Engineers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the USA have finally assembled all parts of the world’s giant digital camera. The project started a couple of years ago and aimed at putting the camera up on an observatory in the Chilean Andes.

Although the camera isn’t functional yet, the engineers and scientists could fit all of the components into an operable frame so that visitors could see its focus plane and composite sensor, which uses 189 different CCD sensors. So excellent is the resolution of the new camera that its engineers claim they can shoot a photograph of a single speck of dust on the moon’s surface.

What is the LSST Camera?
To put it simply, the LSST or the ‘Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is a digital camera being engineered and developed to be placed onto the El Penon peak of Cerro Pachon, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in the Coquimbo Region in northern Chile. Cerro Pachon is considered one of the best places for an observatory. That Theta in peak also hosts the Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

How was the LSST camera made?
A team of engineers helped in designing and manufacturing 189 CCD sensors. CCD sensors or charge-coupled device is an integrated circuit that contains an array of linked or coupled capacitors. CCD sensors are a powerful technology used in digital imaging, especially when dealing with ultra-high resolution cameras that need to be associated with super-telephoto lenses.

These sensors were then laid across an array very carefully, for any misalignments would have caused several sensors to be destroyed. Moreover, each of the individual sensors would cost a lot to be remanufactured.

The team of engineers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is currently testing out the shutter system and the system to change filters. And no, the LSST does not use digital filters like the ones we see on Snapchat and Instagram –  it uses physical filters that block out specific wavelengths.

What is the resolution of the LSST camera?
The LSST camera uses 189 sensors. Each of these sensors measures 16mm diagonally and has a pixel density higher than the latest iPhone 14 Pros. Each sensor is also more significant than the sensor size of an iPhone. The overall resolution of the composite sensor is 3.2 Gigapixels or 3200 Megapixels. That’s a resolution that’s more than 260 iPhone 14 Pros combined.

The sensor has been paired with a super-telephoto lens that has a diameter of 1.57 meters, making it the giant lens of its kind ever to be created. From where it will be placed on earth, the LSST camera can take a photo of a dust particle on the moon’s surface.

When will the LSST camera be deployed?
The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory team still needs to install the cooling system designed for the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Because the LSST camera deals with a lot of data and uses a lot of electricity, it also generates a lot of heat, which needs to be dissipated quickly.

The cooling system will be installed by the end of the year. The camera will undergo a series of tests before it is finally shipped to Chile in May 2023. Once it reaches the observatory it is destined for; it is expected to be operational.

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