed on Cerro Pachon, a mountain in northern Chile. Its design of three large mirrors and three refractive lenses in a camera leads to a 10-square-degree field of view with excellent image quality. The telescope’s 3,200-megapixel camera will be the largest digital camera ever constructed.
The project, known as LSST, exemplifies characteristics Simonyi and Gates have exhibited in their careers — innovation, excitement of discovery, cutting-edge technology and a creative energy that pushes the possibilities of human achievement.
LSST is designed to be a public facility. The database and resulting catalogues will be made available to the public with no proprietary restrictions. A sophisticated data management system will provide easy access, enabling simple queries from individual users. The public will actively share the adventure of discovery.
The wide-field imaging telescope now known as the LSST was originally designed at the UA by Regents’ Professor of Astronomy Roger Angel. UA astronomer Philip Pinto is responsible for simulating the telescope’s operation to develop new scientific strategies and to ensure that the instrument works as intended. The UA was one of the four founding members of the LSST Corporation in spring 2003.
The project has received two major gifts: $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The gifts enable the construction of the project’s three largest mirrors. Production for the two largest mirrors is now underway at The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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Source: The University of Arizona