Opening a Window of Discovery on the Dynamic Universe

Scientists FAQ

1. General Information

What will LSST observe?

LSST will produce the deepest, widest, image of the Universe. To find out what LSST will observe in detail see the LSST Observing Strategy page https://www.lsst.org/scientists/survey-design and key numbers https://www.lsst.org/scientists/keynumbers

What are the key science goals of LSST?

The LSST survey is designed to achieving multiple scientific goals from a single survey. The four primary scientific drivers of LSST are

  • Understanding Dark Energy and the nature of Dark Matter,
  • Cataloging the Solar System
  • Exploring the Transient and Variable Sky
  • Exploring the Milky Way Structure & Formation

https://www.lsst.org/science

Where do I find the most recent info on construction status?

These are available as monthly updates here:  https://www.lsst.org/about/project-status

2. For scientists in the project or wanting to get involved

Where can I find LSST key numbers (for scientists)?

Who are the LSST Science Collaborations and how do they relate to the broad scientific community?

The LSST Science Collaborations are self-organized, self-managed groups of scientists which are recognized by the LSST Projects as a reservoir of expertise and as stake holders in LSST strategic decisions. They have a direct line of communication with the LSST team (i.e. the Project during construction) through resources supported by the LSST Corporation (e.g. a slack channel, dedicated community pages, and the existence of a Coordinator). The Science Collaborations also have a standing committee on the LSSTC Executive Board. The Science Collaborations, however, have no privileged access to LSST data or software.  All scientists that have LSST data rights are welcome to apply to join one or more LSST SCs, but membership rules, including requirements for acceptance within a SC, are established independently by each SC. 

How can I join a collaboration?

Each SC has its own rules for membership and application. Please look at the site of the SC you are interested in joining for details!  LSST Science Collaborations

Why should I join a Science Collaboration?

Being part of a Science Collaboration allows more direct communication with the Project and enables you to get most recent updates.  By becoming a member, you can influence LSST project choices, communicate with Data Management team and use software, tools, simulations, and data products developed by the collaboration

Who can apply for funding from LSST Corporation?

Researchers can monitor the LSSTC Enabling Science calls for proposals: https://www.lsstcorporation.org/enabling-science.

3. LSST data products and publications

What data products/releases will LSST give on a nightly/daily basis and on an annually timescale?

The LSST nightly/daily data products will include (1) within 60 seconds of the end of exposure, alerts on sources that change by >= 5-sigma, and (2) after 24 hours, images and source catalogs from difference imaging and orbits of moving objects. The yearly data releases will include global,uniform processing of all the data taken from the start of the survey, yielding stacked, calibrated images, source catalogs, and light curves.

LSST will also enable the generation of data products by the community to fulfill the requirement of specific science cases.

Read more about the planned data products.

Who has data rights/data access to LSST observations?

The detailed data rights policy is under review; a working group is refining how this will work in detail.

(NOTE: Current data access policy draft is at https://ls.st/LPM-261, not yet approved and not yet public)

The general idea is that US and Chilean professional astronomers will have data rights, as well as named individuals from international partners. Data access happens through a data access center (DAC). Currently planned DACs are at NCSA, at CC-IN2P3, and in Chile; additional DACs are under consideration in other participating countries.

See also the overview of how to participate.

Will LSST data eventually become world-public?

It is foreseen that LSST data will become fully public after two years. The issue of how the public data can be accessed and how this access could be funded is still in the works.

What is the LSST publication policy?

There is a LSST Project publication policy for technical papers and data release papers.

Each LSST Science Collaboration may have its own publication policy for science papers. Authors should consult the how to cite guide to reference relevant technical/data release papers.

What is an LSST Builder? Are there builders in Science Collaborations?

LSST Builder Status is obtained when an individual has accumulated 2 full time equivalent years of direct effort in the design, development, fabrication, construction and/or commissioning of the LSST. The publication policy states that “All relevant Builders will automatically be invited to join the list of contributing authors of LSST Project papers that depend on areas to which the Builder contributed.“

Each Science Collaboration is free to define a builder status consistent with its own publication policy. For instance, DESC defines in its publication policy what is a DESC Builder and specific rights for LSST builders that are also DESC full members.

How can I petition for builder status?

If you are not listed in the Builder Status list and believe you have achieved builder status, you can petition for the status.

I have an LSST paper to publish, is there a process I need to follow?

