The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in Chile will “transform our view of the universe,” according to astronomer Andrew Connolly who spoke at a Ted conference in Vancouver on Thursday. He called it the “most fascinating experiment in the history of astronomy.”
What makes this telescope revolutionary is that it can capture more data than any other technology currently out there.
With the world’s largest digital camera, the telescope — which would sit atop a mountain peak in northern Chile — can generate 15 terabytes of data per night. It has the ability to pick up faint objects and image them at an unprecedented speed. That means scientists will be able to see instant changes in brightness or positions of objects in the sky.
Connolly said that viewing one full-sky image from LSST would take 1,500 high-definition television screens.
He compared the survey to “playing every TED Talk ever recorded simultaneously for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 years.”
Mining through the data, Connolly said, presents a challenge similar to searching through all those talks and seeing how one frame changes from the next.
Observing all of these small changes in the nighttime sky will “turn our understanding of the universe on its head,” said Connolly.
For example, scientists could use the images to track asteroids, including those that could crash into us or be valuable for mining.
Over the course of 10 years, scientists expect LSST to detect billions of objects in the universe that we did not previously know about. The data would also be made public so that anyone could access the information.
The telescope is still in the “design and development phase,” according to the official website. It should be fully operational toward the end of the decade.
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