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Science Collaborations

A large project like Rubin Observatory requires a large number of people to come together to design, build, and test every part of the whole project. That includes preparing for the data that the observatory will collect and science it will do.


The Rubin Observatory/LSST Science Collaborations are eight separate groups of scientists from around the world who have come together to study all kinds of different science using Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) – from closer objects in our own Solar System to the Milky Way and more distant stars, and from supernovae or black holes that change over weeks and months to bigger structures like galaxies that take billions of years to evolve. In fact, scientists have been involved in the creation and design of Rubin Observatory since the beginning! The science collaborations first formed in 2006 to help make the science case for why the US Congress and other funders should support the construction of Rubin Observatory (then called the ”Large Synoptic Survey Telescope”). All of their work paid off— the observatory was recommended as a top priority for astronomy and astrophysics in the 2010 Decadal Survey (an official report released every ten years) and received construction and operation funds from National Agencies as well as private foundations.

The science collaborations now

Since then, the science collaborations have evolved into self-organized groups focused around the different areas of science that Rubin Observatory was designed to study. The collaborations are more organized and official than just "a group of scientists working together"—each one has its own membership policies, rules for publications, codes of conduct, and other structures needed to get work done most effectively and work together as a network to leverage each other’s expertise. The Science Collaborations work closely with Rubin Observatory in a mutual partnership, providing feedback on the telescope design and the overall strategy for taking data. In return, the Science Collaborations are kept closely in the loop about everything that happens at the Observatory and can influence Observatory decisions to maximize the survey and observatory to ensure great science.

Scientists can belong to more than one Science Collaboration, and all the collaborations work together to make science with Rubin Observatory the best it can be. The collaborations will continue to play a crucial role in guiding the direction of science with Rubin Observatory throughout the ten-year LSST.

Meet the science collaborations and learn which of the Universe’s biggest questions they’re trying to answer!

Active Galactic Nuclei
  • How did supermassive black holes get so big?

  • What can active black holes tell us about the Universe’s history and the formation of galaxies?

Dark Energy
  • What is dark energy and how does it cause the Universe to expand faster and faster?

  • How have the largest-scale structures in the Universe, like galaxy clusters or superclusters, grown over time?

  • How have galaxies formed, merged, and evolved throughout the Universe’s history?

  • How is dark matter distributed and how does it affect how galaxies evolve?

  • What can we learn about galaxy formation by studying the brightest and faintest galaxies?

Informatics and Statistics
  • How do astronomers handle the enormous amount of data from Rubin Observatory?

  • What new techniques can scientists develop to effectively analyze all of the data?

Solar System
  • How did our Solar System form and how has it changed?

  • How many objects are out there that could come close to Earth, and which of them pose a threat?

Stars, Milky Way, and Local Volume
  • How did the Milky Way form and how has it changed over time?

  • What are some of the basic properties that are common to stars close to the Sun?

  • How many galaxies are connected to the Milky Way by gravity and what are their sizes?

Strong Lensing
  • How is matter, including dark matter, distributed throughout the Universe?

  • Why is the Universe expanding faster and faster?

Transients and Variable Stars
  • Why do some objects in the Universe change over short time scales? What physics controls their behavior?

  • What stars die in bright explosions?

  • What kinds of new objects and physics will we discover that have never been seen before?

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