Some engineers at Fermilab are having fun!


Prototype 570 Mp camera. Source: Symmetry magazine.

They’re building a super-sized digital camera using CCDs (Charge Coupled Devices) that are particularly sensitive to near-infrared light to measure, among other things, redshifts of remote galaxies. The longer-term aim is to study the dark energy of universe more accurately than has been possible to date.

At a half metre in diameter, it’s a big digital camera!

(We really need an astronomer on these blogs. The technology of the endeavour impresses me and I understand it well enough to “get” it, but the astronomy itself is as new to me as it will be to most of my readers.)

It’s a long-running running project, with roots back at least as far as 2004 and a big, multi-lab, multi-national effort. The telescope is located in northern Chile, on Kitt’s Peak.

Source: CTIO newsletter

Kitt's Peak. Source: CTIO newsletter, Dec. 2009.

Looking at the photographs, if I ever make it to Chile, I’d love to visit this place. All those high-tech labs and buildings perched high up.

You can read the CTIO centre’s excellent newsletter free online (offered as PDF documents). As you might expect from an astronomy centre, they have great photos. For example, some of the backstory of the project can be found in the newsletter (PDF).

A great account of the science (with pictures) can be found in an article at Symmetry magazine by Kristine Crane (published by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). Subscription is free. Kristine’s article is well worth anyone reading. (It’s written for a general readership.)

While you might not make it to Chile, you can take the tours at Mt. John observatory at Lake Tekapo in the heart of the South Island of New Zealand (photo below).

Source: wikipedia

Mt John Observatory, New Zealand. Source: wikipedia

New Zealand has been short-listed as one possible location for the Square kilometre array (Ska) telescope, which is–in a manner of speaking–an even bigger camera. Here’s hoping it comes our way!