April 13, 2024

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Scientists complete construction of the largest digital camera ever

Scientists complete construction of the largest digital camera ever

Nine years and 3.2 billion pixels later, the camera is complete: The LSST is the largest digital camera ever built for astronomy and will serve as the centerpiece of the Vera Rubin Observatory, which is preparing to begin exploring the southern sky.

The main goal of the Rubin Observatory is to conduct the 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), a comprehensive, quasi-stationary observation of space. This endeavor will produce 60 petabytes of data on the formation 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, intimate solar system, and more.

The camera will use its 5.1-foot-wide optical lens to take a 15-second image of the sky every 20 seconds, automatically changing filters to display light at every wavelength from near ultraviolet to near infrared. Her constant observation of the sky would eventually reach a sky interval; It will shed light on transient events for other scientists to train their telescopes on and monitor changes in the southern sky.

“We will soon begin production of the greatest movie ever made and the most informative map of the night sky ever,” Željko Ivežić, an astrophysicist at the University of Washington and director of the Rubin Observatory construction, said in a statement released by SLAC.

To do this, the team needed a Rolls-Royce digital camera. Keep in mind that the camera actually costs several million more than an actual Royce Royce, and at 6,200 pounds (2,812 kg), it weighs a lot more than a luxury car. Each of the 21 floats that make up the camera's focal plane is the price of a Maserati, and worth every penny if it collects the kind of data scientists expect from it. Gizmodo visited the camera in its clean room in 2021, you can Read all about it here.

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After successful installation of camera cooling regulator in April 2022.

After successful installation of camera cooling regulator in April 2022.
picture: Travis Lange/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

“I personally am very excited to study the expansion of the universe using gravitational lensing to better understand dark energy,” Aaron Rodman, a physicist at SLAC and head of the camera program, said in an email to Gizmodo. “This means two things: 1) measuring the brightness in all six of our filters for billions of galaxies and very carefully measuring their shape, which is subtly altered due to the bending of light by matter, and 2) discovering and studying very special objects in which the distant quasar lines up almost perfectly with a galaxy ​​​More closer.

Speaking through a SLAC release, Rodman said the camera's images could “capture a golf ball from about 15 miles away, while covering an area of ​​sky seven times larger than a full moon.” Think about that the next time you try (and fail) to take a decent photo of the moon with your phone camera.

Despite that Having trouble seeing stars Because of human glare, the Rubin Observatory is located high in Chile's Atacama Desert, an area popular with telescopes. Unfortunately, even being in such a dry, high, cloud-free location does not free telescopes from light pollution on Earth: satellites. When satellites pass overhead, their lights leave long streaks in telescope images; Groups of satellites working together, known as constellations, pose a more annoying problem.

“The current constellations will be a huge inconvenience, but we can deal with them by removing the lines on the image these satellites will produce,” Rodman said. “However, if the number and brightness of these satellites increases, it will have a larger and more negative impact on our survey over 10 years.”

a 2022 review This issue suggests that SpaceX's entire constellation of 42,000 satellites will appear in 30% of LSST camera images, not to mention other satellites operating in low Earth orbit. There are solutions for annoying lines. last yearA team of researchers at the Space Telescope Science Institute has announced a method to “clean” satellites from Hubble Space Telescope images. However, the clutter a space carries is just like the one in your kitchen: it's better not to have it in the first place.

Most of the LSST camera crew is in the clean room with the instrument.

Most of the LSST camera crew is in the clean room with the instrument.
picture: Jacqueline Ramcier Aurel/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The first images from the Rubin Observatory are scheduled to be released to the public in March 2025, which seems like a long way off. But many important items on the agenda still need to be implemented. First, the SLAC team must safely ship the LSST camera to Chile from its current headquarters in Northern California. (Don't worry, they've done a test flight.) Next, the observatory's mirrors must be ready for testing and the observatory's dome must be completed. Among some other tasks. but When When all is said and done, the ancient survey will launch into a decade-long scientific discovery.

The Rubin Observatory estimates that LSST could “increase the number of known objects by a factor of 10,” according to a SLAC release. Essentially, having such a continuous eye over a large area of ​​the sky would reveal how dynamic our universe really is, both in our cosmic neighborhood and in the stars twinkling out there.

more: Engineers heat up the Dark Universe Telescope, restoring Euclid's sight