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Gates, Simonyi Give LSST $30M

Photonics.com
Jan 2008
TUCSON, Ariz., Jan. 8, 2008 -- The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project has received $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder Bill Gates that it said will enable it to build its three large mirrors, an endeavor that could take more than five years. The first stages of production for the two largest mirrors are now beginning at the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, located at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The project said other key elements of its system will also be aided by the commitment. Charles Simonyi is co-founder of Intentional Software Corp. and a former Microsoft executive.

Donald Sweeney, LSST project manager, said, "The LSST will be the world's most powerful survey telescope. This major gift keeps the project on schedule by enabling the early fabrication of LSST’s large optics and other long-lead components of the LSST system."LSST.jpg

(Image: LSST Corp.)
Under development since 2000, the LSST Project is a public-private partnership that uses advances in large telescope design, imaging detectors and computing in the pursuit of cosmic discovery.

The 8.4-meter LSST, proposed for “first light” in 2014 on Cerro Pachón, a mountain in northern Chile, will survey the entire visible sky in multiple colors every week with a three-billion pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of dark matter and energy and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move. Its design of three large mirrors and three refractive lenses in a camera leads to a 10-sq-degree field of view with excellent image quality. The telescope's 3200-megapixel camera will be the largest digital camera ever constructed.

Over 10 years of operations, about 2000 deep exposures will be acquired for every part of the sky over 20,000 square degrees. This color “movie” of the universe will open an entirely new window: the time domain. LSST will produce 30 terabytes of data per night, yielding a total database of 150 petabytes. Dedicated facilities will process the data in real time.

"The LSST exemplifies characteristics Simonyi and Gates have exhibited in their successful lives and careers -- innovation, excitement of discovery, cutting edge technology, and a creative energy that pushes the possibilities of human achievement," the project said in a statment.

LSST Director J. Anthony Tyson, PhD, who is a physics professor at the University of California, Davis, said, “This support from Charles Simonyi and Bill Gates will lead to a transformation in the way we study the universe. By mapping the visible sky deeply and rapidly, the LSST will let everyone experience a novel view of our universe and permit exciting new questions in a variety of areas of astronomy and fundamental physics.”

"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 a 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? "

Gates said, “LSST is just as imaginative in its technology and approach as it is with its science mission. LSST is truly an internet telescope, which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. Astronomical research with LSST becomes a software issue -- writing code and database queries to mine the night sky and recover its secrets. The 8.4-meter LSST telescope and the three gigapixel camera are thus a shared resource for all humanity -- the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe."

He added, “It is fun for Charles and me to be a team again supporting this work, given all we have done together on software projects.”

LSST is designed to be a public facility; the database and resulting catalogs 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 (professionals and amateurs), as well as computationally intensive scientific investigations that utilize the entire database.

For more information, visit: www.lsst.org


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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