The world’s largest digital camera with 3.2 gigapixel resolution is being prepared for installation on top of a Chilean mountain where it will scan the skies to help scientists gain knowledge about the Milky Way, the dark matter and other phenomena.

Work on the giant camera, dubbed “The Legacy Survey of Space and Time” (LSST), has been underway for several years now; the research team took the first photo with her in 2020.

The camera is currently assembled at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., And will eventually be installed at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in northern Chile, although the pandemic has added a further delay to the roadmap of the project, Gizmodo reports.

LSST camera being assembled
L1 Camera lens polished and coated with a broadband anti-reflective coating by Safran-Reosc. Photo by SAFRAN.
LSST camera being assembled
This photo shows the ComCam from the optical side. The large vertical metal object is the filter exchanger, which contains 3 filters at a time. Photo by Rubin Observatory / NSF / AURA.
LSST camera being assembled
Now that it has arrived at the Tucson instrumentation shop, the ComCam cryostat assembly (built by SLAC) will be integrated into the camera optics and parts of the telescope structure and tested under software control. as it will be in Chile. Photo by Rubin Observatory / NSF / AURA.

“The main thing is to get as much sky as possible as quickly as possible and to do it over and over,” says Steven Kahn, astrophysicist and director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. “The simplest thing he can do is say, ‘What has changed? How has that changed? ‘ And we will do it until the wazoo.

LSST camera being assembled
At the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the LSST camera team performed a successful test in mid-October 2020, checking the clearance between the filters and the shutter as the filter moves from its storage position to its in-line position. The amount of clearance is extremely small to meet the optical design distance between the filter and the L3 lens. Photo by T Lange / LSST Camera Project.

The front part of the camera consists of three lenses and a filter which can be adjusted according to the use case. Behind this is the focal plane of the camera onto which the light from the telescope mirror is projected. This focal plane is made up of 189 charge-coupled devices and all of them are vacuum cooled to nearly -150 degrees Fahrenheit (-101 Celsius). Each of these devices can be considered a digital camera in itself, as it captures mosaic images of the sky.

Once installed in Chile, the focal plane will point towards the ground to capture images of the space where the light will bounce off one of the lower mirrors of the camera, up to the convex mirror, and back down to the final mirror before be reflected in the camera.

The powerful camera will allow scientists to look further than ever to learn more about the cosmos. It will image half of the southern sky every three days, contributing to a 10-year survey and giving researchers a full picture of this region about once a week.

Rubin Observatory in Chile
Rubin Observatory at sunset, lit by a full moon. Photo by Rubin Observatory / NSF / AURA.

All the images collected by the LSST will not only allow scientists to follow patterns and discoveries in the cosmos, but they will also be disseminated to the general public. The observatory is expected to have systems ready for first light by January 2023 with the full roadmap and regular updates on the status of the project available on the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. website.


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