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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Google, UA’s LSST program team up”

    Google has announced its decision to join the UA and 18 other universities in their quest to launch the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in 2013.

    The 27-foot telescope, armed with a 3 billion pixel digital camera, will record images of activity in space and stream the data to the world via the Internet.

    “”This is a new way to do astronomy because the whole world can have nearly immediate access,”” said LSST project manager Donald Sweeney.

    The telescope, perched atop mountains in Cerro PachÇün, Chile, will generate massive amounts of data – more than 30,000 gigabytes each night.

    That’s where Google comes in.

    “”This isn’t a business venture for Google, or us actually, but they have expertise that we need,”” Sweeney said of Google, the world’s largest Internet search engine, which will be capable of managing the large quantity of information.

    The data itself will likely be stored on computers at the National Center for Supercomputing located at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

    The telescope will take continuous 15-second exposures and cover the entire night sky in a three-day cycle, searching for and recording changes such as exploding supernovae and near-earth asteroids.

    Philip Pinto, an associate professor of astronomy who helped start the LSST program and now heads up the simulation component of the project, said this telescope is unique because it will focus on large areas of space.

    “”Throughout history, as telescopes have gotten bigger, the fields of view have gotten smaller, so traditionally astronomers have looked at an ever-decreasing field of view,”” Pinto said. “”This is different. … It is a large playground (of images), a playground in which Google would like to play.””

    Choosing the location was also an important decision, because unlike regular telescopes that focus on a narrow section of sky, the LSST needs clear skies to get the best images.

    The site in Chile was chosen because it has a history of predictably good weather and few clouds, Pinto said.

    Viewers will be able to watch the action unfold in a movielike window from the comfort of their home computers.

    The LSST will also keep tabs on billions of galaxies, measuring fluctuations in their shape.

    “”The data from LSST will be an important part of the world’s information,”” said William Coughran, Google’s vice president of engineering, in a press release Jan 5.

    “”By being involved in the project we hope to make it easier for that data to become accessible and useful,”” Coughran said.

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