A Wide New Window on the Universe

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For decades, ground-based astronomy has consisted mostly of a lone astronomer earning the right to train a powerful telescope for a few nights on an extremely small patch of sky. If the astronomer is fortunate, a celestial discovery will be shared many months later with colleagues through a journal article or private correspondence. Lawrence Livermore is a major partner in a new telescope project that promises to forever change that scenario--and all of astronomy--by taking advantage of advanced optical manufacturing techniques, digital imaging, supercomputer data processing, and the Internet. The ground-based Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), scheduled for completion in ... continued below

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Hazi, A January 25, 2006.

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For decades, ground-based astronomy has consisted mostly of a lone astronomer earning the right to train a powerful telescope for a few nights on an extremely small patch of sky. If the astronomer is fortunate, a celestial discovery will be shared many months later with colleagues through a journal article or private correspondence. Lawrence Livermore is a major partner in a new telescope project that promises to forever change that scenario--and all of astronomy--by taking advantage of advanced optical manufacturing techniques, digital imaging, supercomputer data processing, and the Internet. The ground-based Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), scheduled for completion in 2012, will provide, for the first time, digital imaging of objects, including changing events, in deep space across the entire sky. Data from LSST's Reprinted from Science & Technology Review, November 2005 UCRL-TR-218446 observation will catch a transient event. Furthermore, such an instrument would take many years to map the entire sky. Current all-sky maps made with smaller telescopes are limited in depth (faintness) and detail. LSST will overcome these drawbacks by mapping the entire sky deeply, rapidly, and continuously with a 10-square-degree field of view. What's more, when the telescope detects an object of interest, such as an exploding supernova, it will send out an alert for more specialized telescopes to follow up with higher resolution images. Livermore researchers are participating in all aspects of the LSST project, from management to research efforts. For example, Bill Goldstein, associate director of the Physics and Advanced Technologies (PAT) Directorate, is on the governing board of the nonprofit LSST Corporation. Physicist Don Sweeney is the LSST project manager and manages the entire LSST effort from the project offices in Tucson, Arizona. Astrophysicist Kem Cook is a key member of the LSST science team astronomical surveys will be accessible almost immediately to astronomers and the public on the Internet. Over a span of three nights, LSST will construct a complete, detailed map of the sky using a telescope with a 8.4-meter primary mirror and an enormous detector. Of particular importance, the telescope will record objects that change or move, from exploding supernovae billions of light years away to comets passing close to Earth. The first complete survey produced by LSST may also provide clues about so-called dark matter and dark energy and new information about the nature and origin of the universe. Finally, LSST will catalog near-Earth objects to provide insight into the formation of the solar system and to warn Earth's inhabitants in the event of a potential collision with an asteroid. Although a few telescopes with 8-meter-aperture mirrors exist, they are optimized to look deeply at small parts of the sky. Their small field of view makes it extremely unlikely that a single and heads the Laboratory's LSST-related astrophysics research activities. Engineer Jim Brase is managing Livermore's participation. Brase heads PAT's Optical Science and Technology Division, which develops advanced detectors for both astronomical research and national security. Most of the LSST research and development work is supported by Livermore's Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program, which is enabling scientists and engineers to develop new capabilities in optical instrumentation with both scientific and national security applications. Brase says, ''Astronomers traditionally apply for time on a remote telescope, but LSST will change everything''. The telescope will be completely automated, building a huge database of celestial objects every night. Science will be done by astronomers doing ''data mining'', that is, finding unique features on LSST images they have downloaded from the Internet to their office computers. In this way, scientists worldwide will have near-real-time access to astronomical developments that occur anywhere in the sky.

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PDF-file: 9 pages; size: 0.4 Mbytes

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  • Report No.: UCRL-TR-218446
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • DOI: 10.2172/883766 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 883766
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc875398

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  • January 25, 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Dec. 9, 2016, 9:02 p.m.

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Hazi, A. A Wide New Window on the Universe, report, January 25, 2006; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc875398/: accessed September 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.