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SLAC Completes Largest Digital Camera Ever Built for Astronomy

APR 10, 2024
The camera has a lens that is more than five feet across and will be installed at the Rubin Observatory in Chile.
Science Policy Intern FYI
LSST Camera and SLAC Camera Team-5.jpg

A SLAC team member inspects the LSST camera in a clean room in January 2024.

(Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell / SLAC National Accelerator Lab)

The Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) Camera is set to be shipped to and installed in the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile by June 26, 2024. There, it will help researchers create “the most informative map of the night sky ever assembled,” according to Rubin Observatory Director of Construction Željko Ivezić.

The Rubin Observatory will use LSST to study dark matter, the expansion of the universe, gravitational lensing, and the Milky Way galaxy. The camera will be part of the Rubin Observatory’s mission to study weak gravitational lensing, which could ultimately lead to information about how dark energy is causing the universe to expand. The front lens of the camera is over five feet across, making it the largest lens ever created to study space.

LSST is a partnership between SLAC, which did the construction; Brookhaven National Lab, which handled the sensor array; Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which built the lenses; and the National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, which built the camera’s filter exchange system. The camera cost roughly $168 million to build, funded by the Department of Energy.

The National Science Foundation is funding construction of the observatory itself and has so far authorized $551 million.

This news brief originally appeared in FYI’s newsletter for the week of April 8.

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