Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

Looking at how things change in the sky

Astronomy Computer Technology

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September-October 2018

Volume 106, Number 5
Page 274

DOI: 10.1511/2018.106.5.274

LSST is the first deep-sky movie camera, showing how the universe changes in real time. Its 3.2-gigapixel charge-coupled device (CCD) camera will scan the entire visible sky every few days, feeding the results into a global data-processing network. Over its 10-year primary mission, LSST will create the world's largest non-proprietary database. It is scheduled to open in 2021 atop Cerro Pachón in Chile.

Broad Spectrum

A powerful digital camera—the size of a small car—will detect near-ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light. A refrigeration system chills its sensors to 173 kelvins to minimize thermal noise. (Details of the camera assembly shown below.)

High Sensitivity

LSST's three-mirror optics give it an unusually wide field of view. Its primary mirror is 8.4 meters wide, collecting more than 12 times as much light as the Hubble Space Telescope.

LSST by the Numbers

  • 800 panoramic shots taken per night
  • 20 terabytes of data collected nightly
  • 10 million observing alerts every night
  • 49 full moons would fit into each image
  • 100 million gigabits of data per second transmitted to LLS centers worldwide
  • 11 trillion bits per hour of light converted into digital data

Infographic by Gary L. Schroeder

Science Mission

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Explore: The changing sky

LSST will revolutionize the study of astronomical objects that change rapidly, including variable stars, supernovas, and black holes. It may also lead to the discovery of entirely new classes of transient events.

Study: Dark matter, dark energy

By mapping the motion of several billion galaxies and measuring how they distort spacetime, LSST will provide insights into the dark, unseen components that dominate the universe.

Map: The Milky Way

The telescope will explore our galaxy in unprecedented detail, revealing the motions of millions of stars and yielding a three-dimensional map covering 1,000 times the volume of previous surveys.

Catalog: The Solar System

LSST will study millions of objects, including up to 90 percent of the potentially hazardous asteroids more than 140 meters in diameter. It should also detect some 40,000 bodies beyond Neptune.