See the first photos from the world's largest digital camera
See the first photos from the world's largest digital camera
6:39

See the first photos from the world's largest digital camera

Science
You're looking at one of the first ever photographs taken in 3200 megapixels, and it guesses what you're actually looking at. We're going to get into that a little bit later. But first I wanna talk about the amazing tech that made those photographs possible. And the even more amazing things that scientists hope to do with it. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] Scientists at the slac National Accelerator Laboratory are putting the finishing touches on the world's largest digital camera. The camera will be the centerpiece of the Veera see Rubin Observatory in Chile. The goal of the project is to spend 10 years serving the night sky of the entire southern hemisphere. We will measure and catalog something Like, Like 20 billion galaxies. Stephen Kahn is the observatory director. He says nothing like this has ever been done before. Most parts of the sky have actually never been imaged at all by telescopes. And essentially no part of the sky has really been imaged with this kind of time sequencing where you can watch how things change. The reason no camera existed that could capture that level of imaging, it would have to be enormous. So scientists got to work designing and constructing the world's biggest digital camera. The entire thing is about 13 feet long, five in diameter. They just hit a major milestone completing the focal plane, which comes in at over two feet across. That's enormous and compared to the sensor you might have in a cell phone or in a digital camera. Those are tiny [MUSIC] That's Aaron roodman, who's in charge of building and testing the camera. But focal plane is what captures the light emitted from an object, which is then converted into a digital image really meant in his team design this one with 189 individual sensors that produce those 3200 megapixel images To manage the goals of remote observatory we need to see a wide field of view. So at any given image, we need to want to see as much of the sky as we can. Now the sensors were put in groups of nine to form what's called a raft. What you're seeing in this time lapse video is the team assembling the 25 rafts to complete the focal plane. This process took six months, largely because the sensors can easily crack if they touch each other. And the gaps between those rafts is less than five human hairs wide and up to $3 million per raft. You can't really blame them for taking their time. The focal plane is kept inside a special cryo stat which keeps the sensors at their operating temperature cool minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Now roodman of course needed to test the focal plane once it was finished. Not the easiest thing to do when it's sitting on a lab in California. Nowhere near the Observatory in Chile It's not pointing at the sky. It's not outside. It's inside our lab at slac. So I put together a little projector using a pinhole is a box in hole on the top, some lights in the box and you could illuminate whatever you want it and an image would be projected through the pinhole. So what's a photograph for the world's first 3200 megapixel image? Well, that brings us back to this image. Did you have any guesses as to what it is? It is a head of romanesco broccoli. So why use one of the most advanced pieces of photography equipment in the world to take a picture of broccoli.>> I wanted something that had structure on different scales. So it's the fractal vegetable. I think it's a cool looking image. It looks otherworldly. And they didn't stop it vegetables. Of course, they also snap the photo of your room and the latest astronomer who they named the observatory for. Also the team of scientists working on the camera. You can find these photos and a few others online and you can interact with them. And just to give you an idea of how big they are It would take 378 4K ultra high def TVs to display one in its full size that's large enough to capture a portion of the sky, about the size of 40 full moons. And at resolution. You can identify a golf ball from 50 miles away. So what exactly do scientists hope to learn with these kinds of images? There's a lot so I'm just gonna let Steve tell you, there's sort of four main themes that we've emphasized. One is measuring all of the moving things in the solar system. So asteroids, comments, things like that. We'll have a complete census of millions of solar system objects. Including searches for asteroids that could potentially impact the Earth and do big damage on there. We'll also, by measuring subtle motions of stars, we'll be able to trace out distances in the Milky Way galaxy that we live in. And we'll be able to determine a lot of the history of how the Milky Way galaxy was assembled over Kuzmin time will measure all kinds of stellar explosions and other transient phenomena in the universe. And that's an area where we're likely to discover new phenomena that we never knew about before. We'll be able to trace out with very high accuracy, the expansion history of the whole universe. And that will provide information to us about when two of the most pressing problems in fundamental physics which are was the nature of dark matter. And what is the nature of dark energy? So, what's next? Over the next few months, the team will install the cryostat inside the camera body, and then add the lenses. That includes the world's largest optical lens Seen here at 5.1 feet in diameter. If all goes well, final testing will start mid next year, before the camera gets sent to the observatory in Chile. Now, maybe the coolest part about this project, is that all that data the observatory is gonna collect It's all going to be available and searchable to the public. Everything is going to get added to this online database with literally trillions of lines in this catalog that we can all go through and make our own discoveries. And so, in a way, we'll all be able to identify kind of our own corner of the sky. People can dive in on their computers and search through things. There will be more galaxies and more stars than there are people in the world many times over, so everybody can have a few favorite galaxies and a few favorite stars. [MUSIC]

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