Scientists Complete Construction of the Biggest Digital Camera Ever


Nine years and 3.2 billion pixels later, it’s done: The LSST Camera stands as the largest digital astronomical camera ever built and will serve as the backbone of the Vera Rubin Observatory, ready to begin exploring the southern sky.

The primary mission of the Rubin Observatory is the 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), a sweeping, continuous survey of space. This experiment will provide 60 petabytes of data on the creation of the universe, the nature and distribution of dark matter, dark energy and the expansion of the universe, the formation of our galaxy, our small solar system, and much more.

The camera will use its 5.1-foot-wide optical lens to capture a 15-second image of the sky every 20 seconds, changing filters to see light in any wavelength from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared. His observation of the heavens will ultimately be the end of the heavens; it will illuminate transient phenomena so that other scientists can train their telescopes, and monitor changes in the southern sky.

“We will soon begin creating the best film ever and the most detailed map of the night sky,” said Željko Ivezić, an astronomer at the University of Washington and chief architect of the Rubin Observatory, in a SLAC release.

To achieve this, the team needed a Rolls Royce of digital cameras. Just imagine, the camera costs millions of times more than a real Royce Royce, and at 6,200 pounds (2,812 kilograms), it weighs more than a luxury car. Each of the 21 rafts that make up the camera plane is the price of a Maserati, and will be worth every penny if it collects the results scientists expect. Gizmodo visited the camera in its white room in 2021 – you can read all about it here.

After the successful installation of the camera cryostat in April 2022.
Picture: Travis Lange/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

“I’m very excited to study the size of the Universe using gravitational lenses to better understand Dark Energy,” said Aaron Roodman, SLAC physicist and director of the camera program, in an email to Gizmodo. “This means two things: 1) measuring the light of all six of our filters of billions of galaxies and very carefully measuring their shape, which has been subtly modified by the bending of light and matter, and 2) finding and studying it in a very special way. objects in which the distant quasar is closest to the nearest galaxy.”

Speaking through a SLAC release, Rodman said the camera’s images “can spot a golf ball from 15 miles away, covering the sky seven times wider than the full moon.” Consider this the next time you try (and fail) to take a picture of the Moon with your phone’s camera.

Even if it is difficulty seeing the stars because of the human light, the Rubin Observatory is high in the Atacama Desert in Chile, a famous area for telescopes. Unfortunately, even being in a dry, high, cloud-free environment does not exempt telescopes from light pollution. turn it off Earth: satellites. As satellites pass overhead, their lights leave long lines of telescope images; groups of satellites that work together, known as constellations, creating a very difficult problem.

“Today’s satellites will be very disruptive but we can deal with it by cutting the lines of the images that the satellites will produce,” said Roodman. “However, if the number and brightness of the satellites increases then it could have a significant impact on our 10-year survey.”

A 2022 comments The article said that SpaceX’s entire fleet of 42,000 satellites will appear in 30% of the LSST camera images—and that’s not to mention the satellites that operate around Earth orbit. There are ways to get rid of those boring streaks; last year, a team of Space Telescope Science Institute researchers announced a method to “clean” satellites from Hubble Space Telescope images. However, airborne distractions are like those in your kitchen: it’s best not to have them in the first place.

Most of the LSST Camera cleanroom operators are equipped with.

Most of the LSST Camera cleanroom operators are equipped with.
Picture: Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The first images from the Rubin Observatory are scheduled to be released to the public in March 2025, which sounds like a long way off. But several important agenda items need to be done. First, the SLAC team must send the LSST camera safely to Chile from its base in northern California. (Don’t worry—they’ll test the ride.) Next, the telescopes must be prepared for testing and the observatory must be completed. among other works. But every time All things considered, the current research will lead to a decade of scientific discovery.

Rubin Observatory estimates suggest that LSST could “increase the number of known objects by 10,” according to a SLAC release. In fact, having such a constant eye on the vast expanse of space will reveal just how powerful our universe is, both in our own astronomical region and the stars out there.

More information: Engineers Heat Up Dark Telescope, Restore Euclid’s Vision


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