$800 million camera, the size of a car, to capture the universe like never before

$800 million camera, the size of a car, to capture the universe like never before

The first mission of the Rubin observatory camera was to complete a 10-year survey of the sky

La Serena, Chile:

Surrounded by the desert mountains and clear blue skies of northern Chile, astronomers from the Vera C. Rubin Observatory hope to revolutionize the study of the universe by mounting the world's largest digital camera to a telescope.

The state-of-the-art instrument, about the size of a small car and weighing 2.8 metric tons, will reveal unprecedented views of the universe, officials of the US-funded project told AFP.

By early 2025, when the $800 million camera takes its first photos, the machine will sweep the sky every three days, allowing scientists to reach new heights in their galaxy analyses.

Bruno Diaz, president of the Chilean Astronomical Society (Socias), says researchers can go „from studying one star, knowing everything about that one star in depth, to studying thousands of stars at once.”

According to Stuart Carter, deputy director of NOIRLab, the U.S. research center that operates the lab, which is located at 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) on Cerro Bachon Mountain, 560 kilometers (350 miles) north of Santiago, the new facility „will lead to a paradigm shift in astronomy.”

The project confirms Chile's dominant position in astronomical observation, as the South American country has one-third of the world's most powerful telescopes, according to Socias, and boasts some of the planet's clearest skies.

The Rubin Observatory camera's first mission is to complete a 10-year survey of the sky called the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), which researchers hope will reveal information about 20 million galaxies, 17 billion stars and six million space objects. .

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The survey will give scientists an up-to-date catalog of images of the Solar System and allow us to map our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and delve deeper into the study of energy and dark matter.

300 TV per film

The new camera can capture 3,200-megapixel photos — images so large that viewing one would require more than 300 average-sized high-definition televisions lined up together.

Built in California, the machine will be three times as powerful as the world's current most powerful camera, the 870-megapixel Hyper-Supreme-Cam in Japan, and six times as powerful as NOIRLab's most powerful camera.

The observatory's current top camera on Chile's Cerro Tololo mountain is only 520 megapixels, according to Jacques Sebach, director of construction for the Rubin telescope.

Chile's telescopes have come a long way since the 40-centimeter Cerro Tololo telescope installed in the country's first international observatory in the 1960s.

„That telescope came here on the back of a donkey because there was no road,” said Stephen Heathcote, director of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, about 20 kilometers from Cerro Bachon.

The astronomy capital of the world

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, named after the American astronomer who discovered dark matter, will join several space observatories in northern Chile.

The natural conditions of the region's desert landscape — nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountain range — create the planet's clearest skies thanks to a dry climate with little cloud cover.

The region hosts telescopes from more than 30 countries, including the world's most powerful astronomical instruments, such as the radio telescope at the ALMA observatory and the largest telescope to be built by 2027. To see never-before-seen parts of the universe.

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Many of humanity's most important astronomical discoveries have been made at the Cerro Dololo Observatory, including the 2011 Nobel Prize winner for accelerating the expansion of the universe, a phenomenon known as cosmic acceleration.

Despite the opening of other influential observatories around the world, including in the United States, Australia, China and Spain, „Chile is unbeatable” in the world of astronomy, Socias president Diaz said.

(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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