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New Wide-Angle Telescope to Capture Night Sky

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the storage-nightmare dept.

168

NewScientist is reporting that a new telescope located in Chile is aiming to capture images of the entire night sky every three nights. From the article: "The telescope will use a digital camera with 3 billion pixels to image the entire sky across three nights, producing an expected 30 terabytes of data per night. This will allow astronomers to detect objects that quickly change their position, such as near-Earth asteroids, or their brightness, such as supernovae."

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UFO'S (4, Funny)

ThePopeLayton (868042) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373002)

Finally equipment good enought to catch the UFO's in action!!!

What an innovative idea... (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373023)

You should submit it to NASA!

Re:UFO'S (3, Funny)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373024)

Catch what belonging to the UFO? :)
</punctuationnazi>

Re:UFO'S; no, you have it wrong (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373114)

Although in British English we have ceased to use an apostrophe between an abbreviation and its plural s, this is not the case in American English. The New Yorker is the guide in this, and if ever a publication was full of punctuation extremists, that one is. Older British writers may still use the convention, and certainly I am old enough that I will write (say) MP3's and 1980's.

The apostrophic status is made clear from context, e.g.

The UFO's had little green men inside
The UFO's crew were little green men (singular UFO)
The crews of the UFO's were little green men (plural UFO's)

</punctuationwarmfuzzyliberal>

Re:UFO'S; no, you have it wrong (1)

Dis*abstraction (967890) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373204)

Hmm? The New Yorker doesn't use apostrophes when pluralizing abbreviations. See here, [newyorker.com] for example: "DVDs," not "DVD's."

Anyway, why are you taking style hints from a source that seems to think it unobjectionable to splatter its pages with uncontrolled diereses? :-P

Re:UFO'S; no, you have it wrong (1)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373223)

And besides, I'm an American. :)

Re:UFO'S (2, Funny)

undeaf (974710) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373040)

I for one welcome our unidentified flying overlords.

May 20:Prostitute Schedule @ MBOT in San Francisco (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373158)

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Check out the prostitute schedule for May 20, 2006 at the MBOT [fuckedcompany.com] .

The prostitute schedule is updated daily.

Unlike Las Vegas, San Francisco does not regulate prostitution. So, the MBOT heartily welcomes everyone -- including HIV-positive customers.

If you are repulsed by the idea of receiving sex services from a prostitute (at the MBOT) who services roughly 1000 guys per year, then consider the following 2 genuine stripclubs, which prohibit prostitution.

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Re:May 20:Prostitute Schedule @ MBOT in San Franci (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373195)

Yes but will the aliens be welcome?

Re:UFO'S (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373211)

no... it will take three days to photograph the entire night sky, then it starts over again... each photo only covers 4 degrees

Re:UFO'S (2, Insightful)

bohemian72 (898284) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373369)

I would actually expect it to take three nights ;-)

Re:UFO'S (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373435)

Expected answer from the "I want to believe" types: Actually it won't; such photos of LGM which are conspiring with the government to make crop circles and mutilate cattle everywhere will be classified or lost, or at least will cameras will conveniently "malfunction" for those shots resulting in a blurry photo. They're out there -- really, and they're the ones who teamed up with the Illuminati to put Dubya in power!

Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (3, Interesting)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373004)

I'd love to see the facility set up to store the output, to say nothing of processing it. I wonder how they'll archive it?

easy (5, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373041)

They'll put up a few bittorrent files and name them "Jenna Jameson porn XXX" and such.

Re:easy (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373243)

Oh yeah, I can't wait to go out and get porn from six years ago.

People who try to crack jokes about subjects where their involvement is limited to what they've heard some comedian crack wise about in a comedy special being re-run for the fiftieth time on Comedy Central are really, really sad. It's transparent, limp, and I can just hear them saying "Right? Am I right people? Please tell me I'm right, I so desperately want to be accepted."

Why don't you just make a joke about the difference between black people and niggas? That would be so fresh.

Re:easy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373294)

So you're a heavy porn user then, eh? Thanks for the brief insight into your sorry, little, lonely world.

Re:easy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373454)

Seems to me that someone interested in sex, sexuality and pleasure has a more rich life than someone that isn't. Isn't it funny that people so often say "You're interested in things that I'm not, and you have a broader, different and more accepting perspective on the world than me? How sad your little life must be, always trying new things and learning more about humanity, life, and yourself."

You're probably too busy not learning and not experiencing to have noticed, though.

Re:easy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373554)

Porn isn't sex.

