With the advent of the holiday season, Christmas and the New Year, I’m sure many photographers have upgraded to newer, fancier, bigger (or smaller) and better cameras.  But no matter the features of your new toy, it can’t match this camera!

As part of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project, the most powerful digital camera ever is now under construction.  That’s right “under construction!”  

It’s very much a “one-of-a-kind” camera build, and is way too large to say it’s being manufactured.  This rendering indicates just how big.


LSST Camera Layout

The camera’s CCD sensor array is big too - 3.2 Gigapixels (that’s Giga, not Mega!).  To get an idea of how large the camera’s sensor array will be, here’s a picture of a 1:1 scale model of the sensor.  This model also illustrates the field of view, about 10 degrees, with the full moon included for reference.


Sensor Array Mock-Up

The telescope that the camera serves has a unique short focal length multi-mirror design, including the largest convex mirror ever made, illustrated here with the camera included.

Telescope Mirrors and Camera

A cut-away view of the camera indicates some of it’s complexity with lenses, changeable filters, and large cooling system and electronics bay behind the sensor.


Camera Cut Away View

The telescope itself is also under construction on a mountain top in Chile.  This image shows a conceptual rendering of the completed facility.  First light is planned for 2020, and full operation will commence during 2022.


For more information on the LSST and it’s remarkable camera please explore the LSST web site, and this article from the camera’s builder at the National Accelerator Laboratory.

Having a background in Astronomy, I find this this new camera pretty amazing. Oh, also worth mentioning, the price tag is astronomical!

Jim Harrison, APS President