for National Geographic News
Part of the Digital Places Special News Series
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Google Earth was just the beginning. Now the Internet search company is planning to help scientists and the general public explore and map the universe.
This week the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project announced that Google has joined their existing team of 19 universities and national laboratories.
LSST will be the world's largest astronomical survey project, edging out the currently operating Sloan Digital Sky Survey for the title (related news: "Eight New Neighboring Galaxies Found, Scientists Announce" [January 10, 2007]).
Scheduled to come online in 2013, LSST will completely survey the night sky every three days from a mountaintop in northern Chile.
The telescope's three billion-pixel imager—the largest digital camera ever built—will generate enormous quantities of data. Experts say about 30,000 gigabytes worth of images will be captured every night.
At that rate, in less than a week LSST will collect as much data as the Sloan survey has gathered since 1999.
LSST project manager Donald Sweeney says the continuous stream of images will be analyzed as it is generated and made publicly available.
"The LSST will map many billions of galaxies and find hundreds of thousands of supernovas," Sweeney said.
"We want to make the data from this world-class telescope available to everyone immediately. As a world leader in serving data to the public, Google can really help us make that happen."
LSST will collect repeat imagery to offer a time-lapse view of changes as they unfold—from the movements of comets and asteroids in our solar system to sudden releases of energy in distant galaxies.
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