Spaceshot: 3,200-megapixel camera for powerful cosmos telescope moves forward

The 3,200 megapixel will be the largest digital camera in the world and generate some 6 million gigabytes per year of outer space images

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The financial go-ahead has been given to build a 3,200 megapixel camera that will be the world’s largest and will be the centerpiece of a telescope that will generate some 6 million gigabytes per year of outer space images.

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The good news this week is that the lab building the camera, the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory got is funding for the massive imager which is the linchpin of wide a aperture Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) being built on a mountain top in Chile known as Cerro Pachón.

Once operational in 2022, the camera will produce the widest, deepest and fastest views of the night sky ever observed, researchers claim.

“This important decision endorses the camera fabrication budget that we proposed,” said the LSST’s director Steven Kahn in a statement. “Together with the construction funding we received from the National Science Foundation in August, it is now clear that LSST will have the support it needs to be completed on schedule.”

According to Kahn, the LSST team can now move forward with the development of the camera and prepare for the “Critical Decision 3” review process next summer, the last requirement before actual fabrication of the camera can begin. Components of the camera, which will be the size of a small car and weigh more than 3 tons, will be built by an international collaboration of labs and universities, including DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SLAC, where the camera will be assembled and tested.

LSST will generate a vast amount of data -- approximately 6 million gigabytes per year -- that will 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% of the universe but whose nature remains unknown, the researchers stated.

NASA has noted development f the LSST in the past saying it will be one of the key pieces of technology that could help it track near-Earth objects. “Simulations have suggested that the shared use of LSST could catalog approximately 25% of the 140 meter sized NEOs within 5 years of operations and about 45% in ten years,” NASA said.

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From the LSST website: “The LSST is different from other ground-based telescopes in that it is a wide-field survey telescope and camera that can move quickly around the sky and image everything over and over. We describe it as Wide-Fast-Deep. That combination is unique: wide field of view (10 square degrees), short exposures (pairs of 15-second exposures), and sensitive camera (24th magnitude single images, 27th magnitude stacked). LSST is far more than a telescope. With its 3200 Megapixel camera, supercomputer, and giant data processing, analysis, and distribution system, the LSST facility will produce an entirely new view of our universe enabling unforeseen explorations of discovery.”

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