Stop showing off about the super definition of your Fujifilm GFX 100: its 100 megapixels are nothing compared to the 3200 megapixels of the telescope of the future Rubin Observatory. Under construction in Chile and theoretically operational from 2023, the Vera C. Robin Observatory will receive the best-defined digital camera to date.
No monolithic sensor here, but a “patchwork” of 189 16-megapixel CCD sensors. One hundred and eighty-nine sensors organized into 21 units called “rafts”. It took more than 6 months for the team of scientists to integrate the 21 rafts together.
Why so long? Simply because, to ensure good image accuracy, the edges of each of the (very fragile) rafts must be at most 0.5 mm from each other. And at $ 3 million (2.54 million euros) each raft – yes that’s $ 53 million just for the sensors – the slightest mishandling would have cost a lot of money.
Why aggregate lots of small sensors? Besides the fact that there is no factory capable of producing such a large one, the manufacturing process for sensors (CCDs like CMOS) is never perfect and a few pixels are always defective here and there. While this is not a problem in the production of small sensors like those in smartphones, the larger the sensors, the more the final output collapses.
This explains the big price difference (compared to the surface) between a 24×36 full-frame sensor and the surface equivalent in small sensors. By coupling the sensors together, researchers can keep the cost down while taking advantage of a huge photosensitive surface. The image precision of this super camera is such that, placed in a plane flying 24 km above the Earth’s surface, it would see a golf ball resting on a green …
Point of golf in the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) mission at Robin Observatory, but 10 years of space exploration piloted by SLAC at Stanford University. Ten years scanning the skies not only for sky mapping, but also for dark matter and dark energy.
To change the observation wavelengths, the telescope’s final camera will incorporate an automated “ultra-fast” color filter change system: only 2 minutes to change filters. A straw compared to the manual manipulations of certain telescopes in service for an earthly gaze of unprecedented precision on the space around us.