The next era of our investigation of the cosmos is about to be initiated by the new one Vera C. Rubin Observatory, a terrestrial telescope currently under construction on the summit of El Penón del Cerro Pachón in northern Chile.
The observatory is a federal project managed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Energy.
The new observatory – named in honor of the astronomer Vera Rubin – is expected to begin operations in October 2023, according to a statement published in the Rubin Observatory website and, when operational, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will allow astronomers to consider some of the universe’s most pressing mysteries.
“There are four main scientific themes that have guided our observatory design: cataloging all the small moving objects in the solar system;
map the structure and evolution of the Milky Way;
investigate many types of stellar variability in the sky and determine the nature of dark matter and dark energy, two of the greatest mysteries of modern physics ”.
wrote in an email on director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Steven Kahn, an astrophysicist at Stanford University in California.
These four investigative elements will be united under the ten-year umbrella Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), according to an article by the Kavli Institute for Particle Physics and Cosmology, a joint operation of Stanford University and the SLAC National Laboratory Department of Energy’s SLAC Accelerator.
LSST will build on previous sky surveys that have formed the fundamental pillars of astronomy data for many years, systematically mapping the universe and providing insights that have shaped our understanding of the cosmos.
As impressive as these past surveys and the telescopes that conducted them have been, their view has been limited to a small fraction of the sky, and this is precisely one of the areas in which the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will strive to raise, for real, the stakes.
Originally called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope In its initial proposal and in an article published in May 2008 on the preprint site arXiv.org, the design of the observatory’s main instrument – the Simonyi Survey Telescope (SST) – was guided by three key passwords: width, depth and speed.
“The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will be very different from all the large existing telescopes. Most telescopes are designed to carry out detailed investigations of single objects – stars, galaxies and clusters of such objects – while Rubin is instead designed to perform a deep sky imaging survey of the entire southern hemisphere. “
The key to this wide-ranging vision is exclusivity three-mirror design of the telescope, which features a primary mirror 27.6 feet (8.4 meters) wide. This design improves what astronomers call the system etendue, a quality that is the product of the primary mirror’s collection area and the camera’s field of view, and describes how scattered light is in a system.
“The Rubin Observatory will last more than 10 times longer than all previous facilities and those currently planned for development anywhere else in the world. It is unique in the world in this sense. “
The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is not limited only to this, but has much more
To achieve such success, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory team had to combine this unusual three-mirror optical system with the use of a record-breaking kit, the largest digital camera ever created.
This SUV-sized camera it is also the first in the world to have a capacity of 3.2 gigabytes, according to a Press release published by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in September 2020. A single image produced by the camera would require over 350 4K TVs per screen.
The camera will take a 15-second sky exposure every 20 seconds, allowing it to capture approximately 10,000 square degrees of the sky over the course of three nights, giving the observatory the ability to track moving objects such as asteroids and record changes in the sky. stars and events such as supernovae, as well as the movement of objects close to Earth and the rate at which objects such as stars change occur over an extreme range of time periods.
Fortunately, the observatory can observe the sky on time scales ranging from years to about 15 seconds.
The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will also provide one unprecedented depth observing the universe in six different optical bands, with wavelengths ranging from 320 to 1,060 nanometers, which covers ultraviolet light across the visible light spectrum to infrared.
Consequentially, according to Air & Space magazine, the observatory will be able to capture some extremely faint objects that escaped previous surveys.
“Rubin will get nearly 1,000 images of every part of the southern sky. By comparing images taken at different times, we can detect everything that moves in the sky and everything that varies in brightness.
By adding up these 1,000 individual images, we can get the deepest images of any part of the southern sky. “
Collecting so many highly detailed images poses a great challenge, as it represents a huge amount of data that needs to be managed, about 20 terabytes every night, therefore, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory requires another revolution just to process this immense wealth of information.
“We also had to develop the technology to process all that data, archive it and allow scientists to interrogate it to conduct their investigations. All of this was new and beyond the state of the art. “
For Kahn, part of the beauty of the project is that no one is quite sure what will be discovered in the data it provides.
“We don’t know what we’ll find. This is the rationale behind building the experiment in the first place. ”.
Kahn knows for sure one thing: the impact it will have on astronomy is tremendous, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory it will detect and catalog something like 20 billion galaxies, which means that for the first time we will know more galaxies than there are people on Earth.
This number represents approximately 10% of all galaxies estimated to exist in the observable universe.
“It will be an extraordinary human achievement to be able to make such a record of our universe in this way, equivalent in some respects to some of the first ever maps of the entire Earth. It is very exciting to be part of this project. “
Kahn told All About Space.
We like to balance work with a little bit of play, so alongside our official programming for # Rubin2021 we’ll also have daily themes to get to know our Project and Community members! Don’t be shy, join the conversation!
Did you notice what the daily themes spell out? 😉 pic.twitter.com/dA8gNEtZea
– Rubin Observatory (@VRubinObs) August 6, 2021
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