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World’s Largest Camera Snaps First 3,200 Megapixel Image

Sensors belonging to what will be the world’s largest digital camera have captured the first-ever 3,200 megapixel images. The images are so large, it would take 378 4K ultra-high-definition televisions to display one of them in full size. Among the subjects the camera has captured are a wood engraving and a piece of broccoli.

The world's largest digital camera has captured the first-ever 3,200 megapixel camera.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory announced the first-ever 3.2 gigapixel images. The sensors—or focal plane—that took the images will eventually go into the world’s largest digital camera; which itself will be mounted on the Simonyi Survey Telescope at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile.

“This is a huge milestone for us,” Vincent Riot, LSST Camera project manager said in a SLAC press release. LSST, or the Legacy Survey of Space and Time, will be a survey that provides the widest, deepest views of the night sky ever. “The focal plane will produce the images for the LSST, so it’s the capable and sensitive eye of the Rubin Observatory.”

As the above SLAC explainer notes, the giant camera’s focal plane is made up of 189 individual sensors. These sensors are similar to those in digital consumer cameras, although far more advanced. They principally work the same, however: by capturing light and converting it into electrical signals that produce digital images.

At top is the focal plane’s image of a Romanesco broccoli. For those unfamiliar, Romanesco are edible flower buds belonging to the same species as kale, cauliflower, etc. Riot et al. say they chose the Romanesco because of its intricate surface structure. The team also took images of other objects, including the Flammarion engraving. If you go to the bottom of this page, you can zoom into each of the photos.

The world's largest digital camera has captured the first-ever 3,200 megapixel camera.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Now that the team at the Observatory has confirmed the focal plane is working, it will be placed inside a cryostat—the plane needs to be kept at -150 °F to function. The cryostat, in turn, will be inserted into the main camera body.

Once the Observatory is fully operational, it will use this 3.2-billion-pixel camera to image a portion of the sky the size of 40 full moons. The sensor array will be so sensitive that it will be able to spot objects 100 million times dimmer than those visible to the naked eye. (That would be the equivalent of spotting a candle from thousands of miles away.) Over a ten-year period, the camera will collect images of roughly of 20 billion galaxies.

The world's largest digital camera has captured the first-ever 3,200 megapixel camera.

Aurelien Guichard

What do you think of these first-ever 3,200 megapixel images? Are you desperate to see some high-resolution deep-space photos like we are? Let’s get in depth in the comments, people!

Feature image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory