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Optimization of the Observing Cadence for the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time: A Pioneering Process of Community-focused Experimental DesignAbstract Vera C. Rubin Observatory is a ground-based astronomical facility under construction, a joint project of the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, designed to conduct a multipurpose 10 yr optical survey of the Southern Hemisphere sky: the Legacy Survey of Space and Time. Significant flexibility in survey strategy remains within the constraints imposed by the core science goals of probing dark energy and dark matter, cataloging the solar system, exploring the transient optical sky, and mapping the Milky Way. The survey’s massive data throughput will be transformational for many other astrophysics domains and Rubin’s data access policy sets the stage for a huge community of potential users. To ensure that the survey science potential is maximized while serving as broad a community as possible, Rubin Observatory has involved the scientific community at large in the process of setting and refining the details of the observing strategy. The motivation, history, and decision-making process of this strategy optimization are detailed in this paper, giving context to the science-driven proposals and recommendations for the survey strategy included in this Focus Issue.
The discovery of the electromagnetic counterpart to the binary neutron star (NS) merger GW170817 has opened the era of gravitational-wave multimessenger astronomy. Rapid identification of the optical/infrared kilonova enabled a precise localization of the source, which paved the way to deep multiwavelength follow-up and its myriad of related science results. Fully exploiting this new territory of exploration requires the acquisition of electromagnetic data from samples of NS mergers and other gravitational-wave sources. After GW170817, the frontier is now to map the diversity of kilonova properties and provide more stringent constraints on the Hubble constant, and enable new tests of fundamental physics. The Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time can play a key role in this field in the 2020s, when an improved network of gravitational-wave detectors is expected to reach a sensitivity that will enable the discovery of a high rate of merger events involving NSs (∼tens per year) out to distances of several hundred megaparsecs. We design comprehensive target-of-opportunity observing strategies for follow-up of gravitational-wave triggers that will make the Rubin Observatory the premier instrument for discovery and early characterization of NS and other compact-object mergers, and yet unknown classes of gravitational-wave events.