The world's most powerful and advanced digital camera, destined to become the "eye" of a telescope high in the Chilean Andes, has been given the green light by the U.S. Department of Energy.
They have given the final approval for the construction of a 3.2 gigapixel digital camera that will become the core of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will begin capturing images of the entire visible southern sky in 2022.
Each shot of the camera will capture an area of the sky 40 times the size of a full moon, nearly 10 square degrees of sky.
The telescope survey will create the largest catalog of stars and galaxies ever observed, said researchers after hearing of the approval.
"Now we can go ahead and procure components and start building it," said LSST Director Steven Kahn.
The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University will build the digital camera, which will possess 1,500 times the resolution of a typical high-definition television.
The camera will be similar in size to a compact car and weigh around three tons, which means the technology behind it is not likely to show up in our smartphones anytime soon.
In addition to visible wavelengths of light, the camera will capture images from the near-infrared to the near-ultraviolet, courtesy of a selection of filters that can automatically by positioned in front of the giant camera.
During its first 10-year observational stint, the LSST is expected to image tens of billions of cosmic objects — including more galaxies than there are people on Earth, researchers say.
Although the camera is being funded from the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation is providing financial support for the telescope and all facilities at the site in Chile on a mountain called Cerro Pachón.
"We are very gratified to see everyone's hard work appreciated and acknowledged by this DOE approval," says SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao. "SLAC is honored to be partnering with the National Science Foundation and other DOE labs on this groundbreaking endeavor."
Other parts of the giant telescope, including its primary mirror, have been completed, and construction has begun of support facilities at the Chilean site.
"We have a busy agenda for the rest of 2015 and 2016," says Kahn. "Construction of the telescope on the mountain is well underway."
Contracts have been awarded for construction of the telescope mount and the dome enclosure, he says.
Researchers at SLAC say building and testing the record-breaking camera will take five years.