Rubin Observatory

The NSF Vera C. Rubin Observatory aims to compile the deepest, widest image of the Universe at optical wavelengths ever produced. From 2024 it will conduct a ten year survey of the sky from Cerro Pachon in Chile, using a specially designed 8.4 m diameter telescope with an extremely wide field of view (3.5 degrees).

Rubin Observatory on Cerro Pachon
Aerial view of the Rubin Observatory enclosure and support building at top, with the Auxiliary Telescope for atmospheric monitoring in the foreground. Image credit: Rubin Observatory/NSF/AURA
LSST filter
One of the 6 huge filters for the Rubin Observatory LSST Camera being inspected at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Image credit: Travis Lange/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
InstitutionPrincipal InvestigatorsResearch Interests
ANUJerjen, Lidman, Sharp, Ting, WolfNear-field cosmology, Supernovae, Dark Energy, AGN, Quasars, SkyMapper
CSIROKoribalski, Mahony, WongLow surface brightness astronomy, Fast Radio Bursts
CurtinMiller-JonesTidal disruption events
MacquarieZucker, de Grijs, Hopkins, Kamath, McDermid, SpitlerGalactic Archaeology, Galaxy evolution, Low surface brightness astronomy
MonashMandel, Brown, Galloway, KarakasTransients, AGN, Gravitational wave mergers
SwinburneGlazebrook, Cooke, Graham, TaylorGravitational lensing, Transients, Massive black holes, Galaxy evolution
U. MelbourneWebster, Auchettl, ReichardtQuasar Microlensing, Supernovae, Galaxy clusters
UNSWBrough, Martell, Montet, Ruiter, Seitenzahl, StelloGalaxy evolution, Galactic Archaeology, Exoplanets, Supernovae, Asteroseismology
U. QueenslandDavisSupernovae, Dark Energy
USQHorner, CarterStellar activity, Solar system
U. SydneyMurphy, Boehm, LewisTransients, Dark matter, Galactic Archaeology
U. TasmaniaBolejko, ColeGravitational lensing, Exoplanets
UWADriver, Meurer, RobothamGalaxy structure
WSUBarnes, FilipovicStar formation

The primary science drivers of the project, previously known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), are exploring the nature of dark matter and dark energy, mapping the structure of our Milky Way and nearby galaxies, cataloguing the solar system, and searching for transient objects. First light is expected in 2022/23, with full survey operations to commence in 2024.

In January 2020, the LSST Project became the NSF Vera C. Rubin Observatory, in honour of renowned US astronomer Dr Vera Rubin. The telescope itself will be known as the Simonyi Survey Telescope in recognition of a significant private donation made early in the construction phase, while the imaging survey program will now be known as the “Legacy Survey of Space and Time” (LSST). The Rubin Observatory boasts a 3.2 gigapixel CCD camera, and by scanning the entire southern sky repeatedly over a ten-year period, it is hoped that the survey will help answer questions about the structure and evolution of the universe.

To keep up with progress on the LSST and Rubin Observatory, you can subscribe to the Rubin Digest. ​For enquiries about the Australian LSST collaboration, please email [email protected].


Enabling Australian access to LSST data

The 2020 Mid-Term Review of the 2016-2025 Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy recommended that Australia “Pursue data access to the Legacy Survey of Space and Time via the exchange of time on Australian national facilities.” Ultimately AAL and Rubin Observatory agreed that the most cost-effective way of securing LSST survey data access rights for Australian astronomers was by providing suitable in-kind software and computing contributions that complement the LSST operations and science program. In Dec 2021 the Australian Research Council announced that a consortium of 14 AAL member institutions (plus AAL) led by Australian LSST Science Lead Prof. Sarah Brough (UNSW) had been awarded a $1.27M Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant in 2022-24 to support this engagement, with the balance coming from institution co-contributions as well as funding from AAL.

In return for providing:

  • 3 FTE in 2022-24 of software effort directable by Rubin Observatory;
  • 1 FTE in 2022 of software effort for low surface brightness analysis;
  • a “Lite” International Data Access Centre with 576 CPU cores and 1.5 PB of storage

a total of 47 Principal Investigators and 188 Junior Associates from Australia will be granted LSST data access rights. A table of the 45 named PIs in the LIEF grant, and a summary of their scientific interests is shown at left. The process for managing the Australian PI and JA membership is currently under development.


LSST-related meetings

In May 2019 the first ever [email protected] meeting was held at the University of New South Wales, bringing together over 100 scientists from Australasia, Europe, Africa, and North America to discuss preparatory and planned science activities with the LSST.

Anyone interested in doing science with the LSST is encouraged to attend the annual Rubin Observatory Project and Community Workshops, the most recent of which was held virtually on 9-13 August 2021. The next Workshop is scheduled to be held as an in-person meeting from 8-12 August 2022 in Tucson, AZ.

In addition there have been local Australian LSST Workshops in Dec 2020 and in Dec 2021 to update the Australian LSST community on the in-kind proposal process, as well as share LSST-related activity within Australia.