Samprising! The world's largest digital camera captures the first 3,200-megapixel images

Currently under construction at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). He will explore cosmic mysteries as part of a new Study of Space and Time at the Vera C Observatory. Rubin.

full focal plane of the future LSST
The full focal plane of the future LSST camera is more than 2 feet wide and contains 189 individual sensors that will produce 3200-megapixel images. (Jacqueline Orrell/National Laboratory of Accelerators SLAC)

Imagine a photo so large that 378 ultra-high-definition 4K television screens are needed to show it in its entirety. We are talking about a resolution that could reveal details as small as a golf ball about 24 kilometers away.

These images come from a variety of image sensors that will become the heart and soul of the future camera of the Vera C Observatory. Rubin. Currently under construction in Chile, this camera will be the largest in the world.

Once installed at the Rubin Observatory, this camera will capture panoramic images of the entire southern sky. Every night, for 10 years, it will give us an amazing view of the stars, galaxies and celestial objects.

The data collected will be incorporated into the Study of the Legacy of Space and Time (LSST). This catalog will contain more galaxies than living people on Earth, as well as the movements of countless astrophysical objects. It's as if we were writing the history of the cosmos in real time.

A milestone in astronomical observation

It is equipped with 189 individual 16-megapixel CCD sensors, arranged in a vacuum-sealed focal plane. Each sensor is like a giant pixel that records the light coming from space. Together, these sensors form a high-resolution matrix that covers a strip of the sky seven times larger than the full moon.

Its optical system includes three lenses and quick-change filters that allow light to be captured in wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to near infrared. This allows us to study a wide range of celestial objects, from stars and galaxies to asteroids and supernovae.

She will take panoramic images of the sky every night, which will be incorporated into the Stellar Census. In addition, it will track the movements of countless astrophysical objects, providing a detailed view of the dynamic of the Universe.

It will help us solve some of the greatest mysteries of the cosmos. What is dark matter? How does the Universe expand? What role does dark energy play in its evolution? These fundamental questions are about to be answered thanks to the images captured by the camera.

The Electronic Eye of the LSST Telescope

To capture the light that emanates from stars, planets and celestial objects, and transform it into electrical signals, a sensor is needed, in this camera the focal plane fulfills that function. These signals are like a secret language between the cosmos and science, they are used to create digital images that reveal the mysteries of space.

In this case, the focal plane is not a simple CCD (coupled charging device). No, it is a swarm of 189 individual CCDs, with the ability to capture 16 megapixels each. Together, they form a symphony of light that allows us to explore the universe with an unprecedented resolution.

size of 40 full moons.
The focal plane of the LSST camera has a surface large enough to capture a portion of the sky the size of 40 full moons. Its resolution is so high that a golf ball could be detected 24 kilometers away. (Greg Stewart/National SLAC Accelerator Laboratory)

Imagine a human hair. Now, divide its width by ten. That's how thin the focal plane of the LSST is. Its pixels, tiny like grains of sand, are aligned with mathematical precision. This extreme thinness ensures that the resulting images are sharp and full of details.

So far, nine CCDs and their components have been assembled in what we call "scientific raflses". These square units, like small islands in the optical system, traveled to the SLAC (Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory). There, the camera team inserted them into a grid, like pieces of a puzzle.

Border science

LSST image sensors are like hyperactive eyes. They can detect objects 100 million times brighter than what our human eyes can see. Imagine looking at a candle from thousands of kilometers away. That's what this telescope will allow us to do.

These specifications are simply amazing and their unique characteristics will allow the ambitious scientific program of the Rubin Observatory. Said Steven Ritz, scientist of the LSST chamber project of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

During the 10 years of service, the camera will collect images of about 20 billion galaxies, obtaining data that will improve our knowledge of how they have evolved over time and allow us to test our models of dark matter and energy more deeply and accurately than ever before

The observatory will be a wonderful installation for a wide range of sciences, from detailed studies of the solar system to studies of distant objects on the edge of the Universe. It is a milestone that brings us a great step to the exploration of fundamental issues in a way that we had not been able to do before.