Lab Report

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The Lab Report is a weekly compendium of media reports on science and technology achievements at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Though the Laboratory reviews items for overall accuracy, the reporting organizations are responsible for the content in the links below.

Sept. 11, 2015


The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights, revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries. Credit: Todd Mason, Mason Productions Inc./LSST Corporation.

An eye on the sky

Construction is set to begin on the world’s largest and most powerful digital camera. Forming the digital ‘eye’ of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the camera will be built at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and be able will take images at a resolution of 3.2 gigapixels, or 1,500 times the resolution of an HD television or approximately 400 times that of the iPhone 6 camera. The camera eventually will be installed on the telescope being built in Chile.

Lawrence Livermore has played a pivotal role in the LSST for more than a decade, including: development of the overall optical design; leadership in the development of the operations simulator (which calculates how the telescope can be optimally scheduled for multiple scientific programs); design of the wavefront sensing and guide sensor systems (which measure the aberrations in the telescope optics and the errors in pointing, so that these can be corrected by the telescope active optics and guiding systems); and design of the camera optics and filters.

Computing on the brain

There has been a decade-long, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional effort spanning neuroscience, supercomputing and nanotechnology to build and demonstrate a brain-inspired computer.

In addition, there are future efforts in collaboration with DOE to build, literally, a “brain-in-a-box.” The work was built on simulations conducted on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Dawn and Sequoia HPC systems in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

SyNAPSE is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program that aims to develop a new kind of cognitive computer with similar form, function and architecture to the mammalian brain.


An artistic conception of the Jupiter-like exoplanet, 51 Eri b, seen in the near-infrared light that shows the hot layers glowing through clouds. Because of its young age, this young cousin of Jupiter is still hot and carries information on the way it was formed 20 million years ago. Image by Danielle Futselaar & Franck Marchis/SETI Institut

Jumpin’ Jupiter

Only 100 light-years away, a just-formed gas giant orbits a sun-like star, the infant equivalent of Jupiter in the solar system — and the first exoplanet discovery for the direct-imaging instrument Gemini Planet Imager (GPI).

GPI is part of the next-gen suite of direct-imaging instruments. It operates with a coronagraphic mask, to block most of a star’s light, and silicon microchip deformable mirrors, whose shape can bend to cancel out atmospheric turbulence. Some diffracted starlight still leaks through in a speckled pattern, but thanks to the adaptive optics -- developed by Lawrence Livermore -- the instrument can make out planets as long as they are big, young and hot enough, and far enough from their parent star to escape from its glare.

GPI is imaging 600 young, nearby stars in a sweeping search for exoplanets between 2014 and 2016. The discovery of 51 Eridani b came as the team was about 20 percent of the way through the survey.


Claire Max, in front of the adaptive optics system at the Lick Observatory, is a leader in making near-diffraction-limited imaging possible on large ground-based telescopes. Photo courtesy of Laurie Hatch

Leader to the Max

SPIE Fellow Claire Max has been named director of the University of California (UC) Observatories, a multi-campus research unit that serves eight campuses.

Max is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, and has been interim director of the observatories since June 2014. She was appointed by UC President Janet Napolitano to a five-year term extending through June 2020.

She previously worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and in 2001 joined the faculty at UC Santa Cruz, where she co-founded and led the Center for Adaptive Optics. Max is best known for her contributions to laser guide star adaptive optics, a technology that removes the blurring effects of turbulence in Earth's atmosphere.


Laboratory scientists are working to debug programs at scale on Sequoia.

Getting the bugs out

LLNL scientists say there are challenges of debugging programs at scale on the Sequoia supercomputer, which has 1.6 million processors.

Bugs in parallel HPC applications are difficult to debug because errors propagate among compute nodes, programmers must debug thousands of nodes or more, and bugs might manifest only at large scale.

Although conventional approaches like testing, verification and formal analysis can detect a variety of bugs, they struggle at massive scales and do not always account for important dynamic properties of program execution.