The world’s largest digital camera just took an insane 3,200-megapixel image. That’s over 250 times the megapixels of an iPhone 11 Pro camera! The digital camera was tested by researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park.
The enormous image was shot thanks to the camera’s 189 individual sensors spread over a two-foot-wide focal plane. A traditional camera has only one sensor that is either 1 to 2 inches wide. Each of the 189 sensors is capable of taking a 16-megapixel image.
“Taking these images is a major accomplishment,” said SLAC’s Aaron Roodman, the scientist responsible for the assembly and testing of the LSST Camera. “With the tight specifications we really pushed the limits of what’s possible to take advantage of every square millimeter of the focal plane and maximize the science we can do with it.”
The camera will eventually be sent to the Rubin Observatory in Chile to take images of the southern sky for 10 years. The telescope-like camera will provide these images to be archived into the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST).
“These data will improve our knowledge of how galaxies have evolved over time and will let us test our models of dark matter and dark energy more deeply and precisely than ever,” Ritz said. “The observatory will be a wonderful facility for a broad range of science – from detailed studies of our solar system to studies of faraway objects toward the edge of the visible universe.”
At the moment, the images taken by the LSST camera aren’t too clear. This is because the images were taken without a lens and just with an exposed sensor. The team plans on using a 150-micron sized pinhole to act as a lens, projecting incoming light onto the focal plane. The camera also requires a shutter and a filter exchange system.
Once the lens is complete, it is expected to the world’s largest optical lens, measuring 1.57 meters (primary), 1.2 meters (secondary), and 0.72 (tertiary) meters in diameter.
The $168 million telescope camera will eventually be about the size of an SUV once it’s completed in 2021. “Nearing completion of the camera is very exciting, and we’re proud of playing such a central role in building this key component of Rubin Observatory,” says JoAnne Hewett, SLAC’s chief research officer and associate lab director for fundamental physics. “It’s a milestone that brings us a big step closer to exploring fundamental questions about the universe in ways we haven’t been able to before.”
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