Science with the LSST

Space-time Warp The detailed mass distribution in the cluster CL0024 is shown, with gravitationally distorted graph paper overlaid. This detailed dark matter distribution can be used to constrain theories of dark matter. Observed strong lensing of a background galaxy was inverted to yield a model for the mass distribution. This model was used to calculate the lensing effect on orthogonal graph paper were it placed behind the gravitational lens.

Many fundamental problems in astrophysics, from planetary science to cosmology, can be addressed through similar data sets consisting of multiple exposures in superb seeing, in a number of standard passbands, to very faint magnitudes over a large area of sky. The key insight leading to the LSST is that data from a single active optics telescope with sufficient etendue (the product of aperture area in square meters and field of view in square degrees) can address all of these scientific missions simultaneously. In addition, by providing unprecedented sky coverage, cadence, and depth, the 8.4 meter LSST makes it possible to attack high-priority scientific questions that are far beyond the reach of any existing facility. The 30 terabytes of data obtained each night will open a new window on the deep optical universe - the time domain - enabling the study of variability both in position and time. This enables control of systematics required for precision probes of dark energy. Rarely observed events will become commonplace, new and unanticipated events will be discovered, and the combination of LSST with contemporary space-based missions will provide powerful synergies. The examples given in the links above have a common thread. In each, our understanding is limited by statistics. In each, the full-sky, high-time-resolution coverage of LSST will increase sample sizes by the largest factor ever achieved in optical astronomy.

Take a look at the 11 posters that the LSST project presented at the 221st AAS meeting in Long Beach, CA January 2013.

Click here to use the Exposure Time Calculator or here to read our overview paper.