UK Involvement in LSST: Phase A

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Physics and Astronomy

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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Chan M (2019) Deep-CEE I: fishing for galaxy clusters with deep neural nets in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Hatfield P (2020) Augmenting machine learning photometric redshifts with Gaussian mixture models in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Johnson M (2019) Prospecting for periods with LSST - low-mass X-ray binaries as a test case in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Lochner M (2016) PHOTOMETRIC SUPERNOVA CLASSIFICATION WITH MACHINE LEARNING in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

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Martin G (2019) The formation and evolution of low-surface-brightness galaxies in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description We have developed a prototype Data Access Centre for LSST data. This will be developed in the next phase of funding into an operating Data Access Centre for use by UK astronomers once LSST operations begin.
Exploitation Route Some of this work is generic, and can be applied to other domains in which data is stored in relational databases.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education

 
Description UK Involvement in LSST: Phase B (Edinburgh component)
Amount £2,282,308 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/S006206/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2019 
End 03/2023
 
Title Simulations for LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration 
Description Large-scale image simulations were run to generate training data for the development of analysis algorithms by the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Development of analysis software by LSST DESC. 
 
Description DAC work with IN2P3 
Organisation National Center for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique CNRS)
Department IN2P3-Lyon
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Working on preparation for LSST Data Access Centres
Collaborator Contribution Working on preparation for LSST Data Access Centres
Impact Planning documents for UK LSST Data Access Centre.
Start Year 2016
 
Description LSST Science Collaborations 
Organisation LSST Corporation
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This award supported participation by UK astronomers in scientific and technical preparation for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.
Collaborator Contribution Researchers at a number of US and international institutions also participated in the scientific and technical preparation for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.
Impact Scientific and technical planning for LSST.
Start Year 2014
 
Title Lasair-ZTF prototype 
Description Prototype of LSST alert broker running on ZTF event stream 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Identification of transient objects from ZTF alert stream. 
URL http://lasair.roe.ac.uk
 
Description ROE Open Days 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Poster Presentation
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Poster displays and associated discussion of sky survey data archive featured in annual ROE open days. Posters seen by several hundred people on each of two open days per year, stimulating follow-up discussion with several dozen people each year, asking further questions about our work.

Nil
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2016