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July 2013  •  Volume 6 Number 2

Steve Ritz – Managing Myriad Subtle Characteristics

Camera Project Scientist Steve Ritz

New Camera Project Scientist Steve Ritz jumped at the opportunity to join LSST, seeing the excellent team, the breakthrough capabilities of the observatory, and the challenge of understanding myriad subtle performance characteristics that will enable “game-changing” science.

“I think it was JFK who cited the ancient Greek definition of happiness as the full use of one’s powers along the lines of excellence, and that always sounded right to me,” Steve said. “It didn’t take long to see that there are many excellent, hardworking LSST people – scientists, engineers, programmers, managers, and administrative support staff – using the full extent of their powers to build a science facility at the edge of what is possible. It’s an exhilarating environment to work in.”

Steve joined the LSST project in April 2013. As Camera Project Scientist, he ensures that the camera system will be scientifically successful, a charge he interprets broadly. Immediately obvious technical challenges are the scale of integration, tight tolerances, and the necessity to understand many subtle characteristics of the optics and sensors, and he says an appropriate program of increasingly integrated prototype testing, coupled with detailed simulations, will overcome those challenges by enabling the project to track its understanding of LSST performance.

In addition to his LSST duties, Steve is a physics professor and the Director of the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at UCSC, where he has worked since 2009. Prior to LSST, he worked on the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. He was Project Scientist for the whole mission (formerly known as GLAST) from 2003-2009 and Deputy PI for the Large Area Telescope instrument from 2004 to 2013. Before Fermi, he worked on several accelerator-based particle physics experiments in Europe and in the United States.

Among the many LSST science topics, Steve is most interested in improving the understanding of Dark Energy by using a combination of techniques that exploit the full capabilities of the observatory.

“That means understanding systematic errors in great detail,” Steve said. “Cosmic surveys can also provide unique information about the nature of Dark Matter and even neutrino properties. More generally, LSST’s breakthrough time-domain capabilities at good depth and with minimal observing bias are a great combination for uncovering surprises. It is quite possible that our greatest contributions will be in topics we don’t yet know.”

Steve is excited to learn the nuances of such a complex project and contribute to moving it forward. When not teaching physics at University of California, Santa Cruz or participating in consequential science projects like LSST, he writes classical music. The enduring scientific symphony to be produced by this polyphony of a truly great team from a large variety of backgrounds was hard to resist.

Joining LSST? “Not a difficult decision!”

Article written by Robert McKercher and Steve Ritz


LSST is a public-private partnership. Funding for design and development activity comes from the National Science Foundation, private donations, grants to universities, and in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other LSSTC Institutional Members:

Adler Planetarium; Argonne National Laboratory; Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL); California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Chile; Cornell University; Drexel University; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; George Mason University; Google, Inc.; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Institut de Physique Nucleaire et de Physique des Particules (IN2P3); Johns Hopkins University; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) – Stanford University; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Inc.; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); National Optical Astronomy Observatory; National Radio Astronomy Observatory; Princeton University; Purdue University; Research Corporation for Science Advancement; Rutgers University; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Space Telescope Science Institute; Texas A & M University; The Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; The Pennsylvania State University; The University of Arizona; University of California at Davis; University of California at Irvine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan; University of Pennsylvania; University of Pittsburgh; University of Washington; Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities

LSST E-News Team:

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  • Robert McKercher (Staff Writer)
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  • Emily Acosta (Design & Production: PDF/Print)
  • Sidney Wolff (Editorial Consultant)
  • Additional contributors as noted

LSST E-News is a free email publication of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project. It is for informational purposes only, and the information is subject to change without notice.

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