Here's a story about a big telescope:
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project got $20 million from the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences and $10 million from Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates. Expected to see its "first light" in 2014, the 8.4-meter LSST will survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its 3 billion-pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move.
This is an awesome project.
Astronomy has always had opportunities for amateurs to make significant contributions. But this looks like it might open the floodgates in a similar way to open access databanks in biology.
"LSST is truly an Internet telescope, which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it," Gates told the Associated Press. LSST is designed to be a public facility - the database and resulting catalogs will be made available to the community at large with no proprietary restrictions. A sophisticated data-management system will provide easy access, enabling simple queries from individual users (both professionals and amateurs), as well as computationally intensive scientific investigations that utilize the entire database, Penn State said.
For this, they will need new ways to keep track of data about giant sets of objects, with varied observation conditions. Call it "astroinformatics?"
They're projecting the telescope will acquire 2000 whole-sky surveys across the first 10 years of operations. I think the years after 2014 will be a great time to be a graduate student in astronomy or physics.