My latest article at The Register:
Robert Heinlein was right to be worried. What if there really is a planet of giant, psychic, human-hating bugs out there, getting ready to hurl planet-busting rocks in our general direction? Surely we would want to know?
Luckily, big science projects such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which (when it's fully operational in 2016) will photograph the entire night sky repeatedly for 10 years, will be able to spot such genocidal asteroids - although asteroid-spotting is just one small part of the LSST's overall mission.
Two years ago we spoke to Jeff Kantor, LSST data management project manager, who described the project as "a proposed ground-based 6.7 meter effective diameter (8.4 meter primary mirror), 10 square-degree-field telescope that will provide digital imaging of faint astronomical objects across the entire sky, night after night."
I caught up with Jeff again a couple of weeks ago, and asked him how this highly ambitious project is progressing.
They now have a prototype system of about 200,000 lines of C++ and Python representing most of the capability needed to run an astronomical survey of the magnitude typically done today. Next, they have to scale this up to support LSST volumes. According to Jeff: "We hope to have all of that functioning at about 20 per cent of LSST scale of the end of our R&D phase. We then have six years of construction and commissioning to 'bullet-proof' and improve it, and to test it out with the real telescope and camera."
Read the full article here.