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Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Update for Astronomy & Astrophysics Advisory Committee February 2012 Nigel Sharp. Summary – the LSST Project. A ten year experiment to reach specific scientific goals, with well defined deliverables

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Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

Update for

Astronomy & Astrophysics Advisory Committee

February 2012

Nigel Sharp


Summary – the LSST Project

  • A ten year experiment to reach specific scientific goals, with well defined deliverables
  • Not just another telescope – a data driven transformative discovery engine with a prime mission
  • Probing dark matter & dark energy
    • Order of magnitude improvement
  • Mapping the Milky Way
    • Formation and structure
  • An Inventory of the Solar System
    • Potentially hazardous asteroids
  • The Transient Optical Sky
    • Opening the Time Domain

Design driven by science requirements


Project support

Endorsed by directorate advisory committee at NSF, unanimously across all divisions

Several external and community reports

National Academies’ decadal survey endorsement

LSST ranked as the highest priority large ground-based facility for the next decade, due to “(1) its compelling science case and capacity to address so many of the science goals of this survey and (2) its readiness for submission to the MREFC process …”

World leading: no other project can do this science

LSST ahead of all others to the point of having no rivals, only eager participants

A truly unique discovery engine, transformative in science, in education & outreach, and in data-enabled science & cyberinfrastructure

Starting with a concept for a Dark Matter Telescope in 1998, presented at meetings through 1999, endorsed by the 2000 NAS decadal survey, and with over a dozen years of work and ~$120M of private and federal investment in design and development


Private construction support

  • Private funding of $39M, mostly already spent
      • Uncertainty of private investment accepted to enhance project’s chances & reduce risks
      • Innovative primary/tertiary mirror – important to retire the major risk of this unique design
      • Site preparation – risk of the unknown once work started
      • Detector development – risks in performance & delivery

Two vendors delivering


Major Progress Reviews

  • NSF Preliminary Design Review (PDR)
  • 2011 August 29 – September 2
  • “The Panel considers that the LSST project has
  • met the requirements for PDR.”
  • DOE CD-1 ‘Lehman’ review of the Camera
  • 2011 November 1-3
  • The project met all the CD-1 prerequisites “and in
  • some areas has even significantly exceeded them”
  • Both review panels made recommendations
    • NSF and DOE should align funding profiles (CD-1)
    • Conduct an independent (external) review of the interfaces between the Camera and the other Observatory systems (PDR)

Progress Reviews continued

  • Many of the recommendations endorsed steps the project had already planned to take
    • External review of interfaces, especially between NSF & DOE scope
    • Viable sensors demonstrated before first procurement
    • Overall, more regular & more frequent external reviews
    • Quality assurance, and total project systems engineering
  • Current coordinated funding requests
    • NSF total project cost (TPC) $457M over 7 years, 3 months
      • Budget submitted from AURA LSSTPO >$100M in year 2
      • That was a technically limited profile that minimized the total cost to NSF
      • Extended duration to synchronize with DOE camera funding (429->457)
      • NSF profile still high in yrs 2 & 3 – this is a significant risk of increased TPC
    • DOE total $160M
      • Now properly synchronized with NSF request

Possible risks

No site risks. Preliminary site preparation with private funds found no geotechnical concerns


permitting in Chile completed: site impact mitigation well in hand

Biggest risks are budgetary


Revised coordinated budget profile for NSF

  • On advice from NSF (AST & BFA), AURA LSST Project Office created to take over project management; LSSTC retains technical charge
  • Increases management fee but adds considerable confidence
  • DOE budget profile at CD-1 delays camera from minimum cost profile
    • Revision of WBS adds a year and $27.7M to NSF’s total
  • PDR and CD-1 review both validated project’s cost estimates
  • Increase not due to change in scope or project error
  • Full science operations now start in October 2021

Operations Plan

  • Scope: survey for 10 years, maintain throughput, maintain facilities
  • Process data, produce near-real-time alerts & archives of raw images
  • Full data and deep co-added images released annually
  • Provide access to computer resources for analyzing data
  • Assist the community in accessing and using the data
  • Estimate at PDR $37.2M/year ($US FY2011)
  • NSF/AST $19M/yr; DOE/HEP $9M/yr (decadal nominal numbers)
  • Amounts identified and allocated by NSF & DOE: ~75% of the need
  • NASA interested but not committed
  • Foreign partners willing to sign letters of intent to contribute at a nominal rate of $20k per active scientist. Signatures from 63 institutions in 24 countries for ~$10M/yr; more interested
  • No problem raising the operating funds

NSF & DOE Partnership

– working well together

  • NSF/AST and DOE/HEP have set up a Joint Oversight Group (JOG) including the agency Program Managers, meeting regularly, and the JOG also has regular meetings with the project management team.
  • Synchronizing the very different processes of two agencies requires active, regular interaction through the JOG and frequent conversations between the Program Managers. Examples include:
    • adjustment of overall project timeline and NSF request to match defined DOE budget profile
    • schedule of CD-3a (long lead time procurement) before CD-2 (project baseline) to match NSF post-request approach to defining a budget profile
  • Agencies are currently iterating the MOU covering defined scope and responsibilities. Umbrella agreement declares both agencies want this experiment and will work to carry it out: some details cannot be known now and will be specified later and added as annex documents.
  • NSF as lead agency; defined unique contributions from NSF and DOE as per OSTP/OMB S&T priorities memo.

