The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at UW


The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), currently being built on Cerro Pachon in Chile, will be the most comprehensive optical astronomy survey ever undertaken. Beginning early in the next decade, the LSST will take panoramic images of the entire visible sky twice each week for 10 years, resulting in what can be called “the greatest movie of all time”.

The LSST will collect over 50 PB of raw data, resulting in over 30 trillion observations of 40 billion astronomical sources. It will measure the positions and properties of over 20 billion stars, or 10% of all stars in the Milky Way. These data will be used for scientific investigations ranging from the properties of near-Earth asteroids to characterizations of dark matter and dark energy.


The University of Washington is one of the four founders of the LSST Corporation and the LSST Project, and DIRAC faculty and researchers play leading roles in developing its science capabilities and data processing pipelines. DIRAC is the host to the LSST Project Scientist (Zeljko Ivezic), the Alert Production Science Lead (Eric Bellm), the Deputy Project Manager for Data Management (John Swinbank), the LSST DM System Science Team Coordinator and Solar System Products Owner (Mario Juric), and a number of LSST project researchers and teams.

One of the distinguishing capabilities of LSST is the near real-time data processing and identification of changes in the sky — variable, moving, or transient objects — at an unprecedented scale (about 10 million each night).  DIRAC researchers lead the development of novel algorithms and software to enable the creation and analysis of this data stream. We will be deploying and some of these technologies to enable our research on ZTF.

Once LSST is operational, we’re looking forward and preparing to push the frontiers of astrophysics and cosmology with its amazing new dataset.


Members of the team building the LSST, a large survey telescope being built in Northern Chile, gather to celebrate the successful casting of the telescope’s 27.5-foot-diameter mirror blank in August 2008.