Rubin Observatory

The NSF Vera C. Rubin Observatory aims to compile the deepest, widest image of the Universe at optical wavelengths ever produced. From 2025 it will conduct a ten-year survey – the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) – 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 InvestigatorsJunior Associates
AALHurley, O'ToolePoole, Lakerink, Ali, Tocknell, Serene, Lorente, Ranabhat
ANUJerjen, Lidman, Sharp, Ting, WolfCiuca, Soon, Casagrande, Armstrong, Crosby, Amrutha, Martin, Timmermans
CSIROKoribalski, Mahony, Wong
CurtinMiller-JonesBahramian, Fu, Devillepoix, Sett
MacquarieZucker, de Grijs, Hopkins, Kamath, McDermid, Spitler
MonashMandel, Brown, Galloway, KarakasGrishin, Hirai, Kemp, Casey, Zhu
SwinburneGlazebrook, Cooke, Graham, TaylorMoller, Semenaite, Anderson-Baldwin, Vidal Velazquez
U. MelbourneWebster, Auchettl, ReichardtHon
UNSWBrough, Martell, Montet, Ruiter, Seitenzahl, StelloMartinez-Lombilla, Khalid, Desmons, Bazkiaei, Rodriguez-Segovia, Canepa, Loughman
U. QueenslandDavisHowlett, Said, Khetan
USQHorner, Carter
U. SydneyMurphy, Boehm, LewisDriessen, Rose, Dobie, Sweeney
U. TasmaniaBolejko, SiellezMihalenko
UWADriver, Meurer, RobothamBottrell, Davies, Bellstedt
WSUBarnes, Filipovic

The primary science drivers of the project (previously known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope), 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 2024, with full survey operations to commence in 2025.

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 is called the Simonyi Survey Telescope in recognition of a significant private donation made early in the construction phase, while the imaging survey program will 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, or receive an invitation to join the #lsst_australia Slack channel, 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 3 year $1.27M Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant to support this engagement, with the balance coming from institution co-contributions as well as funding from AAL.

In return for providing:

  • 3 FTE for 3 years of software effort directable by Rubin Observatory;
  • 1 FTE for 1 year 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 (PIs) and up to 188 Junior Associates (JAs) from Australia will be granted LSST data access rights. A table of the Australian PIs and their JAs is shown at left. New Junior Associates may apply for membership at any time by contacting Stuart Ryder.


LSST-related meetings

In May 2019 the first ever LSST@Asia 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 in Tucson from 7-11 Aug 2023.

In addition there have been local Australian LSST Workshops in:

to update the Australian LSST community on the in-kind proposal process, as well as share LSST-related activity within Australia.

There are monthly on-line telecons of the Australian LSST community held on the second Tuesday of each month from midday AEST, with updates on current activity and presentations on preparing for science with Rubin Observatory and the LSST. Recordings of previous talks are available from the meeting web page.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.