updated 5/18/2006 9:09:11 PM ET 2006-05-19T01:09:11

A mountain peak in Chile has been chosen as home for a Tucson-based telescope project that will be able to scan the entire visible sky every three nights.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be the world's most powerful survey telescope.

It will join the existing Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, operated by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, on Cerro Pachn, an 8,800-foot peak in northern Chile.

The LSST project, led by a Tucson-headquartered consortium formed by the University of Arizona, Research Corp., the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the University of Washington, should be under construction by 2009 with a completion date in 2012.

The 8.4-meter telescope will be 50 times as powerful as any survey telescope, with the capability to image the entire visible sky in just days, instead of years as current scopes can, said LSST project manager Donald Sweeney.

He said the LSST will be able to map the visible sky rapidly and continuously, providing a new way to observe the universe. The observations will focus on astronomy and fundamental physics, including studies in dark energy and dark matter to understand why the universe is expanding.

The project has received a three-year, $14.2 million federal grant to design and develop the scope and has raised $25 million in private donations.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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