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Scientists FAQ

1. General Information

What will Rubin Observatory and its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) observe?

Rubin Observatory will produce the deepest, widest, image of the Universe. To find out what Rubin will observe in detail see the Observing Strategy and key numbers.

What are the key science goals of Rubin Observatory?

Rubin Observatory is designed to achieve multiple scientific goals from a single survey. The four primary scientific drivers of Rubin Observatory are:

  • Understanding Dark Energy and the nature of Dark Matter,
  • Cataloging the Solar System
  • Exploring the Transient and Variable Sky
  • Exploring the Milky Way Structure & Formation


Where do I find the most recent info on construction status?

These are available as monthly updates.  

Where can I find information about Rubin Observatory?

Please see the Rubin Observatory Digest for Rubin Observatory news.

2. How to get involved in science with Rubin Observatory

Where can I find Rubin Observatory/LSST key numbers (for scientists)?

Who are the Rubin Observatory/LSST Science Collaborations (SC) and how do they relate to the broad scientific community?

The Rubin Observatory/LSST Science Collaborations are self-organized, self-managed groups of scientists which are recognized by Rubin Observatory as reservoirs of expertise and as stakeholders in Rubin Observatory strategic decisions. They have a direct line of communication with the Rubin Observatory team (i.e. the Project during construction) through resources supported by the LSST Corporation (e.g. a slack channel, dedicated community pages, and the existence of a Coordinator). The Science Collaborations also have a standing committee on the LSSTC Executive Board. The Science Collaborations, however, have no privileged access to Rubin Observatory data or software.  All scientists that have Rubin Observatory data rights are welcome to apply to join one or more SCs, but membership rules, including requirements for acceptance within a SC, are established independently by each SC. 

How can I join a science collaboration (SC)?

Each SC has its own rules for membership and application. Please look at the site of the SC you are interested in joining for details - LSST Science Collaborations

Why should I join a Science Collaboration?

Being part of a Science Collaboration allows more direct communication with the Rubin Observatory.  By becoming a member, you can influence Rubin Observatory project choices, communicate with Data Management team and use software, tools, simulations, and data products developed by the collaboration.

Who can apply for funding from the LSST Corporation?

Researchers can monitor the LSSTC Enabling Science calls for proposals.

3. Rubin Observatory data products and publications

What data products/releases will Rubin Observatory give on a nightly/daily basis and on an annual timescale?

The Rubin Observatory nightly/daily data products will include (1) within 60 seconds of the end of exposure, alerts on sources that change by >= 5-sigma, and (2) after 24 hours, images and source catalogs from difference imaging and orbits of moving objects. The yearly data releases will include global, uniform processing of all the data taken from the start of the survey, yielding stacked, calibrated images, source catalogs, and light curves.

The data products for transients, variables, and moving objects will be primarily produced by the Prompt Processing pipelines, which will perform reduction, calibration, difference image analysis (DIA), source detection and measurement, and alert distribution within 60 seconds of image readout. Solar System Processing for moving objects will take place during the day. Images and catalogs that result from Prompt Processing will be available after 80 hours, and are fully described in Section 3 of the DPDD. All DIA data products will be re-generated during the annual Data Release Processing. Source detection and measurement on direct images (i.e., non-difference images) will only be done during the annual Data Release Processing.


Rubin Observatory will also enable the generation of data products by the community to fulfill the requirement of specific science cases.

Read more about the planned data products.

Who has data rights/data access to Rubin observations?

The detailed data rights policy is under review; a working group is refining how this will work in detail.

(NOTE: Current data access policy draft, it is not yet approved and not yet public.)

The general idea is that US and Chilean professional astronomers will have data rights, as well as named individuals from international partners. Data access happens through a data access center (DAC). Currently planned DACs are at NCSA, at CC-IN2P3, and in Chile; additional DACs are under consideration in other participating countries.

See also the overview of how to participate.

Will Rubin Observatory data eventually become world-public?

It is foreseen that Rubin Observatory data will become fully public after two years. The issue of how the public data can be accessed and how this access could be funded is still in the works.

What is the Rubin Observatory publication policy?

There is a Rubin Observatory Project publication policy for technical papers and data release papers.

Each Rubin Observatory/LSST Science Collaboration may have its own publication policy for science papers. Authors should consult the how to cite guide to reference relevant technical/data release papers.

What is a Rubin Observatory Builder? Are there builders in Science Collaborations?

Rubin Observatory Builder Status is obtained when an individual has accumulated 2 full time equivalent years of direct effort in the design, development, fabrication, construction and/or commissioning of Rubin Observatory. The publication policy states that “All relevant Builders will automatically be invited to join the list of contributing authors of Rubin Observatory Project papers that depend on areas to which the Builder contributed.“

Each Science Collaboration is free to define a builder status consistent with its own publication policy. For instance, DESC defines in its publication policy what is a DESC Builder and specific rights for Rubin Observatory builders that are also DESC full members.

