Development of the world’s biggest digital camera just received a major boost with the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) July 18 announcement of an increase in funding for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).
The NSF moved the LSST – which is being constructed on Cerro Pachón, near the city of Vicuña in northern Chile – to the final stages of design, an action which: “permits the NSF Director to include funds for LSST construction in a future budget request,” an NSF statement read.
“In other words, the NSF is now making the funding of the construction of the LSST a priority,” James M. Gentile, president and CEO of Research Corporation for Science Advancement and board member for the LSST Corporation, wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post.
Gentile hailed the decision as: “a major milestone in the development. . . [of the LSST] and, therefore, in future space exploration.”
It’s no exaggeration to describe the LSST as one most exciting scientific endeavours of the 21st Century to date, in fact, in a survey of astronomers around the world, the project was chosen as the most eagerly anticipated in the world.
At 27 feet 6.7 inches (8.4 mt) in size and with a 24.8 inch (63 cm) diameter focal place, and a 3.2 billion pixels capacity, in both physical size and giga-capacity the LSST will lay claim to being the biggest digital camera on the planet.
Its unprecedented image capturing capacity will be used to sweep the heavens, creating “3-dimensional maps of the mass distribution in the Universe,” which will be used to “better understand the nature of the newly discovered and utterly mysterious Dark Energy that is driving the accelerating expansion of the Universe,” the LSST Corporation says.
And while Gentile sees the LSST as fundamental to ensuring U.S. “scientific preeminence” in the coming decades, it is also a huge opportunity for Chile, and comes as the Ministry for the Economy, Development and Tourism is looking into ways of capitalizing on the booming astronomical infrastructure in Chile’s northern deserts.
The LSST is expected to be fully operational in 2022.
For more information on the LSST, check out its official website.