Codebreaker

Dark Matter Survey Camera: Looking Through the Lens

David Brancaccio Sep 19, 2012

A super cool camera with super-cooled components has taken its its first photos. Scientists at Fermilab created a digital camera with 570 megapixels, and it’s just captured a nice shot of star clusters 17,000 light years away. 

Josh Freeman, director of the Dark Energy Survey says the camera is pretty unique — attached to a telescope with a 13-foot mirror on it. Beyond the value of basic scientific research, this thing also offers a lesson for anyone buying a digital camera: It’s not all about the megapixels.  The Dark Energy camera doesn’t just have LOTS of light-gathering pixels, pixels stuck on a massive sensor bigger than your head. 

“Even if you have a good digital SLR camera,” says Freeman, “it’s maybe a couple of inches across. This camera is more like two feet across.”

Freeman’s team of 200 international scientists has a five-year mission: to boldly use the camera perched in a Chilean observatory to learn about origins of the universe. Not a bad goal — and one that may be attainable, with that kind of gadget. 

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