Optimizing operations for an unprecedented view of the universe

phys.org | 7/3/2015 | Staff
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Under construction on a remote ridge in the Chilean Andes, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will boast the world's largest digital camera, helping researchers detect objects at the solar system's edge and gain insights into the structure of our galaxy and the nature of dark energy.

This extraordinary power is attracting scores of researchers worldwide, each with their own observational needs and timescales and all contending with sporadic cloud cover and other variable conditions. In short, a major scheduling challenge.

Telescope - Scheduler - Researchers - Princeton - University

An automated telescope scheduler developed by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Washington aims to maximize the LSST's efficiency over the span of its operation, currently planned for 10 years beginning in 2023.

The team includes Elahesadat Naghib, who recently earned a Ph.D. in Princeton's Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, and Professor Robert Vanderbei.

Groups - Researchers - Images - Parts - Sky

Because various groups of researchers will require images of different parts of the sky taken at specific intervals, said Naghib, some astronomers have joked "that the objective of the project is to keep everybody equally unhappy." She and her colleagues strove for fairness in devising an algorithm for the automated scheduler, she said.

The demand for the LSST's images in the international research community makes the need for a flexible, objective scheduler particularly acute.

Telescope - Field - View - Resolution - Desert

"Building a telescope with a really wide field of view and high resolution, and putting it in a desert in Chile where the weather's good pretty much all the time, is amazing," said Vanderbei. "In the world of astronomy, everybody's excited about LSST. It's the main thing."

"We will scan as much of the sky as we can every night," said co-author Peter Yoachim, a staff scientist for the LSST and a research scientist at the University of Washington. "We'll be able to see all kinds of things that change, like supernovae that explode...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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