Chile to Install World’s Largest Astronomy Camera on the Edge of Atacama Desert

In a groundbreaking endeavor poised to enhance optical astronomy, Chile is preparing to install the most extensive digital camera ever engineered for celestial observation. Boasting a resolution exceeding 3.2 gigapixels and weighing nearly three tons, this monumental camera is slated for deployment amidst the pristine skies of northern Chile.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, comprising a ground-based telescope alongside the camera, will find its home atop Cerro Pachón in the Coquimbo region, situated on the outskirts of the renowned Atacama Desert, approximately 565 kilometers north of Santiago.

The Milky Way, as seen from the Valley of Death, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
The Milky Way, as seen from the Valley of Death, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Images source: Businessdestinations

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The Rubin Observatory stands as a pinnacle of technological advancement, integrating an eight-meter wide-field telescope, the revolutionary camera, and an automated data processing infrastructure. Projected to generate approximately 20 terabytes of data per night, its decade-long mission aims to compile a catalog database totaling 15 petabytes. This ambitious undertaking serves a dual purpose: unraveling the enigmatic realms of dark energy and dark matter within the universe, a vast expanse largely shrouded in mystery, and scrutinizing the potential threats posed by celestial bodies, including asteroids and celestial bodies orbiting in close proximity to the sun.

Stuartt Corder, chief science officer of the AURA association of universities and deputy director of the NOIRLab center, expressed profound enthusiasm for the commencement of this transformative initiative. He articulated, “That’s a truly inspiring moment where you can say—we’re commencing. We’re standing here at the precipice, poised to embark on a campaign that, over the next decade, we anticipate will unravel the mysteries surrounding the origins and evolution of the universe.” The NOIRLab will oversee the operation of the observatory.

Chile’s unrivaled investment in astronomical pursuits owes much to the unparalleled clarity of the skies over the Atacama Desert, renowned as the driest desert on Earth.

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