Scientists have revealed the first 3,200-megapixel digital photos, including a close-up shot of the head of a Romanesco cauliflower.
The images, taken at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, are the largest ever taken in a single shot.
They are so large that it would take 378 4K ultra-high-definition TV screens to display one of them in full size.
The camera responsible for the images will be the 'sensitive eye' of the new Rubin Observatory in Chile, currently under construction and expected to be operational next year.
Once installed at Rubin Observatory, the camera will produce panoramic images of the complete Southern sky – one panorama every few nights for 10 years.
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One image features a head of Romanesco, a vegetable closely related to broccoli and selected for its very detailed surface structure
Its data will feed into the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) – a catalogue of more galaxies than there are living people on Earth and of the motions of countless astrophysical objects.
Using the LSST Camera, the observatory will create the largest astronomical movie of all time and shed light on some of the biggest mysteries of the universe, including dark matter and dark energy.
'This achievement is among the most significant of the entire Rubin Observatory Project,' said Steven Kahn, SLAC’s director of the observatory.
The complete focal plane of the future LSST Camera is more than two feet wide and contains 189 individual sensors that will produce 3,200-megapixel images. Crews at SLAC have now taken the first images with it
3200 megapixels (3.2 billion pixels)
189 individual sensors
2-foot wide focal plane
Dimensions: About 5.5 foot (1.65m) by 9.8 foot (3m)
Weight: 6200 lbs (2800kg)
'The completion of the LSST Camera focal plane and its successful tests is a huge victory by the camera team that will enable Rubin Observatory to deliver next-generation astronomical science.'
The first images taken with the sensors were a test for the camera’s focal plane, the assembly of which was completed at SLAC in January.
The focal plane on this camera is similar to the imaging sensor of a digital consumer camera or the camera in a smartphone.
It captures light emitted from or reflected by an object and converts it into electrical signals that are used to produce a digital image.
However, this focal plane is more than two feet wide and contains 189 individual sensors that produce 3,200-megapixel images.
Two feet is enormous compared to the 1.4-inch-wide imaging sensor of a full-frame consumer camera and large enough to capture a portion of the sky about the size of 40 full moons, or spot a golf ball in an image from 15 miles away.
On completion, imaging sensors in the camera should be able to spot objects 100 million times dimmer than those visible to the naked eye – a sensitivity that would let humans see a candle from thousands of miles away.
Over the next few months, the LSST Camera team will integrate the remaining camera components, including the lenses, a shutter and a filter exchange system. By mid-2021, the SUV-sized camera will be ready for final testing
The LSST Camera’s focal plane has a surface area large enough to capture a portion of the sky about the size of 40 full moons. Its resolution is so high that you could spot a golf ball from 15 miles away
The sophisticated LSST Camera focal plane also contains 189 individual sensors, or charge-coupled devices (CCDs), each with 16 megapixels – about the same number as the imaging sensors of most modern digital cameras.
Sets of nine CCDs and their supporting electronics were assembled into square units, called 'science