Astronomers have obtained a 3.2-gigapixel image of cabbage

Specialists of the National accelerator laboratory have successfully tested the matrix for the largest ever created digital camera of the Vera Rubin telescope. They managed to get five 3.2-gigapixel images, which were captured by the scientific team of the project, an engraving of Flammarion and a cabbage of Romanesco, according to the website of the National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).


The main working instrument of the Vera Rubin Observatory currently under construction in Northern Chile will be an 8.4-meter three-mirror anastigmat telescope with a wide field of view, forty times larger than the full disk of the moon. It will be used to conduct the ten-year sky survey LSST (Legacy Survey of Space and Time), whose tasks include research of dark matter and dark energy, observations of 20 billion distant galaxies, mapping the milky Way, and searching for optical transients, such as new and supernova flares, and observations of small bodies in the Solar system. It is expected that the telescope may see its "first light" at the end of 2021, and full operation will not begin until October 2022.

The Vera Rubin telescope will be equipped with a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera — the largest ever created. The camera matrix is a mosaic of 189 separate CCD detectors measuring 64 centimetres across. During operation, the matrix will be cooled to about -100 degrees Celsius, which will significantly reduce the noise level. The camera's Arsenal will have six filters covering wavelengths from 330 to 1080 nanometers.

The device of the LSST optical system. Chris Smith/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
LSST CCD matrix testing methodology. Greg Stewart/Jacqueline Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The creation of the camera began in mid-2015, and by September 2018, the cryostat, lenses and part of the CCD detectors were ready. In January of this year, the Assembly of the matrix was completed, and on September 8, 2020, specialists of the National accelerator laboratory announced successful tests of the matrix, during which engineers projected five images (Romanesco cabbage, Vera Rubin at work, LSST research group, Flammarion engraving and a collage of logos of companies participating in the project) onto the matrix through a hole of 150 microns in size. These images were chosen because of the abundance of small details on them. As a result, the specialists received five high-resolution images that confirmed the operability of the matrix.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

It is expected that in the next few months, the cryostat and matrix will be installed in the camera body, along with the lenses, shutter and filter change system. By mid-2021, the camera will be ready for final tests, and after they are completed, it will be sent to Chile.

One of the most powerful survey ground optical systems today is the 570-megapixel DECam camera (Dark Energy Camera), mounted on the 4-meter Blanco telescope. It was used to conduct the DES sky survey( Dark Energy Survey), in which researchers found new TRANS-Neptune objects, predicted the number of satellites of the milky Way, and tried out a method for determining the masses of distant galaxy clusters.


Photo: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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