If you think your 20-megapixel smartphone camera is impressive, then try wrapping your head around a 3,200-megapixel digital camera that weighs 3 tons and is roughly the size of a small car.
Recently, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory received a key “Critical Decision 2” approval from the Department of Energy (DOE) for the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Inside this telescope will sit the largest and most powerful camera ever built that – and yep, you guessed it – will provide 3,200-megapixels of viewing power.
The LSST will be used to “help researchers study the formation of galaxies, track potentially hazardous asteroids, observe exploding stars and better understand dark matter and dark energy, which make up 95 percent of the universe but whose nature remains unknown.”
Once construction is complete, the LSST will be located in Chile atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón where it will spend 10-years taking digital images of the region’s southern night skies. The LSST is expected to generate 6 million gigabytes of publicly archived data per year. The LSST also marks the first time that a telescope will be able to detect “tens of billions of objects”, far more than there are humans on earth.
The development of the camera is about to get underway, but will require another round of inspection and approval (“Critical Decision 3”) scheduled this summer before “actual fabrication of the camera can begin.”
There is no doubt that with the final approval and completion of the camera the LSST will be bringing us troves of exciting new images and data about our universe.