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Keck Foundation Donates $1.5 Million to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

The W. M. Keck Foundation has announced a gift of $1.5 million to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The gift will be administered by the University of California, Davis, on behalf of the consortium building the telescope. SLAC leads the R&D effort to build the LSST camera.

The support from the Keck Foundation is for the final phase of research and development of focal plane imagers, which will capture images in the telescope's giant camera. The LSST's three-billion pixel digital camera will use a novel imaging technology that is a critical and unique feature of the project.

"We are extremely grateful for the generous donation from the W. M. Keck Foundation," said LSST Director J. Anthony Tyson, professor of physics at UC Davis. "The focal plane imager is one of the most time-critical elements in this project. We can now address this long-lead technology which could allow the project to meet its goal of completion by 2013."

Proposed to begin operations in 2014, the 8.4-meter LSST will be able to survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every few nights, probing the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move rapidly: exploding supernovae, asteroids that might pose a hazard to the Earth, and distant Kuiper Belt Objects.

The focal plane imagers are the heart of the telescope, enabling a field of view of 10 square degrees, or 50 times the size of the moon. Coupled with the light gathering power of the LSST telescope, this novel focal plane imager will provide unprecedented sky coverage, cadence and depth, allowing the LSST to attack high-priority scientific questions that are far beyond the reach of any existing facility.

"The Keck Foundation grant is essential to develop the new technology for focal plane imagers that we need for LSST," said LSST Deputy Director Steve Kahn of SLAC's Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

To develop the imager, the LSST project is taking advantage of silicon device expertise at Brookhaven National Laboratory as well as experience in optical charge-coupled devices (CCDs) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and at UC Davis. The overall R&D effort to build the camera is being led by SLAC.

More information about the LSST including current images, graphics, and animation can be found at the LSST website.

In 2003, the LSST Corporation was formed as a non-profit 501(c)3 Arizona corporation with headquarters in Tucson, AZ. Membership has since expanded to more than twenty members including Brookhaven National Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Google Inc., Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johns Hopkins University, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology - Stanford University, Las Cumbres Observatory Inc., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Princeton University, Purdue University, Research Corporation, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, The Pennsylvania State University, The University of Arizona, UC Davis, UC Irvine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Washington.

The LSST is a public-private partnership. Design and development activity is supported by in part the National Science Foundation under Scientific Program Order No. 9 (AST-0551161) through Cooperative Agreement AST-0132798. Portions of this work are supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC02-76SF00515 with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, contract DE-AC02-98CH10886 with Brookhaven National Laboratory, and contract W-7405-ENG-48 with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Additional funding comes from private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other LSSTC Institutional Members.

—SLAC Today, July 17, 2007