Researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at the Department of Energy in Menlo Park have successfully tested their digital camera that can take gigantic 3,200-megapixel images.
189 discrete sensors spaced over a two-foot-wide focal plane that dwarfs the 1.4-inch-wide optical sensor of a regular camera make these images possible. Each sensor is capable of taking a 16-megapixel picture.
If complete, the telescope-camera is intended for the Chilean Rubin Observatory, where it will regularly capture panoramic photographs of the entire southern sky for a decade. Its results will feed into Space and Time Survey of Rubin Observatory Legacy (LSST) – a database comprising more galaxies than humans on Earth is alive.
The study team reported photographs taken with the LSST camera’s focal plane, as well as a web window screen. Present photos show a broccoli’s head, Flammarion engraving, and camera squad collage.
The pictures are not as simple as those captured without a lens that would inevitably be feasible. The SLAC team also used a pinhole shaped 150 microns to transfer images onto the focal plane.
If complete, the camera will be around the size of an SUV and is expected to occur by mid-2021.
The LSST camera team also needs to add optics, a shutter, and an exchange philter system. It would have what one thinks is the biggest optical lens in the world. The main lens has a diameter of 1.57 meters (5.1 feet), while a second has a diameter of 1.2 meters and a third has a diameter of 72 centimeters.
How much does installing this giant LSST camera cost? According to the manufacturer of the instrument, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of the US government is a staggering $168 million.
“It’s very thrilling to close the camera and we’re proud to be playing such a central role in constructing this core part of the Rubin Observatory,” said JoAnne Hewett, Chief Scientific Officer and Associate Laboratory Director for Fundamental Physics at SLAC.
“It’s a breakthrough that takes us a huge step closer to answering basic universe issues in ways we couldn’t have been able to do before.”
As for several others, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the work of the team was halted until Spring.
The focal plane of the LSST camera has a large enough surface area to image a part of the sky about the size of 40 full moons. Its resolution is so big that you might use it to detect a golf ball from 15 miles away, the team said.
Over the next decade, the camera is planned to capture images of about 20 billion galaxies which may help us understand how galaxies have formed over time. It will also help scientists research dark matter models and dark energy models.