UK Involvement in LSST: Phase A

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

We propose a programme of work to enable UK participation in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), one of the most ambitious science projects planned for the next decade, and a key part of the astronomical landscape in the 2020s. LSST will have both a large collecting area and a wide field of view, giving it an etendue more than an order of magnitude larger than any current or planned facility. This will enable it to survey the whole visible sky every few days, leading to both a stacked sky survey of great depth, and the ability to find moving, variable, and transient objects. It will make advances over a large range of science, from Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, through the structure of the Milky Way, to the most distant quasars, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy - all areas where UK astronomers stand poised to make leading contributions.

LSST originated as a US project but is now transforming into an international one. This mostly requires operational support rather than capital construction, which makes engagement in LSST tremendous value for money. Rather than simply being an old-fashioned sky-atlas resource, the best LSST science will come through organised, massive, and systematic exploitation of its vast dataset in international teams. For UK astronomers to play a strong role it is therefore crucial to engage early and fully - in science working group planning, in development of specialised analysis software (the so-called "Level 3") and to have a framework to implement and run that Level 3 code.

The LSST:UK consortium aims to meet these goals through a four-phase programme. The immediate request is only for Phase A (April 2015 - March 2019) but PPRP will need to understand the lifetime implications. There are three elements to the lifetime costs:
1. To allow full data access, LSST requires a contribution to operations. These funds will only be required in later phases, but we intend to complete our MoU before Phase A commences.
2. LSST requires that we make provision for the added cost of UK community access. Rather than hand over more cash, our proposal is to construct a UK Data Access Centre (DAC). This will enable us to fully engage immediately with LSST both scientifically and technically, will allow much more control for UK astronomers, and has a potential for industry involvement. Here we request initial Phase A study and development funding for the DAC. For longer term DAC construction and operations, we intend to target BIS-level funding as well as STFC.
3. To maximise UK scientific return, we further propose a community development programme for Level 3 algorithms and data products, working closely in conjunction with the UK DAC. Phase A funding will focus on assessing the project-provided Level 1 and 2 products to determine where we will need to target subsequent Level 3 funding to meet our science goals.

Planned Impact

Support for UK involvement in LSST, through funding the LSST:UK Science Centre (LUSC), can generate societal and economic impact under the following five headings:


1. Enhancing the research capacity, knowledge and skills of enterprises working on "Big Data" issues being incubated within the Higgs Centre for Innovation.

The Phase A LUSC Data Access Centre workpackage is co-located on the Royal Observatory Edinburgh campus with the Higgs Centre for Innovation, which is being funded to improve interaction between academia and industry in Space and Big Data, and to enhance economic impact in those two domains. We shall exploit that co-location to ensure that Big Data innovations within the LSST project in the US filter through to UK SMEs and that the challenging requirements of LSST inspire the development of novel Big Data techniques and technologies within the UK, as has been the case in the US.


2. Increasing public engagement with research through Citizen Science initiatives.

LUSC will develop a Citizen Science platform based on the pioneering Zooniverse project, which currently has more than one million users doing real science online. Computational advances between now and the start of LSST operations will enable Citizen Science activities that greatly exceed what is currently possible, and perhaps most exciting is the prospect of involving Citizen Scientists in the classification of the million or more transient alerts that LSST will generate per night, placing the public at the heart of LSST's pioneering exploration of time-domain astronomy.


3. Enhancing cultural enrichment and quality of life through education & outreach activities.

The LSST:UK Consortium institutions have a wealth of experience in education and public outreach (EPO) activities, from running Open Days and exhibitions to CPD courses for school teachers to Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). During Phase A we will develop an EPO plan, in conjunction with the very active LSST EPO team in the US, for implementation during the later phases of the programme.


4. Enhancing the research capacity, knowledge and skills of organisations through the employment of researchers with high-level expertise derived from working on LSST.

Over the 18-year lifetime of the LUSC programme, many students and postdocs who have developed high-level expertise from working on LSST will pass from astronomy to the commercial sector, taking their valuable knowledge and skills with them. Particularly valuable will be the computational and statistical skills that will be readily applicable to the Big Data challenges prevalent in the public and private sector, and the expertise in thick CCDs developed through UK involvement in the LSST camera team.


5. Wealth creation, through the placing of construction contracts with UK companies.

The detector characterisation work to be undertaken during LUSC Phase A will also be helpful for securing a larger role for UK research institutions in the LSST construction project after the vendor selection for production CCD sensors is made, should that be determined by the LSST project in the US to be desirable. A number of UK companies possess the expertise needed to secure LSST construction contracts, and the technical and scientific involvement of the UK in the LSST through the LUSC Phase A programme would greatly aid that process.

