OmegaCAM is a new wide-field imaging camera for astronomical surveys, currently
being built with NOVA funding and international partners. It is destined for a
dedicated telescope, the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) on ESO's Paranal
observatory. This instrument, which will be a unique facility in the southern
hemisphere, will capture images of one square degree with exquisite resolution
(0.2 arcsec per pixel). Over the years it will build up a huge survey of large
parts of the Southern sky. Currently surveys at all wavelengths are a major
component of any large astronomical project, be it to study the structure of
our own galaxy or even clusters of stars within it, to finding the furthest and
faintest cosmological sources.
The data rate from the instrument is phenomenal: every
exposure translates into 1Gbyte of pixel data, and every night the instrument will
typically make 50-100 exposures. Activities are underway in Groningen and
Leiden to handle these data and help the astronomer swim rather than sink in
the data flood.
The instrument will start operations towards
the end of 2004, and NOVA has guaranteed access to almost 10\% of the observing
time. At the moment the NOVA community is going through the exercise of
defining the possible surveys that are of interest to the astronomers. In May these
ideas will be developed further, and turned as much as possible into a
coordinated program of observations for the first year or two of operations.
Links to other parties with access to this facility are being built, to
generate the kind of synergy that will enhance the science return.
The aim of this workshop is to bring together
the people who contributed survey plans, and to discuss the strategy for making
as much of them happen as possible. We will invite representatives from German
and Italian partner institutes in OmegaCAM and VST (who also have access to
observing time), from MEGACAM, a similar project in the northern hemisphere
that has just started to take data, and from VISTA, an infrared survey
instrument that will come online in Chile around 2007.