UK Involvement in LSST: Phase B

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hertfordshire
Department Name: School of Physics, Astronomy and Maths


We propose a continuation of the programme enabling 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. STFC committed £17.7M in response to our Phase A proposal, and we are now requesting funding for Phase B (April 2019 - March 2023). There are three elements to the lifetime costs of the full, four-phase programme:
1. To allow full data access, LSST requires a contribution to operations. These funds will only be required in later phases, but STFC has concluded a Memorandum of Agreement on behalf of the UK community and the required funds were committed in response to our Phase A proposal.
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. We have been prototyping the UK DAC during Phase A, and now seek funds for its deployment, in readiness for LSST Commissioning. In accordance with the Science Board recommendation in our Phase A award, this is being conducted within the context of the development on coordinated computing infrastructure for STFC science being planned by the UKT0 consortium.
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 B funding will build on the successes of our Phase A programme and on focus on further developing of Level 3 software tools through the use of LSST Commissioning data

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 B 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.
The LSST:UK Consortium 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 B we will develop
an EPO programme, in conjunction with the very active LSST EPO team in the US.

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 (e.g. from the STFC dataintensive
science CDTs) 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 started during LUSC Phase A, and proposed for
continuation during Phase B, has included liaison with a UK company that has now signed a
large contract to supply roughly half of the LSST detectors.


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Jackson R (2021) The origin of low-surface-brightness galaxies in the dwarf regime in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Martin G (2021) The role of mergers and interactions in driving the evolution of dwarf galaxies over cosmic time in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Description Collaboration with LSST Data Management Team on low-surface-brightness science pipelines 
Organisation Princeton University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are collaborating with the LSST Data Management team (principally Robert Lupton and Yusra Al-Sayyad at Princeton) to develop pipelines for low-surface-brightness (LSB) science for LSST. The default pipelines produced by the Data Management team are not optimised for low-surface-brightness science, which represents a significant discovery space for LSST. Probing this space therefore requires developing bespoke pipelines that preserve LSB structures in the LSST images. Our team will develop these pipelines in collaboration with the Data Management Team, who will help us with incorporating our code into the LSST software stack and performing tests of the software using the HSC and LSST commissioning surveys.
Collaborator Contribution Robert Lupton and Yusra Al-Sayyad are acting as consultants on this project. Their team will help us incorporate the software we will produce into the LSST software stack. Since their team is also reducing the HSC survey (which is the precursor to LSST) they will provide assistance in testing our pipeline software using HSC data before the main LSST survey starts.
Impact No outputs yet.
Start Year 2020