Partners Line Up to Join the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
Image: The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (artist’s impression) will map the sky every three nights.
The past few years have not been the best of times for building observatories. But in a world of budget constraints and schedule delays, the LSST is bucking the trend
The US-led project to build the world’s most powerful sky-mapping machine has nailed down international partnerships to fund project operations, which are intended to start in 2022. The commitments could help it to secure a final blessing from a key group: the board of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which met this week in Washington DC.
The project reflects a shift in astronomy from the study of individual objects to surveys and big data. It has wide appeal: in 2010, it came out top of a decadal survey of US funding priorities in astronomy and astrophysics. The telescope is expected to produce many more data than the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a highly productive northern survey. In less than two nights, the LSST will cover the same amount of sky as the Sloan managed in 8 years.
Organizers are confident that they will secure construction money. Aided by a total of US$30 million from philanthropists Bill Gates and Charles Simonyi, the project has already cast its primary mirror. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has committed $160 million towards a 3.2-gigapixel camera, and the NSF expects to be able to provide $466 million to build the rest of the telescope.