Say cheese, aliens! The world’s biggest camera is ready to photograph the universe

By Melissa Locker

Look out, aliens, because human scientists are about to start snapping some photos of you.

The Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab has finished construction on the 3.2-gigapixel sensor array for the world’s largest camera, which is ready to take photos of life, the universe, and everything that cosmology, physics, and astronomy can create. The camera will be used in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a massive telescope that will observe the universe like never before.

“This is the biggest charge-coupled device (CCD) array that has ever been built,” Paul O’Connor, senior scientist at Brookhaven Lab’s instrumentation division, said in a press release. “It’s three billion pixels. No telescope has ever put this many sensors into one camera.”

Now that the array is done, work can continue on the massive telescope that is currently under construction on a mountaintop in Chile. I’m not going to pretend to understand the technology that is involved with this massive camera (Gizmodo has you covered on that front), but the digital sensor array is an important part of the project—a collaborative effort involving more than 30 institutions from around the world. Once complete, it will be used to create a time-lapse movie of the complete visible universe accessible from Chile.

And rest assured, photography technology has improved since the days when they had to build a train-size camera just to photograph a train, so while the telescope is large, it’s not as big as the universe it hopes to capture on film.


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