Sunday, July 21, 2024

Largest astronomy camera at Atacama Desert

With a resolution exceeding 3.2 gigapixels, a nearly three-ton weight, and the ambitious mission of conducting a decade-long exploration, the largest digital camera ever built for optical astronomy is set to be installed under the pristine skies of northern Chile.

The components needed to construct the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which includes a ground-based telescope and the camera, were transported in several vehicles to the summit of Cerro Pachón in the Coquimbo region, near the Atacama Desert, about 565 kilometers north of Santiago.

“Everything we need for operations is now on the summit, ready for checkout, and hopefully for installation a little later this year,” said Stuartt Corder, chief science officer of the AURA association of universities and deputy director of the NOIRLab center, which will operate the observatory.

According to its website, the Rubin Observatory is a sophisticated, integrated system consisting of an eight-meter wide-field ground-based telescope, the camera, and an automated data processing system.

It will generate approximately 20 terabytes of data per night, and its ten-year exploration will produce a catalog database of 15 petabytes.

The goal of this exploration is to understand the nature of dark energy and dark matter in the universe—of which only a small part is known—as well as to study the potential of Earth colliding with asteroids or the behavior of stars and planets close to the sun.

“This is a truly inspiring moment where we can say we’re beginning,” said Corder. “We’re on the brink, preparing to start a campaign that over ten years, we hope, will answer questions about when the universe was created, how it started in motion, and how it will continue to evolve.”

While the results may not drastically change current understanding, they will refine our knowledge of the universe, Corder added.

AURA, a consortium of 47 U.S. institutions and three international affiliates, operates astronomical observatories for the National Science Foundation and NASA and manages the NOIRLab center among others.

Chile is a prime location for astronomical investments, hosting a significant portion of the world’s astronomical infrastructure due to the exceptionally clear skies of its Atacama Desert, the driest desert on Earth.

Leave a Reply