Giant 3.2 Billion-Pixel Digital Camera Gets a Step Closer to Construction

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LSST Project

The 22.3-megapixel CMOS sensor on Canon’s new EOS 5D Mark III is no joke — except when compared to the hardware in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) camera. The 3.2 billion-pixel digital camera is meant to “capture the widest, fastest and deepest view of the night sky ever observed,” according to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

When completed, the camera is supposed to record 6 million gigabytes of data each year, the equivalent of taking around 800,000 photos with an eight-megapixel camera every single night.

Its purpose? To look at totally awesome space stuff:

Its deep and frequent cosmic vistas will help answer critical questions about the nature of dark energy and dark matter and aid studies of near-Earth asteroids, Kuiper belt objects, the structure of our galaxy and many other areas of astronomy and fundamental physics.

The whole shebang will weigh around three tons and have 189 different sensors. Right now it’s passed something called Critical Decision 1, which means the lab can start a detailed design, schedule and budget phase. The hope is to start construction on the LSST camera by 2014; its huge 8.4-meter primary mirror is already being built in northern Chile.

The best part of this project is that its huge archive of data will be made available to the public, giving astronomers around the world access to some pretty amazing images.

MORE: What Will NASA’s Rover of the Future Look Like?