Astronomers and photographers have a lot in common. We both collect photons, we both spend a lot of time pointing lenses at things, and we both like to have as many pixels in our images as possible. Impressively enough, camera technology has now advanced the the point where we get to talk about gigapixels. Yes, gigapixels. The most impressive digital camera ever constructed is being planned for the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory on Cerro Pachón mountain in Chile. And it will have 3.2 billion pixels!

The camera is going to be for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). To give you some idea of how many photons it’s going to collect, imagine taking a good quality 8 megapixel DSLR and taking 800000 images with it. Now imagine doing that every night. Suffice to say, you might need to bring a few memory cards with you.

Actually, quite a few. Aiming to be built in 2014, the LSST camera is expected to gather roughly 6 exabytes of data every year. 6 trillion megabytes. And all of this archived data is going to be public. It’s a good thing the Internet is nice and fast nowadays!

(Also, judging by the artists rendering of the camera, it’s going to be appropriately huge in physical size too!)

Tip of the lens to The Camera Bag!

Images: Camera lens via Art of Dana, Milky Way via Space Gizmo. Image manipulation by yours truly.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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