Scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory produced the world’s first 3,200-megapixel digital photos. The images were taken by an oversized digital camera destined for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, in what is a first demonstration of the enormous potential of this facility.
A photograph containing 3.2 billion pixels is difficult to imagine. YYou’d need 378 ultra-high definition 4K TVs to view one at full resolution, according to a SLAC Press release.
Wow. Now imagine this power applied to astronomy. Fortunately, that’s exactly the plan, as the SUV-sized camera used to produce these images will eventually be installed at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, which is also under construction.
Once Rubin is up and running (hopefully in the next year or two), the 3,200-megapixel digital camera, or more succinctly, the world’s first 3.2-gigapixel camera, will capture a succession of panoramic images of the entire sky. southern, which will do once every few days for 10 years. This project, known as Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), it will track the movements of billions of stars and galaxies as it creates the file the largest astronomical film in the world. This new generation observatory is ready to shed new light on the formation of the universe, dark matter and dark energy.
The new images, which can be seen Here, were created as a test of the system’s newly completed focal plane, which acts as the camera’s “eye”. To take these photos, the team used a 150-micron pinhole to project the images onto the focal plane. During the tests, the SLAC researchers imaged various objects, including a romanesco head, a type of broccoli with a highly detailed surface. Interestingly, the focal plane must be cooled in a cryostat chamber and lowered to -150 degrees Fahrenheit for it to function properly.
The focal plane, which measures more than 2 feet wide (0.6 meters), contains 189 individual sensors or charge-coupled devices, each of which can capture 16-megapixel images. ISEach light-collecting pixel is 10 microns wide –tiny, yes, but 10 times larger than the pixels of a typical camera phone (for reference, the average human hair is 50 microns wide). The focal plane is also super flat, measuring around one-tenth the width of a human hair, allowing for exceptionally sharp and sharp images. Multiple series of nine charge coupled devices were assembled in the squareis dubbed “rafts “, of which 21 were installed on the focal plane, along with four special rafts used for structural purposes. This required six months of careful workK, like the rafts, which cost $ 3 million each, are extremely fragile.
The specifications of this digital camera are nothing short of remarkable. At 3,200 megapixels, it could fix a golf ball from 15 miles away (24km) and its field of view is wide enough to include 40 full moons. He will do it being able to spot objects 100 million times fainter than those visible to the naked eye, which would be like seeing a candle a few thousand miles away.
SLAC researchers are planning to add the camera’s lens, shutter and filter exchange system later this year. Once the tests are complete, the device will be transported to Chile and installed on the Rubin observatory, which could happen as early as mid-2021. Hopefully, the LSST project will start in 2022 and run until 2032.