Actual sex involves real people rather than a lonely geek barricaded into a darkened basement with a computer and a box of tissues.

If you want to learn and experience, step 1 is to throw away the porn. I'll let you extrapolate what step 2 might be.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373057)

I assume it's 30TB UNCOMPRESSED. That's alot of black. PNG FTW. Also if they can only store the inital state of the sky on the first night and then store the CHANGES between the skies (maybe a slight change in brightness of a few stars, a comet a few pixels big, etc, which wouldn't make for a large file of changes.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373121)

alot?

You dumb fuck.

every 3 nights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373334)

scuttlebutt says "every three nights" but the summary says "across three nights".

so which is it? huh? once every three nights or each night for three nights? HUH????? ANSWER ME DAMMIT. SCUTTLEBUTT YOU WILL RUE THE DAY YOU CONFUSED ME!

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (2, Interesting)

UberNex (525816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373058)

Honestly they have no clue. They are really counting on Moore's law to continue up to the point they go online. The data pipeline does not exists today, nor does the storage this data set will require - to say nothing of the amount of space required to run the search requests of every single astronomer in the world who may be inetrested in the data set this thing will produce. Honsetly it is a great instrument, it is just the folks behind it are really, really depending on not hitting a downswing in tech between now and first light.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (4, Informative)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373377)

Particle accelerator experiments seem to regularly result in data from 10 to 100 terabytes. The Stanford Linear Accelerator has a db of over 800 terabytes and I believe it didn't cost too much to set up (not to mention I doubt it's exactly cutting edge anymore if it ever was), so such large data sets are already in use. Given that this data will be mostly black space and much of the rest will not change unexpectadly over time compression will make it a small problem in comparison to the onces I already listed.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373429)

That's okay, based on the growth of Windows, Windows Forever+1 (the version following Vista) should boast disk requirements of 500GB just for the operating system if you plot out the growth curve. Don't worry, Microsoft will be prompting hard disk manufacturers to keep push disk capacities higher at faster rates. The thing that WILL suck though is the amount of time defrag.exe will take to complete. Ouch!

This cheap shot was made possible by that evil tool of the debil, Mozilla Firefox instead of the nice safe and secure closed-source Internet Exploiter.(it's safer BECAUSE it's closed source, or so I've heard recently)

Seriously though, commodity disk drives are at 500GB already. Given the rate at which disk storage has been advancing, we'll have multi-terabyte drives within a couple of years. Combine big disk drives with multiple-core CPUs, a PC can dedicate a couple of cores to losslessly compress the files down to a (relatively) manageable size.

As far as the sky being mostly black; if the CCDs they are using are reasonably sensitive, and if the primary optic is larger than a couple of centimeters (RTFA and you'll see it's 8.4-meters) there are going to be a LOT of stars and not so much blackness in the photos. It's not like they're taking photos through a 2mm-7mm or so iris limited to magnitude 6 (e.g., the human eye).

Now, another thing from TFA:

"We would like the rest of the money to come from the federal government," says Sweeney.


Of course they would. Taxpayers don't fund enough pet projects already. What's another $300mil? Ugh.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (2, Informative)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373604)

Seriously though, commodity disk drives are at 500GB already.


750. A friend of mine just sent me the link from Newegg.

looks like some will be buying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373061)

Photoshop CS3 - Astronomy Editition

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (3, Funny)

value_added (719364) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373065)

I'd suggest multipart .RAR archives, and have someone generate a new NFO file every 3 days.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

malraid (592373) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373084)

They are piping everything to /dev/null. It's also quite fast.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

DemonThing (745994) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373124)

No problem. You just need to buy a bunch of hard drives. If you get a hundred 300GB drives (that's 30 TB) per day at retail price [newegg.com] it would only be around $10,000/day.

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

neus (968572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373248)

Thats because you never heard of Holographic Memory/Storage and more interesting Atomic Holographic Nanotechnology http://www.physorg.com/news785.html [physorg.com] .
You can get from 10TB to 100TB per disk ( with a theoretical maximun of 10PT per disc ), and if they say is correct, the medium will be very cheap just like the player ( it will cost less than the currect Blu-Ray player ). They made the announcement in 2004 and said it would take from 3 to 5 years for the technology to be usable, if they're statement is correct, the time the telescope is finished, and based on all 'future' techologies beeing developed, yes, i bet there will be more viable options than to buy 300GB hard drive rom newegg ...

