World's Largest Digital Camera Hits Big Milestone

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(Rendering of finished LSST in Chile - Photo by SLAC)

The SLAC Nation Accelerator Laboratory is leading the design and fabrication of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LLST) in Chile. The LSST is the worlds largest camera that's ever been constructed for astronomy. When it's up an running, its mission is to capture the entire visible southern sky every few days for the next ten years.

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(Size comparison of the LSST camera. Photo by SLAC)

To make the largest camera ever built for astronomy, you're going to need a big sensor... or 189 of them. The LLST uses 189 16MP camera sensors running at once creating a 3.2 - GIGAPIXEL camera. That kind of power creates two things. 

1. A MASSIVE IMAGE - An image so large that you would need a screen that's over six thousand feet wide to project it onto. 

2. HEAT - Those 189 sensors create a massive amount of heat and it needed to be managed in a unique way.

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(The cryostat being installed. Photo from SLAC video)

Scientists at SLAC have installed a CRYOSTAT into the new camera. This can cool the sensors down to minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The surrounding electronics will be chilled to about -30 degrees Fahrenheit. This might sound like a lot but the camera will have 3 billion pixels of solid-state detectors and capture 15 Terabytes of data PER DAY. 

In a quote from their website, SLAC states:

"The LSST camera project is funded by the DOE and managed by SLAC. Construction began in 2015 in SLAC's new clean room, as the lab is leading the camera's design and fabrication. The 3.2-gigapixel prime focus digital camera will take a 15-second exposure every 20 seconds, which requires very precise focusing due to the rapid repointing. It will produce data of extremely high quality with minimal downtime and maintenance."

The LSST plans to do all of this along with providing links on their website to images they take, allowing the public to download and explore them for themselves... that is of course barring if you have a fast internet or not. 

Here's a quick video of the cryostat being installed if you're interested in learning more about the LSST. 

Source: SLAC