LSST camera explainer

Built at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the LSST Camera is the largest digital camera ever built for astronomy. The camera is at the heart of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s 10-year-long Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), which will capture the entire southern sky every 3 nights. Data from the camera will help address some of the most pressing questions in cosmology, such as the nature of dark energy and dark matter, as well as advancing the study of our solar system and the changing night sky.



HISTORY: 30 years ago scientists were looking for a new way to explore dark matter

our story today starts in the late 1990s

when the idea for what would become the

VC Reuben Observatory started to

emerge at the time researchers were

looking for ways to explore Dark Matter

dark matter is a substance that only

interacts with ordinary matter like the

matter here on Earth

gravitationally as researchers were

trying to find new ways to explore dark

matter they made observations of

supernova explosions that hinted that

the expansion of the universe is


accelerating these observations implied

the existence of a mysterious dark

energy that permeates all of

space if we take all the forces that

shaped the universe scientists currently

believe that the universe is made up of

about 5% ordinary matter 27% dark matter

and 68% Dark

Energy in this case the term dark

applies because it doesn't appear to

emit reflect or absorb light and

scientists aren't yet sure about how to

directly detect

it in order to get some more insights

into dark energy and dark matter

astrophysicists realized that they would

need to map out the large scale

structure of the universe and its

changes over time where were they going


SLAC: Steve Kahn introduces a new telescope idea to SLAC National Laboratory



in 2003 Steve Khan an astrophysicist

working on the subject joined SLAC he

brought with him the idea that SLAC and

the department of energy should engage

in the development of a large aperture

Widefield telescope that could prohibit

the very nature of dark energy and dark

matter along with his fellow researchers

KH spent the next decade building out an

international network of scientists and

researchers to begin working on how they

could bring the telescope to life while

the telescope itself is being built in

Chile the centerpiece camera module is

being assembled right here at SLAC

using Parts developed at SLAC and at

other institutions around the world as

you can see from this map the

coordinated effort it took to bring

together so many widespread teams was an


LSST Camera: The centerpiece would be a 3.2 gigapixel camera

feat the centerpiece of the telescope

would be its camera module in the early

2010s after all their preparation SLAC

researchers and their collaborators in

the US and in Europe began prototyping


camera the camera was designed with a

sensor of 3200 megapixels making it the

largest camera ever built for

astronomy for comparison the smartphone

you might be watching this on right now

probably has around 12

megapixels using this powerful new

camera researchers plan to capture one

image every 30 seconds now I know that

may not sound very fast but remember

they're photographing into deep Darkness

they need a longer shutter speed for

this once they have all these images

A 10-YEAR movie of the universe

scientists will produce a very high

resolution image of the Southern Sky

every three

nights ultimately the plan is to run it

as a 10-year project that means that

over the course of those 10 years the

camera will capture the entire Southern

sky over a thousand

times this process will create a

detailed map of the night sky revealing

how matter is distributed throughout the

universe as well as charting changes in

the sky and matter over

time these observations will help

researchers understand the nature of

dark matter and dark

energy but that's not all the telescope

and its camera will help astronomers map

out a lot of transient phenomena like

exploding stars and asteroids whose

positions change from night to night

a helpful way to think of it is kind of

like a 10-year-long movie of the

universe this 10-year survey is called

the Legacy survey of space and time or

LSST and the camera module itself has

come to be known as the LSST

A multi-lab collaboration

camera in order to design electronics

for the new detectors LSST camera

researchers collaborated with teams at

SLAC and at the department of Energy's

Brookhaven net National

Lab they also worked closely with the

Department of Energy's Lawrence

Livermore National Lab to develop some

of the largest camera lenses ever built

LSST camera is ready to ship to Chile

now after two decades of work the LSST

camera is

complete then it'll be shipped to

Chile and finally ready to take the most

detailed images of the night sky ever

produced if all goes according to plan

that'll happen sometime in


2024 over its 10-year run the LSS camera

and the ver ruin Observatory are going

to have a huge impact on the field of

astronomy by cataloging roughly 20


galaxies that's around 10% of all

galaxies estimated to exist in our

observable universe and no one knows for

sure what we'll discover but it's a

really exciting time for astronomy and

we're glad you're on this journey with

with us now to learn more about SLAC

CREDITS: Inspired by Vera Rubin, an amazing discovery on dark matter.

check out our other videos in our

history series as well as our explainer

videos that give more insight into the


science and please subscribe you can

also follow us on Instagram Twitter

Facebook and Linkedin thanks for hanging

out with us today see you next


Olivier Bonin/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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SLAC is a vibrant multiprogram laboratory that explores how the universe works at the biggest, smallest and fastest scales and invents powerful tools used by scientists around the globe. With research spanning particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology, materials, chemistry, bio- and energy sciences and scientific computing, we help solve real-world problems and advance the interests of the nation.

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Once set in place atop a telescope in Chile, the 3,200-megapixel LSST Camera will help researchers better understand dark matter, dark energy and other mysteries of our universe.

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