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Google to Help Film Entire Universe

Internet giant Google can be accused of having its head in the clouds—or, given a recent partnership with NASA, perhaps in the stratosphere or low Earth orbit—taking on major projects just because they’re, well, there.

Now word comes that Google has signed on with a group of 19 universities and national labs to assist with the planning, operation, and data management for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Scheduled to go into operation on top of Cerro Pachón in Chile in 2013, the LSST is an 8.4-meter telescope to be equipped with a three-billion pixel digital camera and take motion images of the entire visible sky. When running, the LSST may generate more than 30 terabytes of image information every night—and that’s a data management task of Google-y proportions.

"The LSST will be the world’s most powerful survey telescope, with vast data management challenges," said Donald Sweeney, LSST Project Manager. "LSST engineers and scientists have been collaborating with Google on a number of these exciting opportunities. Even though the Universe is very old, exciting things happen every second. The LSST will be able to find these events hundreds of times better than today’s other big telescopes. Google will help us organize and present the seemingly overwhelming volumes of data collected by the LSST."

"Partnering with Google will significantly enhance our ability to convert LSST data to knowledge," said University of California, Davis, Professor and LSST Director J. Anthony Tyson. "LSST will change the way we observe the universe by mapping the visible sky deeply, rapidly, and continuously. It will open entirely new windows on our universe, yielding discoveries in a variety of areas of astronomy and fundamental physics. Innovations in data management will play a central role."

The LSST is expected to help answer important astronomic questions regarding dark matter, the origins of the solar system, and provide immeasurable data on extra solar planets, stellar events, Kuiper belt objects, and even comets and near-Earth asteroids which could present significant threats to life on Earth.

The announcement of Google’s involvement with the LSST project is timed to coincide with the national meeting of the American Astronomical Society beginning Sunday in Seattle. The LSST is a public-private partnership, but the data it produces will be public.

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