A revolutionary telescope will come online in 2025. And mounted on it will be a giant camera built to capture extraordinary views of space.
The U.S. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is completing the more than 5.5-foot-tall, 6,200-pound (1.65 meters, 2,800 kilograms) LSST camera, which will take cosmic images at the long-awaited Vera C. Rubin Observatory located in the high Chilean mountains. The lab posted new images online showing the more than 12-foot (3.7 m) long camera, with its imposing lens, in a clean room.
“About the size of a small SUV, the LSST (Legacy Survey of Space and Time) camera is the largest camera ever built for astronomy,” the lab said.
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Engineers will mount the big camera on the observatory’s 27.5-foot-wide (8.4-meter) Simonyi Survey Telescope, a revolutionary instrument in itself: It will be the the fastest largest telescope on Earth, with the ability to rotate 180 degrees in just 20 seconds.
The goal is to create an unprecedented catalog of the cosmos. It will be “the first time that a telescope will catalog more galaxies than people on Earth,” the laboratory explained. Every 20 seconds, the giant digital camera will capture a 15-second exposure. The camera is so large that each image covers an area of sky more than 40 times the area of the full moon.
Look into the LSST camera, with the scientists in the foreground for perspective.
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The SLAC team building the LSST camera poses in front of the instrument in a clean room in Menlo Park, California.
Credit: Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
A graph showing the size of the LSST chamber.
Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
The giant telescope, with its colossal camera, will allow astronomers around the world the unprecedented ability to rapidly investigate objects in our solar system, the Milky Way and far beyond.
“I think of us as building ‘Google tracker and search in the sky,'” Mario Juric, a University of Washington professor who works at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, told Mashable in 2023. to a large telescope (which can sometimes take months to propose, approve, and execute), a scientist will be able to go to a website, run a query, and get the data in seconds. Huge improvement in efficiency and a democratization of access to the best possible data sets.”
How the telescope will change our understanding of space
– Over the past two centuries, astronomers and space agencies like NASA have found about 1.2 million asteroids in our solar system. After three to six months of observations, Rubin will double this number. In 10 years, a whopping 5 million asteroids will be known, Juric said.
– The number of icy worlds beyond the distant planet Neptune (“trans-Neptunian objects” and dwarf planets) will increase tenfold.
– Today there are two known interstellar comets. Rubén will identify between 10 and 50 times more.
– “And, if ‘Planet Planet X is a speculative world in our solar system that may exist far beyond the orbit of Pluto.
The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is not the only huge, futuristic telescope that will soon begin studying the night sky. He Giant Magellan Telescopewhich investigates the evolution of the universe and the nature of planets beyond our solar system (exoplanets), will be available in the late 2020s. The Extremely large telescopeWith a 128-foot-wide mirror, it will become the largest optical telescope on Earth by the end of this decade.