Chile's car-sized mega camera explores the universe
Astronomers in Chile want to delve into the universe with the world's largest digital camera. The sophisticated device will provide never-before-seen insights into the study of the cosmos.
World's largest digital camera
Surrounded by desert mountains and clear blue skies, astronomers at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in northern Chile hope to revolutionize the study of the universe. To do so, they've attached the largest digital camera ever built to a telescope.
Stuartt Corder is the deputy director of NOIRLab, the US research center that operates the observatory on the 2,500-meter (8,200-foot) Cerro Pachon mountain. If he has his way, the new facility here, 560 kilometers (350 miles) north of Chile's capital, Santiago, will usher in "a paradigm shift in astronomy."
New galactic dimensions
The device, which is the size of a small car and weighs 2.8 tons, will provide insights into space that have never been possible before, explained representatives of the US-funded project. At the beginning of 2025, when the $800-million (€740-million) camera is expected to take its first photos, the device will scan the sky every three days with an unprecedented level of detail.
Scanning the universe
The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory is a complex of astronomical telescopes located at an altitude of 2,200 meters. Researchers will be able to go from "studying one star and knowing everything in-depth about that one star, to studying thousands of stars at a time," said Bruno Dias, president of the Chilean Society of Astronomy, or Sochias.
Clear skies over Chile
The project strengthens Chile's supremacy in astronomical observation. According to Sochias, the South American country is home to a third of the world's most powerful telescopes and has one of the clearest skies in the world — excellent conditions for observing distant galaxies.
Full survey of space and time
The first task of the new camera at the Rubin Observatory will be to complete a 10-year review of the sky, called the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). Researchers hope it will reveal information about 20 million galaxies, 17 billion stars and 6 million space objects.
The camera will be able to take photos at 3,200 megapixels, resulting in images so large that more than 300 medium-sized high-resolution televisions would have to be lined up to view just one of them. Built in California, the device has three times the capacity of the world's most powerful camera, the 870-megapixel Hyper Suprime-Cam in Japan.
Chile 'unbeatable' in world of astronomy
Many of humanity's most important astronomical discoveries have been made at the Cerro Tololo observatory. Although other important observatories have opened around the globe, including in the United States, Australia, China and Spain, "Chile is unbeatable" in the world of astronomy, said Sochias head Dias.