The LSST will open a new window on the variable sky. Recent surveys have shown the power of variability for studying gravitational lensing, searching for supernovae, determining the physical properties of gamma-ray burst sources, etc. The LSST, with its repeated, wide-area coverage to deep limiting magnitudes will enable the discovery and analysis of rare and exotic objects such as neutron star and black hole binaries; gamma-ray bursts and X-ray flashes, at least some of which apparently mark the deaths of massive stars; AGNs and blazars; and very possibly new classes of transients, such as binary mergers and stellar disruptions by black holes. It is likely that the LSST will detect numerous microlensing events in the local group and perhaps beyond. The LSST would provide alerts for concerted monitoring of these events, and open the possibility of discovering planets and obtaining spectra of lensed stars in distant galaxies as well as our own. LSST can also provide multi-wavelength monitoring over time of objects discovered by the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) and the Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope (EXIST). With its large aperture, the LSST is well suited to conducting a Deep Supernova Search in selected areas. LSST will also provide a powerful new capability for monitoring periodic variables, such as RR Lyrae stars, which can be used to map the Galactic halo and intergalactic space to distances exceeding 400 kpc.
Since LSST extends time-volume space a thousand times over current surveys, the most interesting science may well be the discovery of new classes of objects. Exploiting the capabilities of LSST for time domain science requires large area coverage to enhance the probability of detecting rare events; time coverage, since light curves are necessary to distinguish certain types of variables and in some cases infer their properties (e.g. determining the intrinsic luminosity of supernovae Type Ia depends on measurements of their rate of decline); accurate color information to assist with the classification of variable objects; good image quality to enable differencing of images, especially in crowded fields; and rapid data reduction and classification in order to flag interesting objects for spectroscopic and other follow up with separate facilities. Time scales ranging from 1 min (to constrain the properties of fast faint transients such as those recently discovered by the Deep Lens Survey) to 10 years (to study long-period variables and quasars) should be probed over a significant fraction of the sky. It should be possible to measure colors of fast transients, and to reach r > 24.5 magnitude in individual visits. Fast reporting of transients to the community is required in order to facilitate follow-up observations.
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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