LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory in Chile, Paving the Way for Cosmic Exploration

LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory in Chile, Paving the Way for Cosmic Exploration
LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory in Chile, Paving the Way for Cosmic Exploration
The largest camera ever built for astrophysics has completed the long journey from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California to the top of Cerro Pachón in Chile, where it will soon help reveal the mysteries of the Universe.

The 3,200-megapixel LSST Camera, the innovative instrument at the core of NSF-DOE’s Vera C. Rubin Observatory, arrived at the observatory site in Cerro Pachón, Chile. The LSST Chamber is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE/SC), and the NSF-DOE Vera C. Rubin Observatory is funded by the US National Science Foundation ( NSF) and DOE/SC. When Rubin begins the Legacy Space and Time Survey (LSST) in late 2025, the LSST Camera will take detailed images of the southern hemisphere sky over 10 years, creating the most complete time-lapse view of our Universe ever seen. we have seen. “The arrival of the cutting-edge LSST Camera to Chile brings us a big step closer to science that will address the most fundamental questions of current astrophysics”said Kathy Turner, DOE Program Manager for the Rubin Observatory.

The LSST Camera — the world’s largest digital camera — was built at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California, and its completion was announced by SLAC in early April after two decades of work. This incredibly sensitive camera will soon be installed on the Simonyi Survey Telescope at the Rubin Observatory, where it will produce detailed images with a field of view seven times wider than the full Moon. Using the LSST Camera, the Rubin Observatory will drive advances — and new discoveries — in many scientific areas, including exploring the nature of dark matter and energy, mapping the Milky Way, investigating our Solar System, and studying celestial objects that change brightness or position.

“Taking the camera to the hill was the last important piece of the puzzle”said Victor Krabbendam, Rubin Observatory Project Manager. “With all Rubin components physically on site, we are on the home stretch toward transformative science with LSST.”

The LSST Camera team at SLAC led the process of shipping the car-sized camera from California to Chile. The shipping container was equipped with data loggers, both in the chamber structure and in the container itself, to monitor temperature, humidity, vibration, and accelerations during the trip. A GPS tracking system was installed on the container so the team could identify the camera’s location at any point during the journey.

The LSST camera, secure in its container, traveled in an air suspension-equipped transport vehicle to the San Francisco airport on the morning of May 14 to catch a charter flight to Chile. After the camera was carefully loaded onto the 747 cargo plane, two members of the LSST Camera team boarded the plane and settled into their seats for the 10-hour flight to Chile. “We weren’t sure about the ‘folding seats’ we were promised on board, but they turned out to be very comfortable, and having two engineers on the plane was essential for loading and unloading”said Travis Lange, LSST Chamber Project Manager. “The whole process was incredibly exciting!”

The plane landed at 4:10 a.m. on May 15 at Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez Airport, the closest airport to the observatory that could accommodate a cargo plane of this size. The camera container was loaded into one of the nine trucks that slowly drove in convoy until they arrived at dusk at the access door to the site where the AURA telescopes are located in Chile. Once the trucks were parked there, the staff members retired to the nearby town of Vicũna to spend the night. In the morning, the vehicle carrying the camera began the 35 kilometer (21.7 mile) journey to the top of Cerro Pachón, accompanied by escort vehicles. Driving slowly and carefully on a winding dirt road, the camera truck reached the top in five hours. The remaining trucks climbed the hill over the next two days on a schedule that minimized disruption to the rest of the traffic on the mountain.

Upon arrival at the observatory building, the camera was immediately unloaded in the reception area on the third level and moved to the observatory’s clean room, which offers a controlled environment with no airborne contaminants. There it was inspected by the Rubin Observatory Commissioning Team and declared visibly intact. The team also downloaded the data from the data loggers and verified that the camera did not undergo unexpected large stresses. “Our goal was to make sure the camera not only survived, but arrived in perfect condition”said Rubin Observatory Scientist Kevin Reil. “Initial indications — including data collected by data loggers, accelerometers and impact sensors — suggest we were successful.”

The LSST Camera is the last major component of the Rubin Observatory’s Simonyi Survey Telescope to arrive at the hill, and after several months of testing in the observatory’s clean room, the camera will be installed on the telescope along with the 8. 4 meters newly coated with Rubin and the secondary mirror of 3.4 meters. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months as the LSST Chamber — and the Rubin Observatory — move closer to carrying out their transformative mission.

More information

NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory of the US National Science Foundation), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the Gemini International Observatory (an NSF facility, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina and KASI – Republic of Korea), the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), the Cerro Tololo Observatory (CTIO), the Data Center for the Scientific Community (CSDC ) and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (operated in cooperation with the National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE). It is administered by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research in I’oligam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea, in Hawai’i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and appreciate the important cultural role and veneration that these sites have for the Tohono O’odham Nation, for the Native community of Hawai’i, and for local communities in Chile, respectively.

This press release was translated by Nicole Auza

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