A Glimpse at the World’s Largest Digital Camera, a 570-Megapixel Beast

Back in September, we shared the first photos snapped by the world’s largest and most powerful digital camera: the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera located on a mountaintop in Chile. Reuters recently paid a visit to the massive astro-camera and the scientists behind it, and created the short 2-minute piece above that offers a closer look at the unique piece of camera equipment.

The camera is the size of a phone booth and uses 62 separate CCD sensors and a 13-foot light-gathering mirror. After 8 years of construction, the camera was deployed at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile to unlock secrets of the universe by photographing broad patches of the night sky. It’s capable of photographing patches 6 times the size of the full moon in single exposures.

The main mission behind the effort is to investigate the issue of dark matter and its role in the expansion of our universe.

The first images by the camera show the Formax galaxy cluster, which is roughly 60 million light years away from us.

  • Shay Murphy Photo

    Do they rent it out by the hour?!

  • JJ

    Wouldn’t like to clean the sensor(s), is that dust or a planet?

  • Jeff

    I saw parts of the sensor being built @ FermiLab a couple of years ago. Nice to see that it is active!

  • OmniMode

    Pffft! No fair.

    It’s actually sixty-two separate 9.1 megapixel sensors.
    I was hoping for a single CCD or CMOS…that would be a serious sensor. :D

  • Jean-Paul Vernier Porsche

    Cool, do you know if supports my old Nikkor lens?

  • 11

    yes it can be used for support as a shim

  • 11

    if 63 of us gather, each with 9.1 mp camera, we would take the title.

  • Tim.Abbott

    Does your lens support a 60cm mounting flange?

    (Credentials: I led the team that installed it.)

  • Tim.Abbott

    In principle anyone can use it – all you have to do is write an adequate science case and have the wherewithall to reduce the data and write up the results.

  • Tim.Abbott

    Each detector measures about 2″ by 1″. Modern astronomical cameras are built out of mosaics to cover large areas. It is not technologically possible to build such a large monolithic detector and would not be worth the effort anyway.

  • Tim.Abbott

    Here is a photo of the objective lens

  • Tim.Abbott

    The imager itself is housed in a vacuum chamber and cooled with a continuous flow of liquid nitrogen. In principle, we can clean the detectors, and have a class 100 cleanroom in which to do so, but we hope never to have to.

  • Tim.Abbott

    Yeah, but your pixels are so puny small that we’d still have the bigger camera.

  • OmniMode

    If you can build a lens like that, a CCD the size of a baking sheet should be a cinch. :D