8:55am

Thu September 6, 2012
Arts & Culture

Sept. 7 MTSU Star Party Features Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Talk by Wallin

MTSU physics and astronomy professor John Wallin will share his expertise about the $390 million Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at the initial First Friday Star Party of the fall.


Wallin will discuss “The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope: A New Telescope for the Digital Millennium” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, in Room 102 of Wiser-Patten Science Hall.


The public is invited to the free event, which will begin with a 30- to 45-minute public lecture followed by telescope observing outside if weather permits. MTSU students, faculty and staff and children are welcome. Free parking is located  behind Wiser-Patten. A printable campus map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTParkingMap12-13.


Faculty conduct star parties for the benefit of the public and MTSU students, showcasing astronomy-related events along with the MTSU observatory and naked-eye observatory on Old Main Circle between Wiser-Patten and the Cope Administration Building.  


The giant telescope, which is located on the El Penon peak of Cerro Pachon near Vicuna, Chile, is in the design and development phase. The project is a partnership among the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and a number of private contributors.


“The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is going to be the major telescope project from NSF over the next decade,” said Wallin, who is a member of the Informatics and Statistics Science Collaboration on the project. “It will have an 8.4-meter mirror.”


“The purpose of this telescope is to monitor any changes in the night sky,” Wallin added. “To do this, it will take images of the entire southern sky every three days using a two-giga-pixel camera. This project is going to generate approximately 30 terabytes of data per day and 70,000 terabytes of data over its 10-year lifetime.” 


It is a facility that will produce an unprecedented wide-field astronomical survey of the universe using the 8.4-meter ground-based telescope. It is in the midst of a seven-year, three-month building phase and is being built alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.


At 3,200 megapixels, it will be the world’s largest digital camera. With a light-gathering power among the largest in the world, it can detect faint objects with short exposures.


The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope website also said its uniquely wide field of view allows it to observe large areas of the sky at once; compact and nimble, it can move quickly between images. Taking more than 800 panoramic images each night, it can cover the sky twice each week.


Wallin said the primary science purpose of the telescope is to explore “Dark Energy,” a force that is pushing accelerating galaxies to be further and further apart. However, there are numerous other projects that will take advantage of this facility, including galaxy evolution studies, asteroid detection and variable star detection.


He added that the project was recently given the final go-ahead by the National Science Foundation.


“We anticipate there being funding available in the 2014 budget, with construction slated to be completed by about 2020,” Wallin said


For more information about the large telescope, visit http://www.lsst.org/lsst/.


In addition to being on the physics and astronomy faculty, Wallin serves as MTSU Computational Sciences program director. His primary research is aimed at understanding the gravitational interactions in the universe. 


In recent years, Wallin has become involved in the Zooniverse project to enable volunteer citizen scientists to contribute their eyes and intellect to analyzing scientific data. Under this umbrella, he has created the "Merger Zoo" (http://mergerzoo.galaxyzoo.org) with former George Mason University graduate student Anthony Holincheck. This project allows volunteers to help match simulated galaxy collisions with real interacting systems.


The remaining Star Parties this fall, with all starting at 6:30 p.m.:


• Oct. 7 — “Funky Fizix in Films: Having Fun at Hollywood’s Expense,” led by Dr. Eric Klumpe, professor in physics and astronomy;


• Nov. 2 — “The Autumn Sky: Our Local Galectic Clusters,” led by instructor Jana Ruth Ford; and


• Dec. 7 —“Supernovae: Nature’s Brightest Candles,” led by Dr. Charles Higgins, associate professor.


For more information, call 615-898-2430 or visit http://www.mtsu.edu/physics/.