The goal of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project is to conduct a 10-year survey of the sky that will deliver a 500 petabyte set of images and data products that will address some of the most pressing questions about the structure and evolution of the universe and the objects in it. The LSST survey is designed to address four science areas:
• Understanding the Mysterious Dark Matter and Dark Energy
• Hazardous Asteroids and the Remote Solar System
• The Transient Optical Sky
• The Formation and Structure of the Milky Way
Of particular interest to KICP researchers in the Survey Science group is the fact that LSST will probe the nature of dark matter and dark energy using several billion galaxies, employing a variety of methods to enable cross-checking of results. By mapping galaxies through time and space, cataloguing their masses, and studying their influence on the distortion of space-time, LSST will gain new insight into the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Of particular interest are the dynamical behavior of dark energy—how it behaves with cosmic time or with redshift—and the influence of dark matter on the development of structure on a cosmic scale.
The scientific questions that LSST will address are profound, and yet the concept behind the design of the LSST project is remarkably simple: conduct a deep survey over an enormous area of sky; do it with a frequency that enables images of every part of the visible sky to be obtained every few nights; and continue in this mode for ten years to achieve astronomical catalogs thousands of times larger than have ever previously been compiled.
The 8.4-meter LSST uses a special three-mirror design, which creates an exceptionally wide field of view, and has the ability to survey the entire sky in only three nights. In order to take advantage of high-quality images produced over such a wide field, the camera contains over three billion pixels of solid state detectors. The LSST Summit Facility is located on the Cerro Pachón ridge in north-central Chile.