A Celestial Veil Over Rubin Observatory

Vera C. Rubin Observatory sits under the faint glow of a fascinating astronomical phenomenon known as zodiacal light. It appears as a faint, cone-shaped glow that extends along the path followed by the planets and Sun (known as the ecliptic) and is caused by sunlight reflecting off interplanetary dust that sits in the plane of our Solar System. This phenomenon is most easily seen in the western sky just after sunset or in the eastern sky just before sunrise. The dust is thought to be left by comet tails and collisions between asteroids. Zodiacal light is faint and usually drowned out by light-polluted skies or glare from the Moon. 

The NSF–DOE Vera C. Rubin Observatory is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE/SC). Rubin Observatory is a Program of NSF NOIRLab, which, along with DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will jointly operate Rubin.

Rubin Observatory is being built on Cerro Pachón, Chile which is one of the best observing sites in the southern hemisphere, making it a great place to capture such a rare sight as zodiacal light. When complete it will use its 8.4-meter mirror combined with the largest camera ever built for astronomy to begin an ambitious decade-long survey of the southern sky called the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) that will help answer some of the biggest questions about the Universe. Rubin Observatory will begin science operations in late 2025.

This photo was taken by Hernán Stockebrand, NOIRLab Audiovisual Ambassador.


Rubin Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/H. Stockebrand

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Release date:May 29, 2024, noon
Size:7710 x 5143 px

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