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373469)

I think we will get that level of storage, and in the not too distant future, but I think you are overly credulous if you think it's going to come from the Colossal Storage Corp. (the company behind the story you linked to). When you see a small unknown company claim to be among the world leaders in several advanced technology areas, especially when their web site seems designed to attract investors, be very skeptical!

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373148)

I'd love to see the facility set up to store the output, to say nothing of processing it. I wonder how they'll archive it?

Same way NSA archives your phone/internet data?

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373184)

seriously...where's the "Stuff that matters"....
if you dig enough you can find it based on the linked article. But if you go to slashdot for the sole purpose of not having to, you can find it here: http://www.lsst.org/About/datamgmt_fac.shtml [lsst.org]

Re:Holy Storage Area Network Batman! (1)

neus (968572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373200)

Since this is a medium-term project i assume a new techonology like holographic memory/storage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_memory [wikipedia.org]

There are already companies researching and building usable products based on this techonology, like HVD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_Versatile _Disc [wikipedia.org] .
As it is today one HVD can hold a maximum of 3,9TB per disc with an average transfer of 120MB/s. And this is for a removable media I bet they could use the same techonology for 'hard drive' type products.

But even with current technologies it would be feasable, Hitachi will be debuting a 1TB hard drive next year, i wonder what will be hard drive capacity when this project is finished.

Others (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373014)

> This will allow astronomers to detect objects that quickly change their position, such as near-Earth asteroids, or their brightness, such as supernovae.

And alien flying saucers...

That is, unless NASA gets to them first!

Lucky me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373031)

Good thing my secret space station is on a 3-day orbit around the Earth. It'll stay undetected because it'll appear at the same spot every sky sweep.

No, you don't (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373523)

It'll stay undetected because it'll appear at the same spot every sky sweep


While the stars in the backround appear in different places from night to night, due to the movement of the Earth around the Sun? Only if you are lucky and your secret space station is small enough they will blame a defective pixel...

This is just great. (3, Funny)

glassjaw rocks (793596) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373043)

Great, So they've got a 3 Gigapixel camera. Always trying to one-up me, I see.

Re:This is just great. (1)

flobberchops (971724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373086)

You can achieve the same effect by a virtual gathering of all the mobile camera phones around the world into one huge superlens :D

Re:This is just great. (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373181)

I wish all digital cameras had 3 gigapixels. Then the pictures would be too big to email to me in the first place :D

Thank Goodness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373046)

Finally, an alternative to Pan and Scan telescopes.

30 terabytes of data per night (-1, Troll)

johansalk (818687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373048)

And this hunk of data will be sifted through with none other than the little language called forth, the standard language of the international astronomical union.

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (4, Informative)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373236)

Mods, please don't mod this up. Its bullshit. True that Forth was in *1976* was made the official language of the IAU, but no astronomer uses Forth these days, and there's no hint anywhere that the guys who run this telescope are going to be using it either. These days Astronomers are more likely to use Python, Perl, C, C++, Java and other modern languages to write their data analysis tools in.

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373277)

Mods, please don't mod this up. Its bullshit. True that Forth was in *1976* was made the official language of the IAU, but no astronomer uses Forth these days, and there's no hint anywhere that the guys who run this telescope are going to be using it either.

And besides, you'd think they'd be up to Fifth or Sixth by now.

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (1)

johansalk (818687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373364)

"no astronomer uses forth these days"?? http://forth.gsfc.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (2, Interesting)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373393)

Perhaps you should read what kind of software is there on that page. That stuff is mainly code for space hardware, which is not the realm of an astronomer, its for engineers.

I would not argue if you wrote that the telescope control software was written using Forth, which is somewhat likely, but what you said is that Forth is used for the data analysis software, and I call bullshit on that until you show me evidence otherwise.

Note: I work on a NASA project so I know something of what I'm talking about here, so please don't quote GSFC web pages at me unless you've actually worked there like I have.

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (2, Funny)

Oirad (19452) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373495)

These days Astronomers are more likely to use Python, Perl, C, C++, Java and other modern languages to write their data analysis tools in.

Well, for the astronomers I support, I see use of Fortran (usually 77) more than anything. Maybe a little C or Perl, but none of the other stuff (excepting Python for stuff like Pyraf...). Unless you want to count iraf and/or IDL scripts as a programming language. ;)

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (1)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373648)

You're absolutely correct. I meant to mention Fortran and IDL in my original post. Although Fortran would have killed my "modern languages" argument! :)

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (1)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373653)

I should point out also the extensive use of Python at sites like the Space Telescope Science Institute where they developed pyfits and numarray extensions for python, as well as PyRAF that you mentioned. Python is also used extensively in the data analysis pipeline for the project I work on (astrophysics based).

