Cerro Pachon , Chile is to host the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Starting in 2015, the LSST will take images seven times the Moon's diameter, providing a complete new panorama of the heavens every 3 nights.
At 3,200 megapixels, it will be the world's biggest digital camera, delivering very wide, bright and exquisitely detailed images from optics fast as any 35 mm camera lens-- f 1.25
It's A Christmas Present From Bill Gates
"Most telescopes look at a tiny part of the sky, to look deep and in detail. We want to look broadly, to cover everything," said deputy project managerVictor Krabbendam. The LSST telescope consists of three aspheric mirrors; an 8.4-m primary (M1), a 3.4-m convex secondary (M2), and a 5.0-m tertiary (M3). The inner primary and outer tertiary edges are such that these mirrors can be fabricated f rom a single piece of glass. The secondary mirror will be the largest convex mirror ever made. The light path through the telescope is shown in the diagram.
Its mirrored vision of the heavens is rendered razor sharp by refraction through three fused silica lenses and a filter. The largest lens, 1.55 m in diameter, is half again as a large as that of the 40-inch Yerkes refractor, the world's largest for nearly a century . The 0.69-m third lens serves as a rigid vacuum window to keep the liquid nitrogen cooled focal plane array from frosting over even in the bone dry desert mountain air.
By a mythic coincidence --Thousand Eyed Argus kept watch on mortal affairs for Olympian Zeus-- the imaging array has about a thousand times the resolution of the human retina.
Bill Gates gave $10 million from his private fortune and former Microsoft colleague, Charles Simonyi, $20 million through his Fund for Arts and Sciences to kick start the $400 million project . Gates said the telescope would turn astronomy into a software issue- our first line of defense against asteroid impacts may be dexterity in writing database query code to mine the night sky and recover its secrets.
"LSST is truly an internet telescope which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. [It is] a shared resource for all humanity - the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe," he said.
The donations will keep on track the construction of three large mirrors and three refractive lenses which are the most important and expensive part of the machine. The first stages of production for the two largest mirrors are under way at the Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Launched in 2000, the project is split among 23 universities, laboratories and private entities. Once the mirrors are ready they will be hauled up the 2,690-meter peak and installed in a dome due for construction in 2011. "First light", will come around 2015, with the camera yielding 200,000 images a year at 15 seconds per exposure
By monitoring faint moving objects night after night, it should be possible to infer their orbit around the sun and hence how likely they are to slam into Earth.
The fused quartz lens is a landmark, for silicon dioxide- quartz- melts into an amorphous glass of optical quality inly at extreme temperatures. General electric tried and failed to scale up the production of the low thermal expansion material to produce a 200 inch mirror blank for the then unbuilt Palomar telescope in the 1930's.