A cutting-edge telescope located in Chile will provide the most exceptional perspective of the universe yet.
The completion of a state-of-the-art telescope after nine years of construction, which is connected to the world’s largest camera, is poised to revolutionize our knowledge of astronomy.
Sitting atop a desolate mountain in the dry Chilean desert of Coquimbo, the Vera C Rubin Observatory offers a truly otherworldly view.
The observatory, situated on Cerro Pachón, has a sleek, modern design that fits perfectly into the mountain’s groove. Its distinctive feature is a compact, rotating dome that breaks off into multiple angles.
The unique and secluded building is the central component of a $1.9 billion venture that is set to commence charting the heavens in early 2025.
Jacques Sebag, the manager in charge of assembly, integration, and verification at the site, described the telescope as unique due to its ability to conduct a survey of the night sky and its frequent movement.
Sebag utilizes a laser pointer to demonstrate the size of the telescope’s mirror, which measures 8.4 meters in diameter. The mirror is equipped with a cutting-edge 3,200-megapixel camera.
The LSST (Legacy Survey of Space and Time) is a 10-year survey specially crafted to gather an exceptional quantity of astronomical information.
“Previously, telescopes were limited to viewing small sections of space, focusing on specific details for certain issues. However, this new telescope is comparable to a lighthouse, shedding light on various regions of the sky. It is also the most agile telescope ever constructed.”
The telescope has a unique, short and efficient design that enables it to continuously move and monitor variations, recording what astronomers refer to as “the changing sky”.
Each night, it will identify 10 million occurrences, including changes in asteroid position and supernova bursts.
“The dataset is incredibly comprehensive, catering to the needs of almost every astronomer,” stated Frossie Economou, the technical manager for data management at the site.
“We will address inquiries regarding the universe, ranging from our immediate surroundings – the solar system – to the concept of time and its origins in the distant cosmos.”
The building of the observatory, named after the North American astronomer who confirmed the presence of dark matter, commenced in 2015.
The main goal of the project is to tackle the unknowns surrounding dark matter and dark energy, which collectively account for over 70% of the universe.
Chile is home to a number of the world’s most important astronomical centres. The altitude of the Andean mountains that frame the country, and the lack of light pollution in the sparsely populated desert areas, make for ideal skygazing conditions. The Rubin site enjoys an average of 256 clear nights a year.
By 2025, Chile will be the primary location for astronomical observation with the completion of the Rubin project, producing approximately 70% of Earth’s observable data.
Steve Heathcote serves as the director of Cerro Tololo, an adjacent observatory that has carried out research serving as a precursor for Rubin.
The telescopes located at Cerro Tololo played a vital role in the recognition of the universe’s quickened expansion, leading to the awarding of the 2011 Nobel Prize in astrophysics.
Heathcote is optimistic that the skies in Chile will continue to aid in unraveling the mysteries of how our universe was formed.
The speaker stated that there is a significant level of uncertainty in current measurements, which allows for the possibility of alternative explanations. He specifically mentioned the big bang and the expansion of the universe. However, he believes that with Rubin’s work, the margin of error will be reduced enough to provide a more definitive understanding.
“It has the potential to challenge the theory of relativity proposed by Einstein and fundamental principles in physics.”
In a span of 10 years, the LSST will produce an impressive amount of 60 petabytes (60,000,000 gigabytes) of data from 2 million images. The United Kingdom is accountable for handling approximately 25% of this data.
Aprajita Verma works at the University of Oxford and serves as the international program coordinator for Rubin. She describes the LSST as “the most remarkable film of the sky ever created by humanity.”
“It is quite daunting. It has the potential to completely transform our perspective on survey astronomy and enhance our knowledge of the countless objects that we will observe.”
The global astronomical community is buzzing with excitement about the project, which is also being strongly felt at a local level.
Since 2019, Claudia Llanquitruf has been participating in the construction of the revolving dome on the site.
She runs a business that primarily handles mining projects and is located in La Serena, approximately two hours away from Rubin.
Llanquitruf is amazed by the website.
“I am aware of the significance of this project and the research it will produce. It is a privilege to be working here.”