Re:30 terabytes of data per night (4, Informative)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373353)

Actually, most astronomers use FORTRAN there days. Packages like AIPS and MIRIAD are completely written in them.
The newer stuff like AIPS++ uses C++.

I'm working on one of these next-generation telescopes, it LOFAR, we hope to have it operational in 2008. All software is written in C++, except for some user interfaces in Java.

The telescope in the topic is only a dream at this point, they have nowhere near the funding to start yet. LOFAR on the other hand is already being build. Our software correlator is already running on our IBM BlueGene, making it the 9th fastest computer in the world. Our 144 GBit/s links to the sub-stations are operational, and the first full substation (of 77) will be operational next month.

These guys are talking 30 TByte/day, we're talking a raw datarate of 1.5 Petabyte/day at the end of 2008. This is going to be the largest radio-telescope in the world, at 300km (200 mi.), at least until SKA gets build (if it gets build)

It's a realy cool project :-)

Mod this guy up (LOFAR) (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373464)

I was looking to see if anyone talked about LOFAR. And lo and behold, I found one.

30TB is a baby game compared to the LOFAR guys (ok, it's a rather "apple and orange" comparison, I must admit).

Re:Mod this guy up (LOFAR) (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373577)

I just thought to add a link: http://www.lofar.org/p/systems.htm [lofar.org]
Those numbers aren't exactly the same as the ones I quoted, it might be the website is out of date with the latest info, or my memory is failing me. They're still the same order of magnitude though. It migh just depend if you quote raw data rate, correlated data rate, or the rate at which the scientific results come out.

lots of questions ? (3, Insightful)

warrior_s (881715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373049)

I wonder how much processing power will be needed to process such a huge amount of data inorder to extract something meaningful out of this data.
Does Chile have some state of art suprcomputers to achieve this or are they going to send the data to some other country for analysis.
And if they decide to transfer data to some other country how are they going to achieve that.. is data transfer on Internet feasible for 30 TB per night of data ?

Re:lots of questions ? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373079)

Chile doesn't need to have their own supercomputers. The people funding it (RTFA) can ship them in. While Chile is one of the more prosperous South American countries, this is not Chile's project, and is probably only involved because they probably have the right site for the observatory.

Re:lots of questions ? (1)

drinkmorejava (909433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373103)

If they can manage to get an OC-192 out there running at a full 9.6gbps, then yes, it would take about 7 hours (25,000 seconds).

Re:lots of questions ? (1)

warrior_s (881715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373118)

If they can manage to get an OC-192 out there running at a full 9.6gbps, then yes, it would take about 7 hours (25,000 seconds).

And you think an OC-192 connectors on both sides of data transfers which requires direct connection using fiber-optic cables is an easy thing to set up between say Chile and US.
OTOH, get over OC-192... OC-768 (40 Gbps) is already there though not in use outside of some very few research facilities.

Re:lots of questions ? (2, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373149)

Does Chile have some state of art suprcomputers to achieve this...

No, they plan on using some tin cans and a string and the guys are just going to relay the 0's and 1's off to a country with actual electricity and stuff.

Please go read a little about Chile. They don't live in the dark ages there. It's actually a pretty modern country and hosts to some of the biggest telescopes in the world. Just because they have clean air doesn't make them Neanderthals.

Re:lots of questions ? (1, Interesting)

andrew cooke (6522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373547)

i understand (i work at the ctio observatory as a programmer and obviously everyone there is very excited by this news) that the lsst will require an impressive amount of computing power, but that it's not impractical - it would be possible today, although expensive, and the hope is that in a few years the hardware will be much more reasonably priced. since processing a lot of images is pretty easy to do in parallel it's likely that the hardware will be some kind of cluster rather than a traditional (old school) supercomputer (we already have parallel pipelines for processing astronomical data - see work by frank valdes at noao, for example). obviously there's a trade-off between how much processing power you do and how much bandwidth you have (since processed data is more compact) - i believe that determines the location of the computers (i'm unsure how much will be up on the mountain and how much "downtown" at the observatory's offices in la serena). as for internet connections - chile has two major commerical providers who can handle the capacity required.

personally, i'm currently part of the team working on an archive for the noao's existing telescopes (the noao in conjunction with the ncsa) and we're hoping that will help provide a basis for the data archive that the lsst will use. what's particularly cool about the lsst (at least last i heard) is that the data are public almost immediately - typically that's not the case for telescopes, where the astronomer doing the observations gets a year or so to use the data for themselves first - and that makes the archive critical. so it's a whole new paradigm - astronomers will "observe" by mining the database.

