The other day, I asked if the age of science might eventually come to an end, noting that amateur scientific work has become rare. In this post about the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, whose data findings will be made publicly available, Seth Shostak describes a situation that might enable amateur discoveries again, at least for a while.
It will be the mother of all telescopes, and you can bet it will do for astronomy what genome sequencing is doing for biology.
The clumsy, if utilitarian, name of this mirrored monster is Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST. You can’t use it yet, but a peak in the Chilean Andes has been decapitated to provide a level spot for placement. This robotically operated sky-eye, with an aperture of 8.4 meters, should be up and running six years from now.
OK, but so what? After all, there are many new telescopes rolling down the pike these days, some of which will boast far larger optics than the LSST.
The difference is in the way this scope will sponge data from the sky, and distribute it to the world. The LSST will be the first instrument designed from the pedestal up to work fast, to pile up petabytes of data, and to quickly notice any cosmic phenomena that go bump in the night.