Cf. above the answers about the LSST publication policy.

Can I keep LSST data rights if I move institutions? Can I still publish LSST papers?

This will be clarified in the coming data rights document (https://ls.st/LPM-261).

4. The LSST observation strategy

What is the currently proposed main LSST survey?

The main survey occupies more than two-thirds of the telescope’s observing time to observe the sky south of 0 degrees Dec. This wide-field survey is deep and observed frequently. The exact survey design is not finalized, but there are requirements and there exists candidate simulations. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

What is the Wide Fast Deep survey?

The main survey (see question above) of LSST is sometimes referred to as the Wide Fast Deep survey, reflecting the observing objectives of the survey design.

What is the status and timeline of the decision about cadence?

Cadence will be determined before the survey starts operation in the second half of 2021. In November the science community is invited to submit cadence proposals and metrics to evaluate how the cadence affects particular science cases. The process of how the white papers will be considered for simulations and cadence decisions is documented in the white paper proposal call. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

What is a mini-survey?

Mini-surveys are portions of the sky that will be observed with a different cadence than the main survey, but not necessarily to a greater depth, to address science goals beyond the scope of the main survey, such as coverage of the Galactic Plane, Ecliptic, or South Pole. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

What is the difference between a DDF and a Mini-survey?

Deep Drilling Fields (DDF) are single pointings (aside from dithering). They will be visited with a different cadence, producing a longer-term deeper cumulative depth. There will be between 5 and 10 DDF, depending on how much time is required by the main survey to accomplish the main LSST goals, and how much time is spent on Mini-surveys. Thus, DDF should be iconic fields, with unique properties that justify the pointing choice, and the cadence should be optimized for the science goal of each field selection. Mini-surveys are surveys of portions of the sky (>1pointing) that will be observed with a different cadence compared to WFD, but not necessarily to a deeper total depth. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

How many Deep Drilling Fields will be observed?

Four DDF fields have already been selected. There will be between 5 and 10 DDF, depending on how much time is required by the main survey to accomplish the main LSST goals and how much time is spent on Mini-surveys.

5. LSST Tools and software

Where do I find the most recent info on Software development status?

  • The LSST DM software stack includes the processing pipeline, as well as tools to access the data products.
  • QServ is the database that allows to efficiently query the petabyte-sized catalogs.
  • Science collaborations develop their own specific tools.

6. LSST structure and management

What is the overall management structure of the project, and who are the people in leadership roles?

The structure is available at, here.

Do you have any internship opportunities?

From time to time we do have opportunities for Interns: see the hiring overview.

What committees and working groups are currently active?

What is the relationship between LSST Project, Corporation, and Science Collaborations

LSST Project includes all members of the LSST team that are supported by the DOE and NSF grants for construction of LSST. As construction ends and operations begin the members of the LSST team both them members and their roles will change.

The LSST Corporation (LSSTC) is a not-for-profit 501(c) Arizona corporation founded in 2003 with the goal to initiate the LSST project, and to advance the science of astronomy and physics. LSSTC enters financial agreements with institutes, including International Partner Institutes, who can then acquire data rights (if outside the US) and a seat on the LSSTC Executive Board. LSSTC raised over $50 million in the Design Development phase of the LSST project and continues to raise funds that enable science and educational initiatives in preparation for LSST.

Since their initial creation circa 2006 by the Project, the Science Collaborations (SCs) have become independent bodies that are self-organized and self-managed. Rules and charters, including publication policy and detailed membership requirements, are established independently by each SC with the only overarching rule that only data right holders can become member of one (or more) LSST SCs. The LSST SCs are supported by LSSTC who provides web-hosting services, a communication platform (Slack), and a Science Collaborations Coordinator to facilitate communication between the SCs and the Project as well as SCs and LSSTC. The SCs have regular meetings with members of the LSST Project.

What is the Science Advisory Committee?

The Science Advisory Committee (SAC) provides a formal, and two-way, connection to the external science community served by LSST.  Comprised of scientists familiar with but external to the LSST Project, the SAC advises the LSST Director on both policy questions and technical topics of interest to the Project and the science community.

How can a foreign institute initiate an MOU with LSST Corporation?

I do not see the answer to my question. Who should I contact?

You could post your question on the Community Forum or send a message using our Contact Form

Financial support for LSST comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded LSST Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).  The DOE-funded effort to build the LSST camera is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.   




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