This Is the World's Largest Astronomy Camera, a 3,200 Megapixel Beast to See Through Space and Time

With a five-foot front lens and 201 individual sensors, this massive camera aims to answer some burning questions about the universe.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoPhotos & Video / Sensors

The US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is celebrating a breakthrough: the development of the world's largest digital camera, offering a whopping 3,200 megapixel resolution — and targeting the creation of the most detailed map of the night sky ever.

"With the completion of the unique LSST [Legacy Survey of Space and Time] Camera at SLAC and its imminent integration with the rest of Rubin Observatory systems in Chile," Željko Ivezić, director of Rubin Observatory Construction and professor at the University of Washington promises, "we will soon start producing the greatest movie of all time and the most informative map of the night sky ever assembled."

Not exactly pocket-friendly, the LSST Camera is the largest astronomy camera ever built. (📹: Olivier Bonin/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Weighing three metric tons and taking up the same space as a small car, the LSST Camera has a five-foot front lens and a second three-foot lens designed to accurately focus incoming light into a matrix of 201 custom-built charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensors — delivering a total resolution of 3,200 megapixels.

"Its images are so detailed that it could resolve a golf ball from around 15 miles away," claims Aaron Roodman, SLAC professor, Rubin Observatory deputy director, and project lead, "while covering a swath of the sky seven times wider than the full moon. These images with billions of stars and galaxies will help unlock the secrets of the universe."

The telescope's construction is complete, the SLAC team has confirmed, and the hardware is now due to be shipped to Chile to be mounted to the Simonyi Survey Telescope — located nearly 9,000 feet up the Cerro Pachón in the Andes. There, the camera will be used to seek for signs of weak gravitational lensing to analyze the distribution of mass in the universe and to study patterns in galactic distribution, locate dark mater clusters, and spot supernovae.

"LSST Camera and Rubin Observatory will open new windows into our universe, yielding deep insights into some of its greatest mysteries while also revealing wonders closer to home," claims SLAC director John Sarrao. "It's exciting to see SLAC's scientific and technical expertise, project leadership and strong global partnerships come together in such an impactful way. We can’t wait to see what’s next."

More information on the LSST Camera is available on the SLAC website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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