NOAO and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

NOAO is a founding member of the LSST Corporation (LSSTC) and an active participant in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project. NOAO activities are focused on:

  • promoting the development and construction of the project
  • development of the telescope, summit and base facility infrastructure
  • community participation and representing community interests in the project

Advocating for a powerful new tool for the astronomical community

AURA and NOAO have advocated for a wide field survey telescope since the late 1990s and partnered with Research Corporation, and the Universities of Arizona and Washington to form the LSSTC in 2003. NOAO has continued to support the growing partnership with funding and governing support. The NOAO Director is a standing member of the LSSTC Board of Directors and the AURA Management Council for LSST. In October 2011, the LSST construction project became an AURA operating center, an agreement that brings together AURA’s long-term management experience with the substantial scientific and technical expertise developed by LSST Corporation over the past decade.

View 2008 AURA endorsement of LSST as a Community Project

Designing the telescope, site, and summit facilities

NOAO has established an agreement with the LSST Project to lead the development and construction of the LSST Telescope and Site sub-system. This part of the project includes all aspects of the telescope, site, summit facility and base facility except the equipment specific to the camera and the data management tasks. NOAO has assembled a team of engineers, programmers, and scientists with a rich history of astronomical facility development, maintenance and operation to address the development challenges of this sub-system. The group is developing the technical designs for the LSST and managing LSSTC projects to develop the mirrors for the LSST using non-federal funding.

The LSST Project concluded a multi-year site selection process and accepted the independent panel recommendation to locate LSST on Cerro Pachón in Chile. Since this selection the NOAO site team has focused on detailed site characterization, summit facility design, and has managed a privately funded effort to level the site in preparation for the summit infrastructure. Environmental permits are in place, clearing the way for all construction and operational permits for LSST on Cerro Pachón. The image on the left shows the site following the initial leveling.

The NOAO LSST project team has a significant participation in LSST system engineering and observatory control system (OCS) development. The NOAO group forms the nucleus of the Operations Simulator Team, a group developing tools to simulate the observations taken in the entire LSST survey considering technical design, weather, and observation demands. NOAO scientists are leading the effort to develop performance metrics for these simulations. The LSST OCS is part of the NOAO scope of effort for LSST. This work is led by NOAO South engineers using heritage elements and experience from SOAR and recent Blanco upgrades.

Providing a gateway to broad community participation

The LSST project is committed to being a community asset for professional astronomers and astrophysicists and the public alike. The data will be available to the US and Chilean communities without any proprietary period and alerts on transient phenomena detected by LSST will be broadcast compliant with the VO and other brokers within 60 seconds of an observation.

NOAO has an LSST Science Working Group (SWG) to support various aspects of scientific development for the LSST project. This includes contributions to simulator development and calibration. A major initiative is the NOAO Transient Sky Project whose goal is to provide realistic estimates of the numbers, types, and magnitude distributions of variables that will be detected during LSST operations.

The project has included an education and public outreach component to begin the effort required to effectively reach the public and is actively engaging the professional community as well through science collaborations.

NOAO is working with the LSST project to invite US scientists to join these collaborations and interact with the project. For more information on how community scientists can participate, see the LSST community participation page. NOAO administers the membership process and organizes meetings of the collaborations in Tucson to support engagement within the groups and the project as it finalizes the plans for the system design and data output.

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