Letter from the Director

A total solar eclipse occurred on July 2, 2019 over Cerro Pachón in Chile.

Welcome to our second DiRAC Institute newsletter!

The image above shows the solar eclipse that passed over the LSST site on July the 2nd. This remarkable event culminates a number of important milestones for the LSST over the last year. The 8.4m M1M3 mirror (the main mirror for the LSST) was delivered by ship to Coquimbo, a port in Northern Chile, and then driven to the LSST’s summit where it awaits the arrival of the telescope that will hold the mirror. The dome and building for the LSST, as you can see in the image, is nearing completion with the skin of the dome being carefully put into place. 

Some of the most interesting events we might find with the LSST, and are already finding with ZTF and the University of Washington telescopes at Apache Point Observatory are the visible counterparts to gravitational wave detections. After many decades of research and development the first gravitational wave was detected in 2015 and the first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave in 2017. Now with the new capabilities of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory ) gravitational waves from distant astronomical sources are being detected multiple times a month. Searching for the optical counterpart is tricky as it is hard to localize the source of the gravitational waves on the sky and only some of the sources will be visible in the electromagnetic spectrum and even then for only a short amount of time. DiRAC scientists Zach Golkhou, Mellisa Graham, and Eric Bellm are part of the Growth Project to followup the gravitational wave detections and are bringing the computational skills associated with DiRAC to bare on this problem. Zach talks about the excitement and challenges of this work in one of our featured highlights below. 
Closer to home, in as much as anything in astronomy can be considered close to home, June the 30th was Asteroid Day and we celebrated the event with a video of some of the work we are doing at DiRAC to explore our Solar System by studying the properties of the populations of asteroids and comets. We hope you will enjoy seeing some of our undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, and faculty and the work they are doing. Please consider supporting DiRAC and our mission as we look forward to better understanding the universe and how it came into being.