A brief video captured via drone has shown the progress of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a truly colossal instrument equipped with the world’s largest digital camera. The 3.2 gigapixel CCD imaging camera is said to be so powerful that no less than 1,500 high-definition screens are needed in order to display a single image. And that image, according to the Daily Mail, will one day be the “deepest, widest image of the universe” ever caught.
Located on the El Peñón peak of the Cerro Pachón mountain in Vicuña, Chile, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope has been undergoing construction since 2015. Three years on, the video presented by Assembly Integration Verification Manager Jacques Sebag has revealed an enormous mountaintop facility well on its way to completion. As per the project’s timeline, it will see engineering first light by 2019, and its 10-year survey shall officially begin either by 2022 or 2023.
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is set to capture over 800 images each night, and photograph the entire sky twice every week. All of this will be done with the aid of the 3.2 gigapixel camera, which has been outfitted with a filter-changing mechanism and shutter. These features will allow the camera to perceive light from near-ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths.
“Each patch of sky it images will be visited 1000 times during the survey,” said the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope team of the camera. “With a light-gathering power equal to 6.7-m diameter primary mirror, each of its 30-second observations will be able to detect objects 10 million times fainter than visible with the human eye. A powerful data system will compare new with previous images to detect changes in brightness and position of the objects as big as far-distant galaxy clusters and as small as near-by asteroids.”
During the telescope’s 10-year run, the team expects it to observe tens of billions of cosmic objects to create detailed images and movies of the universe that haven’t seen before. It may even discover new galaxies along the way.
As is, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is poised to become one of the planet’s many larger-than-life telescopes. China has the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), a radio telescope the size of 30 soccer fields. Occupying a mountain in the province of Guizhou, the massive telescope was designed to help China explore the vast reaches of space and discover alien life.
Joining them is the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest telescope that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hopes to launch by next year. It too will be used to create a better, clearer picture of how the universe was created. And just like the FAST, it could also seek out signs of extraterrestrial life.
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope may eventually do the same.
Fast facts on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
- The decision to build the telescope on Cerro Pachón was based on available infrastructure and the site’s quality for astronomical imaging.
- Construction on the camera was lead by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
- The camera weighs over 3 tons and is the size of a small car.
- The team estimates that the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will create an archive of six million gigabytes of data every year. And far from just being accessible to scientists, the team intends for the data to be available to the public at large.