Beyond Hubble! Internet Space Observatory to Open a Movie-like Window on the Universe

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"LSST is truly an Internet telescope, which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. The 8.4-metre LSST telescope and the 3-gigapixel camera are thus a shared resource for all humanity — the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe."

Bill Gates -Microsoft co-founder.


The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, partially funded by $30 million from Microsoft founders Bill gates and Charles Simyoni, the developer of Word and Excel, is projected for ‘first light’ in 2014 in Chile's Atacama Desert -the world's Southern Hemisphere space-observatory mecca. The 8.4-meter telescope will be able to survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its 3-billion pixel digital camera. The telescope will probe the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and it will open a movie-like window on objects that change or move rapidly: exploding supernovae, potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids and distant Kuiper Belt objects.

    ‘What a shock it was when Galileo saw in his telescope the phases of Venus, or the moons of Jupiter, the first hints of a dynamic universe,’ Simonyi said. "Today, by building a special telescope-computer complex, we can study this dynamism in unprecedented detail. LSST will produce a database suitable for answering the wide range of pressing questions: What is dark energy? What is dark matter? How did the Milky Way form? What are the properties of small bodies in the solar system? Are there potentially hazardous asteroids that may impact the Earth, causing significant damage? What sort of new phenomena have yet to be discovered? "

The telescope will be constructed on Cerro Pachon, a mountain in northern Chile. Its design of three large mirrors and three refractive lenses in a camera leads to a 10-square-degree field of view with excellent image quality. The telescope’s 3,200-megapixel camera will be the largest digital camera ever constructed.

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LSST is designed to be a public facility. The database and resulting cataloges will be made available to the public with no proprietary restrictions. A sophisticated data management system will provide easy access, enabling simple queries from individual users. The public will actively share the adventure of discovery.

The wide-field imaging telescope now known as the LSST was originally designed at the UA by Regents’ Professor of Astronomy Roger Angel. UA astronomer Philip Pinto is responsible for simulating the telescope’s operation to develop new scientific strategies and to ensure that the instrument works as intended. The UA was one of the four founding members of the LSST Corporation in spring 2003.

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Casey Kazan via The University of Arizona

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Hubble image top of page: The two spiral galaxies started to interact a few hundred million years ago, making the Antennae galaxies one of the nearest and youngest examples of a pair of colliding galaxies. Nearly half of the faint objects in the Antennae image are young clusters containing tens of thousands of stars. The orange blobs to the left and right of image center are the two cores of the original galaxies and consist mainly of old stars criss-crossed by filaments of dust, which appears brown in the image. The two galaxies are dotted with brilliant blue star-forming regions surrounded by glowing hydrogen gas, appearing in the image in pink.

The new image allows astronomers to better distinguish between the stars and super star clusters created in the collision of two spiral galaxies. By age dating the clusters in the image, astronomers find that only about 10 percent of the newly formed super star clusters in the Antennae will survive beyond the first 10 million years. The vast majority of the super star clusters formed during this interaction will disperse, with the individual stars becoming part of the smooth background of the galaxy. It is however believed that about a hundred of the most massive clusters will survive to form regular globular clusters, similar to the globular clusters found in our own Milky Way galaxy. The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms" extending far out from the nuclei of the two galaxies, best seen by ground-based telescopes. These "tidal tails" were formed during the initial encounter of the galaxies some 200 to 300 million years ago. They give us a preview of what may happen when our Milky Way galaxy collides with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy in several billion years.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

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