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World's Largest Camera to Produce Astronomically Big Data

Scientists are already writing papers about the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) a monumental project that will be built over the course of the next decade on the summit of Cerro Pachon in Chile. The LSST will incorporate the world’s largest digital camera, capable of recording highly detailed data more quickly than any other telescope of comparable resolution.

For scientists, the LSST will provide an exciting opportunity to learn more about moving objects (including monitoring asteroids near the Earth), transients such as the brief conflagrations of supernovae, dark energy, and the structure of the galaxy. For computing specialists, such capabilities will require more data. A lot more data.

The LSST will take between 1000 and 2000 panoramic 3.2 gigapixel images per night, covering its hemisphere of the sky twice weekly. Along with daytime calibration images, this will amount to 20 terabytes of data stored every 24 hours.

According to the plan, raw data and metadata will be transmitted nearly 8000 kilometers to the Archive Center at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where it will be re-processed and merged into archives. The Archive Center will require 100 teraflops of processing power and the capacity for 15 petabytes of storage for initial operations.

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