Now You Know

World’s Largest 3.2 Gigapixel Digital Camera Poised to Take 10-Year Timelapse of the Universe

Vera C. Rubin Observatory
Vera C. Rubin Observatory
The world’s largest camera is the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) Camera with a resolution of 3,200-megapixel, allowing astronomers to observe our universe in unprecedented detail. This is the largest digital camera ever built for optical astronomy and will be housed at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, situated atop the 2713 meters (8,900-foot) peak of Cerro Pachón in the Andes, Chile.

The LSST Camera is about 3.73 m (12.25 ft) long, 1.65 m (5.5 ft) high and weighs about 2800 kg (6200 lbs). A key feature of the camera’s optical assemblies are its three lenses, one of which (the front L1 lens) is 1.57 meters (5.1 feet) in diameter. The focal plane is made up of 189 individual custom-designed CCD sensors arranged in a total of 21 3-by-3 square arrays and with half a millimeter wide gap between sensors. Each pixel is 10 microns wide. The precision is out of this world: the focal plane is 5 microns flat with a variation in flatness no greater than a tenth the width of a human hair.

The LSST Camera will take a 15-second exposure every 20 seconds, generating about 15 terabytes of data each night. Its ten-year time-lapse exploration of the night skies is expected to produce a catalog database of about 60 petabytes (60,000 terabytes).

The goal of the exploration is to help researchers better understand dark matter and dark energy, and hopefully explain some of the mysteries of our universe.

Images courtesy of SLAC