There is currently a gigantic camera being built in the mountains of Chile, in the foothills of the Andes, that will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. While the new iPhone 6S camera may have just upgraded from eight megapixels to 12, this will have a whopping 3,200 megapixels – making it a 3.2 billion pixel camera.
Named the LSST, or the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, it is set to be the largest camera in the world. Scheduled to be finished in 2019, it will combine a telescope, mirror, camera, data system, and survey technology.
This thing is going to be huge. It’s just one addition to a class of giant land-based telescopes coming online in the next decade. It will have a lower enclosure 100 feet in diameter, a service and operations building of 32,000 square feet attached to it, as well as another section for the calibration telescope.
What it will do
The LSST will record the entirety of the visible nighttime sky twice a week, taking over 800 panaromic images during each of those nights. This will result in 30 terabytes of data each evening.
From these captures, it will produce an animated 3D map of the universe. With a large depth of details, these maps will allow us to analyze the solar system in a new way, including studying mysterious dark matter and learn more about our own Milky Way galaxy.
How it will work
The LSST will focus on capturing images of space at night. It’s able to cover 10 square degrees of sky (which, for reference, is equal to 40 times the size of the moon). This ability comes from its large mirror and field of view, which work hand-in-hand to capture billions of objects that are too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
The powerful data system will be able to keep track of the brightness and positions of space objects, like galaxy clusters and asteroids, as well as comparing the images being taken in the present with those of the past. This even includes detecting and keeping track of asteroids that might be threatening to Earth.
Access to the findings
Luckily, these maps won’t be an exclusive experience to scientists. The public will be able to view the moving 3D map via the internet each night as it captures the sky.
These new, highly detailed images will allow us to see billions of objects in space that we can’t with our own eyes.
Education is important to the team behind the LSST. The group is also planning to develop research projects which students can do in school, in their home, or out at museums.
Telescopes are almost never located in highly populated areas because of the threat of light pollution. Cloud cover can also be a problem, so they are also usually put at higher altitudes and in drier climates.
Cerro Pachón, the mountain in Chile where the LSST will be located, was chosen as the best option by an appointed committee.
Construction started in 2014, and it’s scheduled to be completed by 2019.