From distant exploding supernovae and nearby asteroids to the mysteries of dark matter, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) promises to survey the night skies and provide data to solve the universe’s biggest mysteries. On April 14, news media are invited to join the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and other public-private partners as they gather outside La Serena, Chile, to “officially” launch LSST’s construction in a traditional Chilean stone-laying ceremony.
LSST is an 8.4-meter, wide-field survey telescope that will image the entire visible sky a few times a week for 10 years. It is located in Cerro Pachón, a mountain peak in northern Chile, chosen for its clear air, low levels of light pollution and dry climate. Using a 3-billion pixel camera–the largest digital camera in the world–and a unique three-mirror construction, it will allow scientists to see a vast swath of sky, previously impervious to study.
The compact construction of LSST will enable rapid movement, allowing the camera to observe fleeting, rare astronomical events. It will detect and catalogue billions of objects in the universe, monitoring them over time and will provide this data–more than 30 terabytes each night–to astronomers, astrophysicists and the interested public around the world. Additionally, the digital camera will shed light on dark energy, which scientists have determined is accelerating the universe’s expansion. It will probe further into the mystery of dark energy, creating a unique dataset of billions of galaxies.
LSST is a notable partnership of government agencies and private donations, including Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Technológica (CONICYT) in Chile, the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and Bill Gates. LSST will see first light in 2019 and begin full operation in 2022.