sorry i don't have more exact answers - i've sat through presentations on this to the point where my eyes glaze over at the numbers. i'm going to see if i can dig anything up that will bemore helpful...

billion: 10^9 or 10^12 ? (2, Insightful)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373076)

Ok, so how do i know if the submitter is native english speaker or not? According to wikipedia, billion [wikipedia.org] - english speakers think that billion is 10^9, while non-english speakers think that it's 10^12. It is troubling me, because I wanted to quickly calculate what's the size of the pixel matrix, but I can't because of that ambiguity :(

Re:billion: 10^9 or 10^12 ? (2, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373147)

You got rated funny, but just in case you wanted an answer, I'd be pretty confident that the new scientist, being in .com and not .uk, was using 10^9. I'd also guess that based on getting only 30 terabytes of data per night, with 10^12 I'm pretty sure they'd be into exabytes.

Re:billion: 10^9 or 10^12 ? (2, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373451)

No, that nomenclature is deprecated. SI [wikipedia.org] specifies 10^3 increments between each successive prefix [wikipedia.org] . and scientists pretty much universally use SI to describe measurements of all kinds.

Re:billion: 10^9 or 10^12 ? (2, Interesting)

dorkygeek (898295) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373549)

Yes, but the SI does not specify wether to use long or short scale [wikipedia.org] , so talking about billions is still ambiguous!

Prioritize our needs (2, Interesting)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373081)

I understand this 8.4m telescope will be designed to view a wider field of view than any other 8m class telescopes (we have like five of them now). But, do we really need another large telescope that costs a few hundred millions? Or is this just another telescope engineer's way for securing a future funding resource?

For 300 Mil, we could probably build ten kick-ass instruments to utilize the existing 6m to 8m telescopes more efficiently. That's where the technology is advancing faster, too. After all, what good a telescope does when there is no good instrument to observe with?

The nation's budget is tight right now. I think we need to rethink our long term plan for the astronomical community. I personally do not feel that another 8m class telescope is what the community needs.

Re:Prioritize our needs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373210)

The short answer is, yes, we do. The other 8m+ class telescopes all have tiny fields of view. They are designed to stare for a long time at a fixed point in the sky to take 'deep' exposures. The LSST is designed to do survey work to measure weak lensing of galaxies. That requires looking at a large region of sky (so you can get as many galaxies as possible), and also requires the telescope to be a big 'light bucket' so the signal to noise in the individual pixels is good enough.

The reason they are doing this survey is because it is possible to invert the weak lensing map (which you can get by measuring the average distortions on huge numbers of galaxies) to produce a map of the distribution of matter in the universe. You can use the power spectrum of the matter distribution combined with the cosmic microwave background information from WMAP to try to investigate dark energy, the big unknown in science.

Basically, LSST's design is focused on trying to tackle the biggest problem in cosmology.

Re:Prioritize our needs (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373259)

Basically, LSST's design is focused on trying to tackle the biggest problem in cosmology.

That's exactly the problem with this proposal. It is designed specifically to solve one key problem in the one particular topic in the field: cosmology.

Its purview is so narrow that the benefit of this telescope is limited to those who are involved in the cosmology or the institution like U. of Arizona. Would this do any good for those who study ISM, local stellar and nebular objects, etc? (yes to some, of course). And if your purpose is to win in the sensitivity regime, why not going to space (yeah, I can think of the reasons why NOT)?

In short, the proposal definitely has its strength and merit, but if we are to prioritize the need, I have to recommend that this is too a specialized project to be funded in the next three decades.

Narrow? (3, Informative)

jpflip (670957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373365)

I'm not sure I'd call the study of the origin and structure of the entire universe "narrow", but be that as it may... The data set that will come out of this instrument (if it's ever built) will be on an entirely different scale than anything astronomers have had to deal with. There are lots of things that can be done with such an instrument - lensing surveys, redshift surveys, variable stars, supernova searches... Pretty much anything requiring a wide search where you don't know the exact locations of the interesting bits.

The Hubble (for example) will always be better if you want to look at a specific spot very closely, but a high resolution survey of the entire Southern sky every few nights is hardly of limited interest! My only concern is that it's too much - a few days of data could keep people busy for a very long time!

Re:Narrow? (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373434)

I'm not sure I'd call the study of the origin and structure of the entire universe "narrow"

The key mission is to perform a weak lensing research. That's a very narrow topic in the vast field of cosmological study. That's truly a remarkable subject that you can do nifty physics.

