Why Vera Rubin?

Vera Rubin’s contribution to the discovery of dark matter is of significant lasting importance and indicative of the level of research excellence to which the US science community aspires. Understanding the nature of dark matter remains one of the great challenges of cosmology with deep implications for physics. The Observatory now known as Vera C. Rubin Observatory started with the working name “Dark Matter Telescope” before becoming the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Naming the observatory for Vera Rubin is, in part, a tribute to the fact that persistent questions about the nature of dark matter provided the inspiration to build this telescope and for the design of the survey. 

Congress also chose to honor Vera Rubin because of her efforts to encourage women in astronomy. Rubin began her career at a time when conditions for women were very different than they are now, and active discouragement from teachers and others was common. In addition to overcoming slights and barriers herself, Rubin mentored and encouraged other women in her field. Today, the Rubin Observatory works to reduce or eliminate barriers that discourage women from participating in science, and to recognize the achievements of women and others who have been historically excluded from science. 

Why change the name at all?

The name “Large Synoptic Survey Telescope” referred to something that was much more than a telescope; this name did not capture the full breadth and complexity of the system that includes a wide field, ground-based telescope with an 8.4-meter mirror, a 3,200 megapixel camera, a robust data processing software, and an online public engagement platform. The NSF Vera C. Rubin Observatory encompasses all these components—and many more—that will work together to enable next-generation astronomy through the Legacy Survey of Space and Time. 

The name also acknowledges the critical role of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which provided major funding that made construction of the Rubin Observatory possible. NSF and the US Department of Energy (DOE) will continue to fund Rubin in Operations.

What about LSST?

The acronym "LSST," which has acquired practical and emotional significance since it was first used to describe the project, will live on as the name of the 10-year survey to be conducted at the Rubin Observatory beginning in 2022, now known as the Legacy Survey of Space and Time. 

Will the telescope have a name? 

The telescope will be named the Simonyi Survey Telescope, to acknowledge the generosity of private donors Charles and Lisa Simonyi. A gift from the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences was integral to the construction success of the Rubin Observatory, allowing the telescope’s  8.4-meter Primary/Tertiary Mirror to begin in 2008, six years before the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) was awarded construction funding from NSF.

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