Vera C. Rubin Observatory will be coordinated and managed by NSF’s OIR Lab.
The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction in Chile, will conduct an unprecedented, decade-long survey of the optical sky. Once Rubin Observatory begins operations in October 2022, it will revolutionize the field of astronomy and what we know about the Universe.
Vera C. Rubin Observatory is not just a telescope, it’s a complex, integrated system consisting of an 8-meter class wide-field ground-based telescope, a 3.2-gigapixel camera, and an automated data processing system. Vera C. Rubin Observatory seeks to enable science in four main areas:
- The nature of dark matter, and understanding dark energy
- Cataloging the Solar System
- Exploring the changing sky
- Milky Way structure and formation
The 8.4-meter Simonyi Survey Telescope features a unique three-mirror design, which creates an exceptionally wide field of view. The telescope will operate on an automated cadence, surveying the entire visible sky every few nights. The telescope is located on the Cerro Pachón ridge in north-central Chile, approximately 100 km (60 miles) by road from the support town of La Serena, where the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Base Facility is located.
The Camera is the largest digital camera ever constructed for astronomy — it’s roughly the size of a small car and weighs almost 2800 kg (6200 lbs). The focal plane consists of 189 charge-coupled device (CCD) sensors arranged on 21 “rafts” for a combined 3.2 gigapixels. The camera includes an automated filter-changing system with six filters: u,g,r,i,z, and y.
Dedicated computer facilities will process Vera C. Rubin Observatory data in real time, issuing worldwide, public alerts within 60 seconds of detected changes in the sky. Vera C. Rubin Observatory will generate approximately 20 terabytes of data per night, and over its ten-year survey will produce a 15 petabyte catalog database.
A subset of data will be widely available through Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Education and Public Outreach (EPO) dynamic website portal, offering tools and activities for formal educators, citizen scientists, informal science centers, and the general public to engage, explore, and discover.
Vera C. Rubin Observatory was the top-ranked large ground-based project in the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey. Engineering first light is anticipated in mid 2021, followed by science first light later in 2021 and full operations for a ten-year survey commencing in October 2022. AURA operates Vera C. Rubin Observatory for the National Science Foundation under a cooperative agreement.
Financial support for Vera C. Rubin Observatory comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded Rubin Observatory Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). The DOE-funded effort to build the camera is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.