Publications


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Almosallam I (2015) A sparse Gaussian process framework for photometric redshift estimation in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Almosallam Ibrahim A. (2016) GPZ: non-stationary sparse Gaussian processes for heteroscedastic uncertainty estimation in photometric redshifts in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Demarteau M (2016) Particle and nuclear physics instrumentation and its broad connections in Reviews of Modern Physics
 
Description LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration 
Organisation Brookhaven National Laboratory
Department Physics Department
Country United States of America 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Ian Shipsey(IS) is the Chair of the Advisory Board of the 500 member LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC) IS serves on the Spokesperson Nominating Committee of DESC IS and Dan Weatherill (PDRA) contribute to the Sciences Anomalies Working Group of DESC In OPMD - the Oxford Physics Microstructure Detector laboratory we are characterizing LSST CCDS from e2v in collaboration with Brookhaven, Harvard, UC Davis, LPNHE and SLAC To do this we have set up a facility to illuminate single LSST CCD under vacuum and at cryogenic temperature with calibrated flat fields, spots, pattern projections and fringes and are who - OPMD is the only facility with high stability tungsten light source, extremely low vibration capability, slow beam optics allowing very precise focussing, calibrated spot projection enabling unique and complementary studies to those of our collaborators. We have contributed a software emulator for the CCD timing signal generators aboard the Archon controller and the current version electronics to DESC Collaborators. This is starting to be used by various parts of LSST camera team to assist with writing and verifying timing sequences. For example, we are able to verify the identical output of timing sequences translated from Archon commands to current version electronics commands Jo Dunkley, IS, Elisa Chisari (STFC Rutherford Fellow) & David Alonso (PDRA) co-corganized the DESC Collaboration meeting Oxford in July 2016 ( the first time outside >120 attendees with ~60 (~40) from US (UK).)
Collaborator Contribution LSST-DESC consist of 500 members, academics, PDRAs and students, they provide the intellectual setting in which our work takes places.
Impact We have contributed a software emulator for the LSST CCD timing signal generators aboard the Archon controller and the current version electronics to DESC Collaborators. This is starting to be used by various parts of international LSST camera team to assist with writing and verifying timing sequences. For example, we are able to verify the identical output of timing sequences translated from Archon commands to current version electronics commands
Start Year 2016
 
Description LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration 
Organisation Stanford University
Department SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Country United States of America 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Ian Shipsey(IS) is the Chair of the Advisory Board of the 500 member LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration (DESC) IS serves on the Spokesperson Nominating Committee of DESC IS and Dan Weatherill (PDRA) contribute to the Sciences Anomalies Working Group of DESC In OPMD - the Oxford Physics Microstructure Detector laboratory we are characterizing LSST CCDS from e2v in collaboration with Brookhaven, Harvard, UC Davis, LPNHE and SLAC To do this we have set up a facility to illuminate single LSST CCD under vacuum and at cryogenic temperature with calibrated flat fields, spots, pattern projections and fringes and are who - OPMD is the only facility with high stability tungsten light source, extremely low vibration capability, slow beam optics allowing very precise focussing, calibrated spot projection enabling unique and complementary studies to those of our collaborators. We have contributed a software emulator for the CCD timing signal generators aboard the Archon controller and the current version electronics to DESC Collaborators. This is starting to be used by various parts of LSST camera team to assist with writing and verifying timing sequences. For example, we are able to verify the identical output of timing sequences translated from Archon commands to current version electronics commands Jo Dunkley, IS, Elisa Chisari (STFC Rutherford Fellow) & David Alonso (PDRA) co-corganized the DESC Collaboration meeting Oxford in July 2016 ( the first time outside >120 attendees with ~60 (~40) from US (UK).)
Collaborator Contribution LSST-DESC consist of 500 members, academics, PDRAs and students, they provide the intellectual setting in which our work takes places.
Impact We have contributed a software emulator for the LSST CCD timing signal generators aboard the Archon controller and the current version electronics to DESC Collaborators. This is starting to be used by various parts of international LSST camera team to assist with writing and verifying timing sequences. For example, we are able to verify the identical output of timing sequences translated from Archon commands to current version electronics commands
Start Year 2016
 
Description Plenary Talk at Oxford ComicCon 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk on the status of cosmology and particle physics focusing on LSST and the LHC. The audience was 150 members of the general public spanning all age ranges. There was extensive interaction with the audience after the talk and some members of the audience carried on the dialogue via email in the days after the talk. I have been invited to give a repeat of the talk at the 2017 event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016