How big is the image sensor on your camera? 5 megapixels? 8? 16? It hardly matters, because the European Space Agency is about to make you feel very inadequate. It's just flopped out a "1 billion pixel" (that's 1,000 megapixels) imaging device known as Gaia, which will map the Milky Way galaxy in 3D.
One billion pixels is actually a tiny bit of an understatement. Gaia's surface combines 106 credit card-size charged coupled devices (CCDs), each the thickness of a human hair. The CCDs, which are effectively "miniature" cameras in their own right, feature 4,500 pixels in the "along scan" direction and 1,966 pixels for "across scan," providing an overall total of around 8,847,000 pixels per CCD. Multiply that by 160 and you have a giant CCD consisting of 1 billion, 415 million, 520 thousand pixels. Zoinks!
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