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LSST Summit Facilities

LSST Telescope facilities.

The LSST Summit Facility is currently under construction on the Cerro Pachón ridge in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in north-central Chile. The entire Cerro Pachón area, including the LSST site, the Gemini-South and SOAR telescopes, lies on a tract of land owned by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. Cerro Pachón is inland and about 60 m (100 km) by road from the support town of La Serena, where the LSST Base Facility will be located.

The LSST Summit Support Facility includes the telescope pier, a 30 meter-in-diameter lower enclosure to support a rotating dome (contracted separately), a 32,000 ft2 (3000 m2) service and operations building attached to the lower enclosure, and a separate enclosure for the calibration telescope. The proximity of the Gemini and SOAR telescopes allows for significant savings in the sharing of infrastructure services and utilities.

A topographical map of all the telescope facilities, with an inset view of the ridge.This map shows the location of the LSST site in relation to the support town, La Serena, and the Gemini and SOAR telescopes.

The design for the LSST Summit Facility takes advantage of the natural topography of the El Peñón summit, located on Cerro Pachón. The main telescope enclosure occupies the highest and largest peak with the attached service and operations building stepping down into a saddle area to the southeast. The calibration telescope is located on a smaller peak farther to the east.  This specific orientation was selected after extensive weather testing and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis of the site verified that it provided the best  seeing environment, or the least air disturbance, for the telescope. Geotechnical studies of the natural rock on site shows it to be of very high competency—in other words, strong and erosion-resistant, with stiffness values well above concrete at the anticipated level of the telescope foundation.

An example of the environmental factors the LSST facility is designed to mitigate.The cut-away view of the telescope enclosure and service and operations building (above) shows their stepped-down layout. This design provides a contiguous protected environment for transporting and maintaining the camera and mirrors while still separating the telescope from the temperature-controlled spaces of the observatory facility. The heated operations spaces are below the service level with the heat-generating equipment located below that and farthest from the telescope. An 80-ton platform lift will carry mirrors and camera to and from the telescope as necessary for installation and maintenance.

Dedicated maintenance areas in the Support Facility will include a camera servicing area equipped with clean room spaces for working inside the cryostat that protects and cools the CCD detectors. The on-site service building will also house a dedicated cleaning and coating area to be used for both the 8.4 m primary/tertiary mirror and the 4 m secondary mirror. The mirrors and camera are not expected to leave the mountain and will receive all necessary service at the summit facility during their entire operational life.

Initial site leveling work has been completed and construction has begun early 2015. The primary excavation method was a horizontal drilling and blasting technique that preserved the structural integrity of the remaining rock strata below. The result of that initial excavation was level platforms for construction of the two telescopes and suitable access roads. Construction of the entire facility is on track for completion in 2018 as shown by the Project Schedule

The mountain top before and after being leveled for the LSST.

A topographical map of the areas excavated to make way for the LSST facilities.


Image Credit: 
Top to bottom, left to right: LSST Project Office; LSST Project Office / NOAO; C. Claver, NOAO / LSST; remaining images: LSST Project Office

Financial support for LSST comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded LSST Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).  The DOE-funded effort to build the LSST camera is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.   

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