The largest digital camera that the world has ever seen will be built in the next 5 years, after plans for the equipment have been approved by the Department of Energy (DOE). Researchers from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have given the green light for the construction of this spectacular gadget, in an effort to boost space exploration.
The 3.2-gigapixel device will be operated using the most advanced technology and it is aimed to power the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, situated on Cerro Pachón, a 8,800-foot-tall mountain from northern Chile. The hugely innovative camera will be the size of a small car, weigh over 3 tons and collect 6 billion gigabytes of space data per year.
DOE is paying for the gadget’s development, while the National Science Foundation (NSF), which sponsors approximately 24% of all federally-funded research, will cover project expenses dealing with telescope and site facilities, database system maintenance and public relations.
Those in charge with building the camera are experts from SLAC, collaborating with other universities and research centers, such as DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Previous projects conducted by SLAC include the construction of the world’s longest linear accelerator and the creation of the first North American website.
The uniqueness of the camera lies not only in its incredibly high resolution, which surpasses that of airborne surveillance cameras. The device will also be overwhelmingly powerful, since it will have the capacity to photograph in a single shot almost 10 square degrees of sky (which is roughly 40 times more than the size of the moon).
In addition, the camera will also easily change its filter, thus capturing a variety of wavelengths, from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared. Its extraordinary accuracy will enable it to take photos even in low light conditions better than any optical telescope.
This will allow scientists to study asteroids or dying stars which couldn’t be identified before and to understand the mechanisms involved in dark matter and dark energy, in order to explain the origins of the universe.
According to a press release, the device “will capture full-sky images at such resolution that it would take 1,500 high-definition television screens to display just one of them”.
The camera’s state-of-the-art sensors are already being built and the final device will commence testing in 2019.
In 2022 the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will take the first photographs of the southern sky, and it is expected to detect more galaxies than there are people in Earth. This upcoming project has the potential to shed new light on the mystery of space, facilitating groundbreaking advancements.
Image Source: SLAC