NSF & DOE Partnership

– roles & responsibilities

  • OMB/OSTP Guidance Memo
    • “In requesting funds for large-scale S&T projects involving significant interagency or international collaboration, agencies should identify:
      • the lead organization for the collaboration;
      • the unique capabilities brought to the collaboration by each partnering organization; and
      • specific roles and responsibilities for each organization”
    • NSF is the lead organization, and has a long history of building and operating telescopes;
    • more than 40 years in Chile, good relations with the Chilean government and astronomy community;
    • numerous astronomical assets in Chile, which will be actively coordinated with LSST for follow-up;
    • responsible for construction of telescope, site support buildings, instrumentation;
    • responsible for operation of the telescope for the primary survey mission;
    • responsible for oversight of Project Execution and Operations Plans;
    • DOE-HEP has unique capabilities in instrumentation (the camera);
    • in the management & processing of large data sets;
    • in scientific collaborations for design, fabrication, data-taking and analysis;
    • in other large astronomical surveys, notably SDSS and DES;
    • in project management and oversight;
    • responsible for the camera & related instrumentation, and data management system items TBD
    • responsible for scientist support for participation, especially to achieve the dark energy results
    • Similar concerns in NRC study on impediments to interagency collaboration
a solid project
A Solid Project
  • LSST has a long history of community technical input
    • Each subsystem has had numerous outside critical reviews
    • Broad interest in collaborative engagement
  • LSST scope, requirements, & design are well understood
    • Prototypes are reducing risk and refining design.
    • All major subsystem requirements and ICDs in place.
    • Diverse and experienced team working to develop LSST.
  • Agency commitments are strong and coordinated
    • Adjustments to budget profiles
    • Adjustments to review sequence and scheduling
  • Operations support ‘interest’ has become very solid
    • In as much as possible, i.e. signed letters of intent
    • Enough interest for redundancy and allowance for drop-outs
  • Risks identified
    • Formally tracked, with mitigation plans and recovery options


enormous potential for lsst epo
Enormous Potential for LSST EPO
  • Aligned with national priorities & standards
  • Integrated with science mission of LSST
  • Tuned to audience needs
  • Public involvement adds value: required to maximize the science output from LSST
  • Broadening Participation; addressing national priorities
  • Integration of Education & Research
  • A dynamic public web presence with interactive participation in research
  • A physical presence in classrooms and science centers with active engagement with data products and research process
  • The right time to do it, with time to do it right
lsst widely used by non specialists
LSST widely used by non-specialists

3,600 science teachers 72,000 K-12 students

250,000 Astro 101 undergraduates

~ 450,000Zooniverse Participants

~10,000 Science Users

31 million people visit US planetaria each year;

112 million worldwide

~2,000 AAVSO Observers

Sky in Google Earth & WWT = tens of millions;

NASA Twitter sites ~715,000 followers


one system two continents four sites
One System, Two Continents, Four Sites
  • Archive Site
  • Archive Center
    • Alert Production
    • Data Release Production
    • Long-term Storage (copy 2)
  • Data Access Center
    • Data Access and User Services
  • Additional Processing Site(s)
    • Data Release Production
  • Headquarters Site
    • Headquarters Facility
    • Observatory Management
    • Science Operations
    • Education and Public Outreach

Summit Site

Summit Facility

Telescope and Camera

Data Acquisition

Crosstalk Correction

  • Base Site
  • Base Facility
    • Long-term storage (copy 1)
  • Data Access Center
    • Data Access and User Services



Science – a frontier in data volume

A survey of 20 billion objects in space and time

  • Massively parallel astrophysics - data enabled science
    • very large datasets allow for precision statistical analysis and an automated search for very rare events

40Tb, the same as the 10-year Sloan Digital Sky Survey, every night

  • High dimensionality data exploration
    • automated discovery
    • automated data quality assessment
  • A new window on the Universe
    • expect the unexpected
  • Transformative impact of sky surveys
    • change in astronomical culture

Probing Dark Matter and Dark Energy

The primary interest of DOE and their reason for wanting this project


Science continued

Why is the prime mission planned to last ten years?

The point of diminishing returns: various survey quality parameters suggest you need 4 or 5 years to have an impact, and that gains continue for longer, but flattening out at around 9-11 years, when the different science areas have all been transformed

Finding Near Earth Asteroids – moving object pipeline

Unexplored parameter space – from ¼ to 1 million variables and transients per night – many per second

Mapping our Galaxy: the current best survey (SDSS, right) compared with an LSST simulation on the same scale


Transformative impact of sky surveys

Best photographic survey

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

LSST - only 1/500th of a field

A piece of the sky no larger than a thumb-tack held at arm’s length

  • Current large telescope imager, compared to the 
  • above region, versus the LSST full field of view