The rest of your items -- variable stars, SN search, redshift surveys -- are merely cataloguing (i.e., astronomy, not physics) and do not always fascinate physicists among us. Yes, the proposed telescope CAN be used for these researches. But if we are to choose one mission for the next three decades, I don't think this proposal is it. I'd much prefer a multi-purpose telescope (or telescopes) that do all the sorts of physics experiments.

Hence the word "prioritize".

Re:Narrow? (1)

jpflip (670957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373576)

I'm a physicist myself, so in fact I tried to list items with cosmological appeal, rather than mere cataloguing (which interests me less). Redshift surveys are the bread-and-butter of mapping the structure of our universe (and thus the cosmology that generated it), supernova surveys led to the discovery of the accelerating universe, and variable stars are the bedrock of the interlocking distance measurements that allow us to determine large distances in the universe. My own work interests tend more toward the particle end of things, but the results that come out of this sort of work should be very interesting to anyone with a taste for cosmology.

I guess my confusion is that I can't think of a telescope that would be much more "multi-purpose" than this one, unless you built a similar apparatus in space. The focus would certainly be on lensing at first, but once this sort of data set is sitting around people will do all sorts of analysis on it.

Re:Prioritize our needs (5, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373235)

The ability to scan the entire sky in high resolution in one go WILL be a benefit to every other telescope on earth.

As soon as this thing detects anything strange, the other specific scopes can be aimed in that direction.

Without this, its blind luck whether an event will be witnessed.

Re:Prioritize our needs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373241)

With this one we can get a whole-sky view every three days to look for planet-killer's coming in. How quickly can we do the same with the current telescopes?

Re:Prioritize our needs (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373287)

Quite well, actually. A dedicated set of small telescopes plus amateur astronomers all over the world help quite tremendously in that regard.

This telescope will increase the chance of detecting an asteroid with Tsunguka class (small), but those are not usually high priority in terms of national security (and even if it is, then DoD should be really funding such mission).

Government funding? (0)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373130)

$270 mil seems awfully steep. I didn't think many other countries had that kind of money to throw around towards things that had little purpose other then fulfilling curiosity other then the US.....

Re:Government funding? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373183)

From TFA:
Funding is another hurdle. The telescope will cost an estimated $300 million, but so far telescope officials have only raised $30 million from private donors. "We would like the rest of the money to come from the federal government," says Sweeney. The telescope team will soon submit proposals for funding to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. And the US Congress will need to approve the funding

What use is it (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373633)

things that had little purpose other then[SIC] fulfilling curiosity


There's an anecdote about how someone asked Michael Faraday what use was electricity. The answer was "what use is a newborn child?". Ask anyone about the uses of electricity today.


Among other things, this telescope will help to find an answer for one of the most important questions in physics today: how to unify the theories of quantum physics and relativity. This is one of the studies that can be helped by better knowledge of the mass distribution in the Universe.


At a total cost that's about a quarter of the military expenses of the USA in *one day*, this is a true bargain.

Re:What use is it (1)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373659)

It's on Chile, but probably it has been funded by US or EU governments. This kind of deal is very common. Some country have a spot with the perfect conditions for a telescope: really dry water, few particles in suspension on atmosphere, few (or none) cities with night lights near. And another country (or a consortium of rich countries) have the money to build such a beast. It's just another example of how science can work to narrow the stupid borders politicians and warmongers built in the world.

use distributed telescope arrays (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373142)

This is old, old news. Many of these programs are run by has-beens who resist change and are little more than entrenched bureaucracy.

It would be better to have multiple, interlinked reflector and/or schmidt-cassegrain telescopes ( these are catadioptric 'scopes which use both lenses and mirrors ) all digitally searching the sky together. We can now link such devices wirelessly over several kilometers or even statewide. If you use an asynchronous comm channel to query the telescopes' search telemetry and they reside on an intranet they can all track right ascension+declination at once to look for deep-sky objects or to track Mars. This way, you can aggregate data and pool this information as co-located segments when doing visual/radio sweeps.

The best thing about this proposal is it leaves the door open for volunteers to step in and contribute something.

Re: use distributed telescope arrays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373196)

This is the same AC who posted the above comment. Do /. mods automatically give ACs Score:0? Maybe they think I'm not using enough science:

Ok we got a _combined_ 16.8 meter scope in Chile that can cover a 4 degree arc. Boring.. That's so proprietary and centralized.

