Gates, Simonyi Give $30 Million To Build Giant Telescope

The viewing equipment will include a 3,200-megapixel digital camera that will capture and download up to 30 Tbytes of image data per night.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

January 4, 2008

2 Min Read

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and space-going philanthropist Charles Simonyi have donated a total of $30 million to a project that aims to build the world's largest survey telescope on a mountaintop in Chile.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project said Thursday that it has received $10 million from Gates and $20 million from Simonyi -- a former Microsoft executive who last year reached orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Gates said he hopes the project will make deep space exploration available to Web users. "LSST is truly an Internet telescope, which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore," he said in a statement.

Simonyi said the telescope will be capable of producing breakthroughs as exciting as early discoveries were to the first astronomers. "What a shock when Galileo saw in his telescope the phases of Venus, or the moons of Jupiter, the first hints of a dynamic universe," said Simonyi, also in a statement released by the LSST project.

Simonyi said the telescope could provide some answers about the nature of the universe. "What is dark energy? What is dark matter? How did the Milky Way form?" Simonyi said.

The LSST is slated for construction on Cerro Pachon, a mountain in northern Chile. The 8.4-meter telescope will feature three large mirrors and three refractive lenses. It will also include a 3,200-megapixel digital camera that will capture and download up to 30 Tbytes of image data per night.

LSST organizers plan to make the images searchable over the Web.

The LSST is scheduled to begin operating in 2014. In addition to funds from individuals, the project is backed by a number of corporations and research institutions, including Google, Columbia University, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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