Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Sky's the Limit

There’s more up there in the sky than we have previously imagined. We’re about to vastly expand our store of knowledge when the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is deployed in Chile. At 13.2 billion pixels, this telescope has the breadth to survey the entire night sky over Chile every 3 nights. Compare that with Hubble which would need 13M pictures. This leap in capability will take us beyond just having more data; it will actually offer a qualitative leap forward.

The LSST will give us unprecedented insight into space and time. The greater distance you can see in the universe, the farther back in time you are seeing, because that very distant light left that star so long ago.  Understanding supernovae will offer great insights and the LSST should be able to find 1.5 million supernovae in a short time. 

But resolution isn’t enough. Finding a supernovae involves comparing a sky image with the image from the same place the night before, looking for differences that indicate the presence of a supernova.  That's big data at its most intense, and the LSST’s fancy camera must be paired with equally impressive software power. It's the confluence of those capabilities that could revolutionize our understanding of the universe.

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