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Next-gen telescope project honors astronomer Vera Rubin and billionaire backer Charles Simonyi

14 Jan 2020, 18:59 UTC
Next-gen telescope project honors astronomer Vera Rubin and billionaire backer Charles Simonyi
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An artist’s conception shows the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope scanning the night sky in Chile. (LSST Illustration)
The next great ground-based astronomical observatory, previously known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, has been named after the late astronomer Vera Rubin — with a nod to Seattle software billionaire Charles Simonyi as well.

Thanks to an act of Congress that was passed last year, the U.S.-funded observatory in Chile is now known as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. The new name, celebrated at last week’s American Astronomical Society meeting, honors a scientist who documented evidence for the existence of dark matter in the 1970s and passed away in 2016. The Vera Rubin Observatory is due to go into operation within the next couple of years, and will shed new light on astronomical targets ranging from near-Earth asteroids and exoplanets to dark matter itself.
The observatory’s wide-field telescope, which boasts an 8.4-meter (27.6-foot) primary mirror, is now known as the Simonyi Survey Telescope — in honor of the software executive who pioneered the development of Microsoft Word and went on to make two multimillion-dollar trips to the International Space Station. The managers of the LSST, whose initials now stand for “Legacy Survey ...

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