If cutting edge researchers were to install no less than 42 telescopes across 10 kilometers of flat terrain and each telescope mirror is 2 meters in width this equals 84 meters of aggregate telescope input. Factor in a malfunctioning scope or two, light pollution, operator errors, weather and line of sight issues (trees, horizon) and you still have a good ~80 meter " scope of scopes ".

Of course this thing has to be built first. I don't think many of the old world university depts. will do this. However, undergraduates, TAs & faculty with something to prove will. Is there something scientifically inaccurate about my proposal, world?

" The 8.4-metre Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will be located on Cerro Pachón, a 2700-metre-high peak in northern Chile, which is already home to the 8-metre Gemini South telescope.

But the LSST will be unlike any other observatory. Most large telescopes use one giant mirror and several small mirrors to collect and focus the light they collect. But the LSST will use three relatively large mirrors - an 8.4-metre primary, a 3.4-metre secondary, and a 5.0-metre tertiary.

This means that its field of view will span 4 - equivalent to eight full moons - compared with the 0.1 seen by other large telescopes. "Its three large mirrors are required so we don't get weird effects on the edges of the field," explains project manager Donald Sweeney. "

Re: use distributed telescope arrays (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373298)

Just sign up for a free account and you can post starting at +1. When you've made a dozen or so +5 comments you'll be able to post starting at +2 so more people see you to start with.

I like your idea, but I wonder how easy it would be for someone to take a photo that matches the characteristics of the other photos from the array, given that they have different equipment.

The complexity of the data processing makes me wonder how much of a supercomputer they need along with how they are going to store this data in a way that the computer(s) can retrieve it to process it.

Re: use distributed telescope arrays (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373316)

I love this post (yes, AC gets "0" score).

It can be done on the cheap (though your field of view is still limited and collective sensitivity probably does not match with one 8m class telescope.

One key reason that telescope engineers do not want to follow your suggestion is this: it's cheap and easy as far as the engineering goes. That usually means a short term project and less funding money. If you want to keep yourself employed, your project ain't gonna do it.

Re:use distributed telescope arrays (1)

TheArtfulPianist (973380) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373422)

One disadvantage of this system is that because the telescopes are spread out, they will all observe through significantly atmospheric paths. I think clouds would be easily detected, but refraction by hotter and colder cells of air across the array would make it more difficult to combine the data streams from each telescope in a meaningful way. It sounds like something that adaptive optics can solve, but I'm not very well versed in the topic. Any thoughts?

Re:use distributed telescope arrays (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373448)

It doesn't matter.

(1) They are not trying to correlate the signal.
(2) the point spread function doesn't matter; these mini telescopes are merely a photometers (buckets to collect photons).

Re:use distributed telescope arrays (4, Informative)

andrew cooke (6522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373598)

first, on the whole political thing:

the competition in astronomy is fierce. there's a fixed amount of money and a pile of good projects. there's a big peer-review process that evaluates possible projects and gives priorities. then the nsf goes round looking for dead wood it can hack away so that there's money for the best projects. no-one is complacent - i work at ctio and everyone there was assuming that they were going to lose their jobs. and because lsst won't really kick in for a few years, we may still be laid off before then (even though we're all working like crazy on related projects). this isn't a bunch of "has beens" making life easy for themselves - it's a vicious, competitive world where only projects that really stand a good chance of changing astronomy make it.

second, the technology choice:

if you are talking about synthetic apertures (like radio telescopes) then no - you cannot link optical telescopes together state-wide. you can control them in parallel, sure, but you cannot combine the data in the same way as radio telescopes. it's way beyond our technical ability. so if there is no synthetic aperture, what's the advantage in spreading them around? especially when world class telescope sites with existing support are very rare. it makes most sense to put one telescope on the top of a mountain in a chilean desert.

and don't think you can re-use any old telescope. the structural engineering of this thing is going to be brutal - to optimize throughput the slews (moving to a new position on the sky) are going to be way faster than anything currently out there. that's one reason the site decision had to be made early - they need to know what they're building this on just to control the vibration levels!

there is a competing project, called pan-stars, which has a group of co-located telescopes. the advantage of that approach is largely political - you can build one cheaply and then look for more funding. but if you do the maths - and this is well understood engineering/optics/statistics, the answer is clear - the lsst solution comes out on top.

oh, and it's not old news either; the press conference anouncing that this was going to chile was held in the room next to my office a few days ago.

I like this as much as SETI@Home (2, Interesting)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373207)

I'd be willing to help process the data if they need a significant supercomputer to make the comparisons to previous nights. Or does comparing 3 Gigapixel images not really put a strain on their computers?

