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2008 LSST All-Hands Meeting Attended by 160 Scientists

(Photo - LSST Group Photo)Excitement for the proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) continues to build as the project moves forward. Twenty-five tons of glass for the telescope's 8.4–meter-wide primary and tertiary mirrors was cast in March and is slowly cooling at the Steward Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona. The mirror will be removed from the furnace by mid-August and will then begin the long grinding and polishing process.

In the meantime, LSST collaborators aren't just sitting around waiting. The 2008 All-Hands Meeting for the collaboration of scientists working on the LSST took place May 19-23 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One hundred and sixty scientists and engineers representing all areas of the project—divided into camera, telescope, data management and educational outreach sections—gathered there to discuss the goals and direction of the project over the next year. This was the first meeting at which the science collaborations formed last year were all able to meet together.

The meeting focused on preparation for the upcoming reviews by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which are expected to take place at the end of the year. These preliminary design reviews will evaluate the progress being made in the current R&D phase toward developing the final designs. The project is already well underway thanks to a four-year R&D grant from the NSF, annual contributions from SLAC/DOE and a number of private donations. However, the bulk of the LSST funding will not be received until it passes official reviews.

While NSF funding will cover the construction of the telescope and computing facilities, the proposed DOE funding will go largely toward the LSST camera, being constructed at SLAC. Major components of the camera are also under development by collaborators at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and a large number of universities.

A new addition to the project has lifted some of the financial burden from U.S. agencies: a large group of French scientists are now collaborating on the design and development of elements of the LSST camera, using funding from IN2P3 (the Institut National de Physique Nuclearie et de Physique Particules). These scientists joined last month's All-Hands Meeting for the first time as contributing members.

SLAC particle physicist Rafe Schindler, who is working to design the LSST camera, says the meeting was "a rare opportunity to sit down with everyone and hear what they're doing; to see the progress that's being made in all areas, not just the camera." The meeting finished up with a group soccer game.

For Schindler and the researchers at SLAC, the task is now to complete the preliminary camera design to a level that will be defendable at the upcoming reviews. Schindler will be focusing on mechanical, alignment and contamination issues that may arise in the construction and operation of the camera. After two years of R&D Schindler says this is a reasonable goal for the group, and he expects they’ll be ready for the upcoming reviews.

Calla Cofield, SLAC Today, June 4, 2008

Above image: Attendees of last month's LSST All-Hands Meeting. (Click on image for larger version.)