Steven M. Kahn: The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

A plenary talk from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2017.

24 August 2017

In Chile, France, and the US, elements of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) observatory, mankind's biggest-ever astronomy venture, are rolling smoothly toward first light, say its director, Steve Kahn of Stanford University (USA), in this plenary talk.

The LSST is a large aperture, wide-field, ground-based telescope designed to provide a time domain survey of the entire southern hemisphere in six optical bands. Over the ten-year duration of the survey, LSST will obtain ~800-1,000 images of every part of the southern sky, yielding a catalog of stars, galaxies, and moving small bodies in the solar system with nearly 40 billion objects.

A diverse array of scientific investigations can be performed with a common database addressing topics ranging from the detection of potentially hazardous asteroids to the structure and evolution of the Universe as a whole. LSST incorporates an 8-m class primary mirror with a 3.2 billion pixel camera.
Originally, the telescope had been due to begin operations in 2014. Those plans slipped and private backers - including Bill Gates - stepped in with personal funding to help get LSST back on track.

"LSST is deep into the construction-fabrication phase of the project, with significant work being undertaken by collaborators and industrial partners around the world," says Kahn. Partners include the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the CC-IN2P3 scientific computing center, both in France, who are working on cameras and sensor testing.

"The amount of data produced will be equal to everything human beings have ever written down, while images captured by LSST will exceed all of the cell phone pictures ever taken," says Kahn.

Steven M. Kahn is the Cassius Lamb Kirk Professor in the Natural Sciences in the Physics Department at Stanford University, and a Professor of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Prior to coming to Stanford in 2003, Kahn held faculty appointments at Columbia and Berkeley.

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