Thursday, February 25, 2021

Chile's New Observatory

image source: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

While studying articles this week about various space topics, I quite happily learned about the Vera C. Rubin Observatory that has been built on Cerro Pachón in Chile. It is expected to become fully functional by 2022.
This revolutionary observatory is more than just a powerful telescope. The innovative technology includes a "camera (3200 megapixels, the world’s largest digital camera), telescope (simultaneous casting of the primary and tertiary mirrors; two aspherical optical surfaces on one substrate), and data management (20 terabytes of data nightly, nearly instant alerts issued for objects that change in position or brightness)."

This image was taken in Spain, just before the disassembly began in preparation for shipping it to Chile.
Image credit: Asturfeito

Rubin will be able to image the entire visible sky every few nights and the powerful telescope will be able to see farther than most currently on Earth. It is predicted that in its first year, it will see more of the universe than ALL previous telescopes COMBINED.

Cerro Pachón was chosen from 19 other sites (10 in each hemisphere) because of the conditions surrounding the site. The location had to be in a sparsely populated area (to avoid light pollution), at high altitude and in a dry climate (to avoid cloud cover).

Now the best part and the main reason I'm sharing news about Rubin Observatory is that there will be great opportunities for educators and students! They are in the process of developing education materials such as online, data-driven classroom investigations with complete teacher guides for middle schoolers through higher education. The investigations will focus on critical thinking and science literacy techniques. The investigations will be in English AND Spanish.

Educators will also have access to the site so students can explore and analyze data.

I also find it wonderful that this observatory is being named after a womanVera Florence Cooper Rubin was an American astronomer. Rubin was a pioneer who studied the galaxy rotation problem and her work became evidence of the existence of dark matter. Dark matter will be one of the focuses of the Rubin Observatory.

Women's History Month starts on Monday. What a fantastic way to kick it off! Help your students learn about a remarkable woman who changed modern science with her hard work and discoveries.


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