World’s most powerful digital camera being built by US Department of Energy

World’s most powerful digital camera being built by US Department of Energy

By Ryan Whitwam Sep. 1, 2015 1:29 pm LSST

The US Department of Energy is building a digital camera that puts your camera to shame. I don’t even need to know anything about your camera to say that, because the DoE’s new project is literally the most powerful digital camera ever constructed. The camera will be part of the imaging system in the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) where it will help catalog celestial objects at warp speed.

The camera will have an effective resolution of 3.2 gigapixels (1,500 times more pixels than an HDTV screen). Previous images of that resolution used in astronomy were mosaics of many smaller images stitched together. The LSST’s camera will capture it in a single shot, but the camera itself will have a gargantuan frame to match the resolution. When complete, the LSST camera will be the size of a small car and weigh more than three tons. It will also have a filter-changing mechanism that allows it to observe light across a wide range of wavelengths from ultraviolet to infrared.

Researchers are already preparing the LSST site in Chile for the telescope’s installation. The main mirror system of the telescope has been completed and delivered to the facility after six years of grinding and polishing to get it just right. This includes a massive 8.4-meter primary mirror. The telescope’s mirrors will bounce images up to the camera that is now under construction at the DoE.

The advanced lenses needed for the camera are already being fabricated, and contracts are being awarded for the major optical components. Most of the assembly work will take place at The DoE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The LSST is expected to be operational in 2022.

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