The VST surveys
The primary function of the VST is to support the Very Large Telescope by providing surveys — both extensive, multi-colour imaging surveys and more specific searches for rare astronomical objects. Three of these surveys are well advanced as part of the Public Surveys Project, and they are anticipated to take five years to carry out. These are the Kilo-Degree Survey (KIDS), VST ATLAS and the VST Photometric Hα Survey of the Southern Galactic Plane (VPHAS+). They are focusing on a wide range of astronomical issues from searching for highly energetic quasars to understanding the nature of dark energy.
KIDS — The Kilo-Degree Survey
This survey is imaging 1500 square degrees in four bands (U, V, R and I). The data collected is complemented by near-infrared observations from the VISTA Kilo-Degree Infrared Galaxy survey (VIKING). The combined data covers nine bands from optical to infrared. The large area the survey covers is to be imaged to a depth deeper than the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) by 2.5 magnitudes, and with superior quality. KIDS science goals include studying dark matter halos and dark energy with weak lensing, hunting for high-redshift quasars and galaxy clusters, and studying galactic evolution.
The VST ATLAS
This survey is targeting 4500 square degrees of the Southern sky in five filters (U, V, R, I and Z) to depths comparable to those of the SDSS. This survey is also complemented by near-infrared data from the VISTA Hemisphere Survey. The primary aim is to examine ‘baryon wiggles’ (small-amplitude oscillations observed in the power spectrum of galaxies) by looking at luminous red galaxies in order to determine the dark energy equation of state. Along with this, the VST ATLAS will provide an imaging base for spectroscopic surveys by the VLT.
VPHAS+ — The VST Photometric H-alpha Survey of the Southern Galactic Plane
This survey is covering 1800 square degrees using five bands (U, V, Ha, R and I), covering a considerable part of the Southern Galactic Plane. VPHAS is studying around 500 million objects including many rare star types such as Be and T-Tauri stars. The survey can also be used to map the structure of the Galactic disc and to understand the star-formation history of the Milky Way.
In addition to the three public surveys, a set of projects is being carried out under the guaranteed observing time agreement between ESO and Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory. More information can be found at the VLT Survey Telescope Center at Naples Web Portal.