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A telescope that tells you when to look up

A telescope that tells you when to look up symmetry magazine

A telescope that tells you when to look up symmetry magazine


A massive digital camera will begin taking detailed snapshots from a mountaintop telescope in Chile in 2021. In just a few nights, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will amass more data than the Hubble Space Telescope gathered in its first 20 years of operation.

This unprecedented stream of images will trigger up to 10 million automated alerts each night, an average of about 10,000 per minute. The alerts will point out objects that appear to be changing in brightness, color or position—candidates for fast follow-up viewing using other telescopes.

To be ready for this astronomical flood of data, scientists are already working out the details of how to design the alert system to be widely and rapidly accessible.

“The number of alerts is far more than humans can filter manually,” says Jeff Kantor, LSST Data Management project manager. “Automated filters will be required to pick out the alerts of interest for any given scientist or project.”

The alerts will provide information on the properties of newly discovered asteroids, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, galaxies and stars with variable brightness, and other short-lived phenomena, Kantor says.

The alerts could come in the form of emails or other notifications on the Web or smartphone apps—and could be made accessible to citizen scientists as well, says Aaron Roodman, a SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory scientist working on the LSST camera.

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The Universe is so big we need filters on which cool things to observe. 

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