Astronomers unveil world’s largest digital camera

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Engineers are putting finishing touches to the 3.2 billion-pixel LSST Camera, able to a view a golf ball from 15 miles. It is about the size of a small car, weighs three tons and has a 5ft-wide front lens. Its 3,200 megapixel sensor will be cooled to -148F (-100°C) to cut down on noise.

Although the camera isn’t fully complete, all of its mechanical components are together for the first time in the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Menlo Park in California.

Taking seven years to build, it will be sent to the Vera C Rubin Observatory in Chile next April.

Once installed, the device will produce panoramic images of the complete Southern sky – one every few nights for 10 years.

A SLAC spokesperson said: “The camera will create a trove of data that scientists will pore over to better understand some of the universe’s biggest mysteries, including the nature of dark energy and dark matter.”

The team at SLAC are testing the camera shutter and the filter exchange system, two dynamic components that were also recently installed.

Before the end of the year, the camera will undergo one final modification: the installation of an updated refrigeration system.

The device will produce sharp, very high-res images because it has 3.2 billion pixels and these pixels are very small. The focal plane itself is extremely flat, varying by no more than a tenth of the width of a human hair.

At more than two-feet wide, this plane is enormous compared with the 1.4in-wide imaging sensor of a typical consumer camera.

It is large enough to capture a portion of the sky about the size of 40 full moons.

The telescope is designed to spot objects 100 million times dimmer than those visible to the naked eye. It would even let you see a candle from thousands of miles away.

Images will be so large that it would take 378 4K ultra-high-definition TV screens to display one of them in full size.

Unprecedented astrophysical research is expected.

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