LSST: Everything has Started, Nothing is Finished!

LSST: Everything has Started, Nothing is Finished!

March 10, 2017 – The annual LSST Joint Technical Meeting (JTM) took place in Glendale, CA this week, with 174 in attendance, the largest number of participants yet.  This gave the team a chance to review accomplishments and, more importantly, work face-to-face across the distributed project on current challenges.  Project Manager Victor Krabbendam reported that the DOE-funded Camera is 57% complete and the NSF-funded elements of LSST are 36% complete.  The project “earns” about $7.5 million per month of work completed, and has a current earned value of $225million.  The 13-month schedule contingency remains intact. 

The next six to twelve months will continue to be busy, in all areas. High priority activities include (i) finishing Data Management's year-long replan and delivery of a prototype Data Access Center, (ii) continuing to build the camera's Raft Tower Modules, with an eye on eventually delivering them to the Integration and Test team at SLAC, (iii) completing the facility building on the Cerro Pachón summit, which will require juggling two major contractors on the summit at the same time, and (iv) ramping up Education and Public Outreach construction activities now that the key leadership is in place.

A highlight of the JTM is always the Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, with project leadership and the Project Science Team ready to address all LSST-related topics project members wanted to discuss.  This year’s questions included the following.

  • Community preparation: how will the science community learn big-data analysis techniques necessary to maximize the science from LSST?   The LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program, the Kavli Foundation-funded workshop on “Maximizing Science in the ERA of LSST”, and the upcoming NOAO workshop on “Building Infrastructure for Time-Domain Alert Science in the ERA of LSST” are a start in addressing this question. 
  • How to identify and follow-up the most scientifically valuable LSST alerts continues to be a question for the community to address.  LSST will deliver alerts as a level-one data product, but what happens then?  Who are the brokers and how will they operate?  LSST will provide a limited alert filtering service for the data rights community, and community-developed alert brokers are expected to be a key avenue to identify interesting alerts, for a number of science cases.  The NOAO/UA Antares projectand NSF MSIP fundingto Las Cumbres Observatory for open access are part of the solution here. 

Other topics discussed at the AMA included LSST's naming, the detectability of NEOs, prospects for operations funding, and the community's perceptions of LSST.

The answers provided at the AMA and the JTM’s various other technical sessions relate that the project is full speed ahead with real-time reaction to challenges as they are encountered.  LSST construction is definitely an adrenaline rush, and the most exciting thing most of us could ever imagine being part of.

Systems Scientist Chuck Claver, who built his first telescope when he was 11 years old and has been involved with LSST since 1998, described working for LSST as “a dream come true.”  JTM 2017 showed that “dream” becoming more concrete (pun intended) with each passing month and accomplished milestone.


Financial support for Rubin Observatory comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Support Agreement No. 1202910, 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 Rubin Observatory 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 the Rubin Observatory LSST Camera (LSSTCam) 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.
NSF and DOE will continue to support Rubin Observatory in its Operations phase. They will also provide support for scientific research with LSST data.   

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