Re:I like this as much as SETI@Home (1)

Fanro (130986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373407)

I guess that transmitting the data over regular broadband would take longer than processing it

Misleading Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373232)

It is impossible to see the ENTIRE night sky from Chile. You would have to have an observatory in the northern hemisphere (in the right location) in conjunction with one in Chile to photograph the ENTIRE night sky.

Imagine (3, Funny)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373282)

Just imagine a Beowulf cluster of 1000 3-Megapixel cameras taking pictures of the sky through telescopes, and do that every 3 nights. That's how impressive this project is going to be.

It might never happen... (1)

simonjp (970013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373335)

From the original article "If it receives the required funding, the telescope is expected to begin operating in 2012." So rather than "New telescope to do this and that" it more like "plans for new telescope". The key is that the project is not confirmed. On other news, Seagate just signed a big new contract... :P

Sausage Fest (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373338)

Slashdot is a sausage fest

Storage Solution (1)

Gamzarme (799219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373348)

...the telescope is expected to begin operating in 2012.

And in 2012, we will probably have holographic storage..or a micro size. So storage won't relly be a problem.

This is already being created in hawaii (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373395)

Unless I'm mistaken the Panstarrs project is doing the same thing on the summit of Mauna kea in hawaii. I guess maybe they can see things in the southern hemisphere that arn't visible in Hawaii but it sure seems like a copy cat operation.

The mirrors? (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373412)

8.4m & 3.4m & 5.0m mirrors... WTF? Has anybody seen any optical diagrams for this beast?

"Primary/secondary/tertiary" suggests that there's ONE optical path; but does that make sense?

The "If it receives the required funding, the telescope is expected to begin operating in 2012."-part isn't very reassuring.

"Its three large mirrors are required so we don't get weird effects on the edges of the field,"

Well, sir, if you've got equipment to figure 11 to 27 foot mirrors and you're worrying about edge effects then that equipment must be kind of sh*tty...no? Should you even be attempting this project?

"Yah - you betcha: we're gonna have one HELL of a 'scope one of these days; if we can pay for it..."

Re:The mirrors? (1)

deathcow (455995) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373452)

> you're worrying about edge effects then that equipment must be kind of
> sh*tty...no?

We're talking about an 8 + METER aperture here pulling down over 4 degrees of sky. That is a ~~~seriously~~~ fast and wide angle lens. If you could buy this for your Canon or Nikon, it would be like (if my calculations are correct) a 400mm f/0.05 lens.

Edge effects and dealing with them must have been a whopper of an optical design challenge. Wide angle lenses can have considerable distortion and tendency towards other aberrations to deal with. This is ONE HELL of a wide angle lens.

Re:The mirrors? (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373538)

Yes... but he's talking about ~mirrors~, not ~lenses~.

If a mirror's figured well-enough at its center (and it is a good-quality substrate and properly supported) then there's no reason it shouldn't be just as good at its edge - they're doing these things by ~machine~, not by ~hand~.

My Swift 11x80 binocs cover about a 3.5 degree FOV so, yes, a 4 degree is rather wide-angle.

Other near earth items to watch (1)

WillRobinson (159226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373413)

This sounds like somebody fishing for a little goverment money. Like watching for 'near earth' satilites that can be seen if you have wide angle coverage, and good depth.

Google Sky (1)

tijmentiming (813664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373491)

Now we only have to wait for GoogleSky to view these images!

Re:Google Sky (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373580)

Take a look at Nasa world wind (just google it)
The new version has the a sky survey included, which is even higher resolution than this telescope will have.

Copy cats (2, Interesting)

p_trekkie (597206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373510)

This is truly not innovative at all and just copying someone else's idea. PAN-STARRS [hawaii.edu] will accomplish the same thing, already has funding, and is entering the prototype phase. Sure, 1.4 Gigapixels is not as much as 3, but it will be online sooner, accomplish the same goals on a smaller telescope, and will take a week to survey the whole sky instead of three days. So this new telescope is no big deal, especially since it will only about half of the sky visible to PAN-STARRS since this new thingy will be in the very southern hemisphere, rather than Hawaii.

So What? (1)

Ginnungagap42 (817075) | more than 8 years ago | (#15373537)

I'm imaging the night sky with my 6 million pixel digital camera and my 100mm refractor. It's just goinng to take me a bit longer than them...

Now we can search for UFO's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15373594)

along side the SETI program.....

ok, ok , its a waste of freaking money if ya ask me!
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