Google search will find asteroids

Google is taking searching to a whole new level by joining the hunt for killer asteroids. The internet giant is to help operate a new giant telescope that will scan the heavens for space rocks that threaten potential disaster.

Artist's impression of the LSSTThe telescope, with a mirror “eye on the sky” more than 27ft wide (8.4 meters), will be built on a 2,682 metre high mountaintop in northern Chile by a team of 19 US universities and research laboratories.

It will be fitted with a three billion pixel digital camera capable of detecting so-called near-Earth asteroids as small as 100 yards wide.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is expected to start scanning the sky in 2013, producing more than 30 thousand gigabytes of data every night. Google will contribute by using its data management technology to handle that massive amount of information.

The telescope, which can view a chunk of sky seven times the width of the Full Moon at any one time, is also expected to spot exploding supernovae and new dwarf planets, or Kuiper Belt objects, beyond Pluto. As if that were not enough, it will also check billions of galaxies for the effects of those invisible forces dark matter and dark energy.

Google said they were keen to help generate a new and dynamic view of the night sky for the public. Their Vice-President of Engineering, William Coughran, said “Google’s mission is to take the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The data from LSST will be an important part of the world’s information, and by being involved in the project we hope to make it easier for that data to become accessible and useful.”

The telescope’s project manager Donald Sweeney said: “The LSST will be the world’s most powerful survey telescope. “Even though the universe is very old, exciting things happen every second. The LSST will be able to find these events hundreds of times better than today’s other big telescopes. Google will help us organize and present the seemingly overwhelming volumes of data collected.”

The image is an LSST impression of the telescope on the El Peñón peak of Cerro Pachón.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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