Nestled within the desert mountains against the backdrop of a clear blue sky in northern Chile, astronomers at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory aspire to transform the exploration of the Universe. Their ambitious endeavor involves affixing the world’s largest digital camera to a telescope, paving the way for groundbreaking advancements in astronomical research. The Camera, which is the size of a small car and weighs 2.8 metric tons, will reveal views of the cosmos as never before, officials from the US-funded project told AFP.
Currently undergoing final testing in the US at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the massive machine will begin its sweeping sweep of the sky once it is shipped to Chile next spring. Over a decade, the Camera will photograph billions of galaxies and other celestial bodies and give researchers new insights into the grand challenges of cosmology.
The Legacy Survey of Space and Time or LSST Camera’s focal plane, which resembles a digital camera sensor, will contain 189 sensors totaling 3.2 billion pixels. Each pixel is a single photon, captured by a specialized array of mirrors that reflect the light back and forth across it multiple times to create an image. The sensor needs to be cooled to a temperature below minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit for it to work, and the entire array is housed in an enclosure that weighs more than three tonnes.
Researchers will use the LSST Camera to survey the entire Southern Hemisphere of the sky. This will be the first time a complete and uniform picture of the entire sky has been created, allowing scientists to address many of the biggest questions in physics.
One of the most pressing issues is understanding why the Universe appears to be expanding faster and faster. The LSST will enable researchers to better determine what is responsible for this acceleration and help them understand how stars, galaxies, and other large structures form.
Additionally, LSST will be an invaluable tool for identifying potentially hazardous asteroids and comets in the outer solar system. It will be able to scan the skies constantly and provide alerts about objects that appear to be changing in brightness, location, or shape.
The LSST’s record-breaking capacity will allow it to capture up to 10 million images each night, generating more than 15 petabytes of data annually. This will be processed in real-time, and a constant stream of automated alerts will be sent to the astronomical community worldwide. This will enable them to quickly spot any changes in the Universe and respond accordingly, including launching spacecraft to investigate them. In the past, this information was only available after long, costly searches of particular sky regions. The LSST will make it possible to find such objects anywhere in the sky with unprecedented speed and accuracy.