How can I petition for builder status?

If you are not listed in the Builder Status list and believe you have achieved builder status, you can petition for the status.

I have a Rubin Observatory paper to publish, is there a process I need to follow?

Rubin Observatory publication policy.

Can I keep Rubin Observatory data rights if I move institutions? Can I still publish LSST papers?

This will be clarified in the coming data rights document.

What is Rubin Observatory doing to address the issue of satellite constellations?

Here's our statement addressing the issue of satellite constellations.

4. The Rubin observation strategy

What is the currently proposed main LSST survey?

The main survey occupies more than two-thirds of the telescope’s observing time to observe the sky south of 0 degrees Dec. This wide-field survey is deep and observed frequently. The exact survey design is not finalized, but there are requirements and there exists candidate simulations. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

What is the Wide Fast Deep survey?

The main survey (see question above) of Rubin Observatory is sometimes referred to as the Wide Fast Deep survey, reflecting the observing objectives of the survey design.

What is the status and timeline of the decision about cadence?

What is a mini-survey?

Mini-surveys are portions of the sky that will be observed with a different cadence than the main survey, but not necessarily to a greater depth, to address science goals beyond the scope of the main survey, such as coverage of the Galactic Plane, Ecliptic, or South Pole. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

What is the difference between a DDF and a Mini-survey?

Deep Drilling Fields (DDF) are single pointings (aside from dithering). They will be visited with a different cadence, producing a longer-term deeper cumulative depth. There will be between 5 and 10 DDF, depending on how much time is required by the main survey to accomplish the main LSST goals, and how much time is spent on Mini-surveys. Thus, DDF should be iconic fields, with unique properties that justify the pointing choice, and the cadence should be optimized for the science goal of each field selection. Mini-surveys are surveys of portions of the sky (>1pointing) that will be observed with a different cadence compared to WFD, but not necessarily to a deeper total depth. See the overview of survey observing strategy.

How many Deep Drilling Fields will be observed?

Four DDF fields have already been selected. There will be between 5 and 10 DDF, depending on how much time is required by the main survey to accomplish the main LSST goals and how much time is spent on Mini-surveys.

5. Rubin Observatory Tools and software

Where do I find the most recent info on Software development status?

  • The Rubin Observatory DM software stack includes the processing pipeline, as well as tools to access the data products.
  • QServ is the database that allows you to efficiently query the petabyte-sized catalogs.
  • Science collaborations develop their own specific tools.

6. Rubin Observatory structure and management

What is the overall management structure of the Rubin Observatory, and who are the people in leadership roles?

The structure is available here.

Do you have any internship opportunities?

From time to time we do have opportunities for Interns: see the hiring overview.

What committees and working groups are currently active?

What is the relationship between the Rubin Observatory Project, the LSST Corporation, and the Rubin Observatory/LSST Science Collaborations

The Rubin Observatory Project includes all members of the Rubin team that are supported by the DOE and NSF grants for construction of Rubin Observatory. As construction ends and operations begin, the members of the Rubin Observatory team and their roles will change.

The LSST Corporation (LSSTC) is a not-for-profit 501(c) Arizona corporation founded in 2003 with the goal to initiate the LSST project, and to advance the science of astronomy and physics. LSSTC raised over $50 million in the Design Development phase of the Rubin Observatory project and continues to raise funds that enable science and educational initiatives in preparation for Rubin Observatory.

Since their initial creation circa 2006 by the Project, the Science Collaborations (SCs) have become independent bodies that are self-organized and self-managed. Rules and charters, including publication policy and detailed membership requirements, are established independently by each SC with the only overarching rule that only data rights holders can become a member of one (or more) Rubin Observatory/LSST SCs. The SCs are supported by LSSTC who provides web-hosting services, a communication platform (Slack), and a Science Collaborations Coordinator to facilitate communication between the SCs and the Project as well as SCs and LSSTC. The SCs have regular meetings with members of the Rubin Observatory Project.

What is the Science Advisory Committee?

The Science Advisory Committee (SAC) provides a formal, two-way, connection to the external science community served by Rubin Observatory.  Comprised of scientists familiar with but external to the LSST Project, the SAC advises the Rubin Observatory Director on both policy questions and technical topics of interest to the Project and the science community.

How can a foreign institute initiate an MOU with LSST Corporation?

I do not see the answer to my question. Whom should I contact?

You could post your question on the Community Forum or send a message using our Contact Form.

Financial support for Rubin Observatory comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Support Agreement No. 1202910, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded Rubin Observatory Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under 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 the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
The 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.
NSF and DOE will continue to support Rubin Observatory in its Operations phase. They will also provide support for scientific research with LSST data.   

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