noirlab2413 — Organization Release

LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory in Chile, Paving the Way for Cosmic Exploration

After two decades of work, the 3200-megapixel LSST Camera is finally on-site at Vera C. Rubin Observatory

22 May 2024

The largest camera ever built for astrophysics has completed the long journey from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California to the summit of Cerro Pachón in Chile, where it will soon help unlock the mysteries of the Universe.

The 3200-megapixel LSST Camera, the groundbreaking instrument at the core of the NSF–DOE Vera C. Rubin Observatory, has arrived at the observatory site on Cerro Pachón in Chile. The LSST Camera is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE/SC), and the NSF–DOE Vera C. Rubin Observatory is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the DOE/SC. When Rubin begins the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) in late 2025, the LSST Camera will take detailed images of the southern hemisphere sky for 10 years, building the most comprehensive timelapse view of our Universe we’ve ever seen. “The arrival of the cutting-edge LSST Camera in Chile brings us a huge step closer to science that will address today’s most pivotal questions in astrophysics,” said Kathy Turner, DOE’s Program Manager for Rubin Observatory. 

The LSST Camera — the largest digital camera in the world — was built at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California, and its completion after two decades of work was announced by SLAC early in April. This incredibly sensitive camera will soon be installed on the Simonyi Survey Telescope at Rubin Observatory, where it will produce detailed images with a field of view seven times wider than the full Moon. Using the LSST Camera, Rubin Observatory will fuel advances — and brand new discoveries — in many science areas, including exploring the nature of dark matter and dark energy, mapping the Milky Way, surveying our Solar System, and studying celestial objects that change in brightness or position.

“Getting the camera to the summit was the last major piece in the puzzle,” said Victor Krabbendam, Project Manager for Rubin Observatory Construction. “With all Rubin’s components physically on site, we’re on the home stretch towards transformative science with the LSST.”

The LSST Camera team at SLAC led the process of shipping the car-sized camera from California to Chile. The camera’s shipping container was outfitted with data loggers, both on the camera frame and on the container itself, to monitor temperature, humidity, vibration, and accelerations throughout the trip. A GPS tracking system was installed on the container so the team could pinpoint the camera’s location at any point on the journey. 

The LSST Camera, secure in its container, traveled on an air-ride-equipped transport vehicle to San Francisco airport on the morning of 14 May for a chartered flight to Chile. After the camera was carefully loaded on the Boeing 747 cargo plane two LSST Camera team members boarded the plane and settled into their seats for the 10-hour flight to Chile. “We were uncertain about the ‘jump seats’ we were promised on board, but they turned out to be plenty comfortable, and having two engineers on the plane was critical for loading and unloading,” said Travis Lange, LSST Camera Project Manager. “The entire process was also incredibly exciting!”

The plane landed at 4:10 a.m. on 15 May at Arturo Merino Benítez Airport in Santiago, the closest airport to the observatory that could accommodate a cargo plane of this size. By that evening the camera was inside the guarded gate at the base of Cerro Pachón. The next morning, the vehicle carrying the camera began the 35-kilometer (21.7-mile) drive up to the summit, accompanied by pilot and tail cars. Driving slowly and carefully on the winding dirt road, the camera truck reached the summit in about five hours.

Upon its arrival at the observatory building, the camera was unloaded immediately into the receiving area on the third level and moved into the observatory’s white room, which offers a controlled environment with no airborne contaminants. There it was inspected by the Rubin Observatory Commissioning Team and pronounced visibly intact. The team also downloaded the data from the data loggers and verified that the camera hadn’t encountered any unexpected stresses. “Our goal was to make sure the camera not only survived, but arrived in perfect condition,” said Kevin Reil, Observatory Scientist at Rubin. “Initial indications — including the data collected by the data loggers, accelerometers, and shock sensors — suggest we were successful.”

The LSST Camera is the final major component of Rubin Observatory’s Simonyi Survey Telescope to arrive at the summit, and after several months of testing in the observatory’s white room, the camera will be installed on the telescope along with Rubin’s newly-coated 8.4-meter mirror and 3.4-meter secondary mirror. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months as the LSST Camera — and Rubin Observatory — get closer to carrying out their transformative mission.

Rubin Observatory is a Program of NSF NOIRLab, which, along with DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will jointly operate Rubin.

More information

NSF NOIRLab (U.S. National Science Foundation National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the U.S. center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the International Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina, and KASI–Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory (operated in cooperation with the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on I’oligam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai‘i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.

Vera C. Rubin Observatory is a Federal project jointly funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, with early construction funding received from private donations through the LSST Discovery Alliance. The NSF-funded Rubin Observatory Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under the management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). The DOE-funded effort to build the Rubin Observatory LSST Camera (LSSTCam) is managed by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC). France provides key support to the construction and operations of Rubin Observatory through contributions from CNRS/IN2P3. Additional contributions from a number of international organizations and teams are acknowledged.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. NSF supports basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.

SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

NSF and DOE will continue to support Rubin Observatory in its Operations phase via NSF NOIRLab and DOE’s SLAC.



Ranpal Gill
Communications Manager for Rubin Construction

Željko Ivezić
Director of Rubin Construction
Professor of Astronomy, University of Washington/AURA
Tel: +1-206-403-6132

Sandrine Thomas
Deputy Director for Rubin Construction

Aaron Roodman
Deputy Director for Rubin Construction

Victor Krabbendam
Project Manager for Rubin Construction

Josie Fenske
Jr. Public Information Officer

About the Release

Release No.:noirlab2413


LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory
LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory


LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory
LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory
La Cámara LSST llega al Observatorio Rubin
La Cámara LSST llega al Observatorio Rubin
LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory (no text)
LSST Camera Arrives at Rubin Observatory (no text)