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World's largest digital camera given funding approval

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The US Department of Energy has approved funding to build what will be the world’s largest digital camera as part of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), planned for construction in Chile. The 3,200 megapixel camera will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky when the telescope is operational, which is scheduled for 2022.

LSST will generate approximately 6 million gigabytes of data per year that will help researchers study the formation of galaxies, track potentially hazardous asteroids, observe exploding stars and better understand dark matter and dark energy, which make up 95 per cent of the universe but whose nature remains unknown.

‘This important decision endorses the camera fabrication budget that we proposed,’ said LSST director Steven Kahn. ‘Together with the construction funding we received from the National Science Foundation in August, it is now clear that LSST will have the support it needs to be completed on schedule.’

The camera will be built at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. ‘The telescope is a key part of the long-term strategy to study dark energy and other scientific topics in the United States and elsewhere,’ said David MacFarlane, SLAC’s director of particle physics and astrophysics.

Over a 10-year time frame, the observatory will detect tens of billions of objects, the first time a telescope will catalogue more objects in the universe than there are people on Earth.

The project has received ‘Critical Decision 2’ approval from the DOE. The LSST team can now move forward with the development of the camera and prepare for the ‘Critical Decision 3’ review process next summer, the last requirement before actual fabrication of the camera can begin.

Components of the camera, which will be the size of a small car and weigh more than 3 tons, will be built by an international collaboration of labs and universities, including DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SLAC, where the camera will be assembled and tested.

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Further information

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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