Scientists Have Taken The World’s First 3,200-Megapixel Photos
Scientists at a California lab have shared the world’s first-ever 3,200 megapixel images. Among the models? A head of broccoli.
The images, which are the largest ever taken in a single shot, were taken by sensors being developed by a team at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The sensors are set to be integrated into the world’s largest digital camera, which is currently under construction at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile.
The laboratory also published images taken of a photo of Vera C. Rubin – a pioneering astronomer and advocate for women in science – and the camera’s assembly team. The photos are just as impressive as you’d expect, and scientists say it’s impossible to understand their true quality by looking at them on a regular phone or computer.
According to a blog published on the SLAC website, you would need 378 4K ultra high-definition television screens to display the images at full-size. The sensors used to take the photos capture images at a resolution so high that you could see a golf ball from 15 miles away.
Once in place at the observatory, the camera will be used to capture some of the highest-quality images of the universe ever taken from Earth, cataloguing more than 37 billion stars and galaxies. The camera is set to take one panorama of the southern hemisphere sky every few nights for 10 years, feeding the images into the observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time.
Stephen Kahn, director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, told CNET:
We will measure and capture something like 20 billion stars and galaxies
Most parts of the night sky have actually never been imaged at all by telescopes.
No part of the sky has really been imaged with this kind of time, sequencing and time cadence, where you can watch how things change.
The camera is made up of 189 individual sensors with a combined width of more than two feet. According to CNET, it took six months to assemble the sensors, as they are so fragile that they could crack just by touching each other during installation. And there’s another good reason they wanted to avoid an accident – each of the 25 rafts housing the sensors costs about $3 million.
The team took a year doing practice runs of the installation, and it sounds like the whole thing was a pretty stressful experience.
SLAC mechanical engineer Hannah Pollack said:
The combination of high stakes and tight tolerances made this project very challenging. But with a versatile team we pretty much nailed it.
Construction of the main observatory structure has only recently restarted following a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but once in action, the world’s largest camera looks set to help answer some of the biggest questions scientists have about the universe, and our place in it.
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