National Science Board recommends giant survey telescope

This week, the National Science Board recommended proceeding to the final design stage for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a telescope with a 330-inch mirror to be located in Chile, which will survey over half of the sky. Penn State has been a member of the LSST project since 2005. "The data that LSST will gather during its 10 years of operation will offer us an unprecedented view of the universe, and will allow us to investigate important questions ranging from charting unknown objects in our own solar system to the large-scale structure of the universe and the nature of dark energy and dark matter," said Lawrence Ramsey, a member of the LSST Board of Directors as well as professor of astronomy and astrophysics and an Eberly College of Science distinguished senior scholar at Penn State. Links to images and videos are online at

The LSST project is an international collaboration of 36 institutions, and will cost $665 million to build. Construction and commissioning of the telescope are expected to take seven years. "The heart of the LSST is a 3-billion-pixel, specially designed camera the size of a small car that can obtain a deep image of the sky covering an area of 50 full moons," remarked Niel Brandt, distinguished professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and the chair of the LSST's Active Galactic Nuclei Science Collaboration. The large size of the telescope and the wide field of view of the camera allow the LSST to cover the entire available sky every few days. Two of the many scientific programs enabled by this frequent viewing of the sky are the identification of "Near Earth Asteroids," bodies whose orbits indicate that they could collide with the Earth; and the identification of transient sources in the distant universe, such as supernova explosions and the tidal shredding of stars by supermassive black holes.

"The LSST will bring about a revolution in our understanding of the cosmos," said Brandt. "We cannot even begin to imagine all the insights that we will gain from the observations."

The announcement from the National Science Board is online at Additional information about the LSST is on the project's website,

For more information, contact Niel Brandt at, 814-865-3509, or 814-777-4042; Lawrence Ramsey at or 814-863-5573; Donald Schneider at or 814-863-9554; or Barbara Kennedy at or 814-863-4682.

A high-resolution image plus a link to more images and videos are online at

More about the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST):

LSST project activities are supported, in part, by a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation, managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), and the Department of Energy. Additional LSST funding comes from private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support from LSSTC Institutional Members: Adler Planetarium; Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL); California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Chile; Cornell University; Drexel University; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; George Mason University; Google, Inc.; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Institut de Physique Nucleaire et de Physique des Particules (IN2P3); Johns Hopkins University; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) - Stanford University; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Inc.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); National Optical Astronomy Observatory; National Radio Astronomy Observatory; Princeton University; Purdue University; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Rutgers University; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Space Telescope Science Institute; Texas A & M University; The Pennsylvania State University; The University of Arizona; University of California at Davis; University of California at Irvine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington; Vanderbilt University.

An artist's drawing of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a project for which Penn State is a member. The 8.4-meter LSST will use a special three-mirror design to create an exceptionally wide field of view. The mission includes finding objects that could collide with Earth. Credit: LSST CorporationAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated July 26, 2012