So just how much can a digital camera the size of a Hyundai see? Hopefully, if you're the Stanford team building it, enough to answer some fundamental questions about our galaxy.

It will be the world's largest digital camera by a good margin, built by the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope—a large aperture survey telescope designed to find and photograph faint astronomical objects from its perch high atop a Chilean mountain. Specifically, the LSST will investigate astronomical phenomena including dark energy, dark matter, and near-Earth asteroids, as well as inventory the solar system and explore the transient optical sky.

The features and specs of the new LSST surpass any current telescope, either land-based or orbital. Its 8.4-meter-diameter mirror will be able to scan large swaths of the night sky while generating 3D maps via 800 15-second exposures every session—nearly 50 times as much area as the moon takes up in the sky. The LSST's 3.2-gigapixel camera will consist of 189 CCD ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light-sensitive sensors, cost roughly $170 million, and have enough resolution to spot your car's headlights at a distance of 400 miles. [Stanford - Peta Pixel - R&D Magazine - Roger Galbraith]


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