570-megapixel dark energy camera takes first pictures of space

Why is the expansion of the universe accelerating? We're not quite sure. But like every other problem, we may be able to solve it with more megapixels. 570 megapixels seems like it might be enough, and Fermilab has just fired up its massive Dark Energy Camera to see what it can find.

It's gigapixels that are all the rage nowadays, and all of those gigapixel images come from little tiny cameras taking lots of pictures and stitching them together. DECam works sort of the same way, in that it's made up of 62 individual "cameras" all stitched together in one huge sensor. Every time DECam takes a picture, all of these cameras team up to record 2.2 degrees worth of sky, which is about the equivalent as the size of a full Moon as seen from Earth twenty times over.

DECam is mounted at the focal point of a 13-foot-wide mirror on a telescope in Chile, and over the next five years, it will capture a full eighth of the night sky in exquisitely detailed color images, including 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters, and 4,000 supernovae. Specifically, DECam will be searching for Dark Energy via studies of Type Ia supernovae, baryon acoustic oscillations, galaxy clusters, and weak gravitational lensing, with the hope of eventually being able to identify a cause for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.

Whatever this thing finds, it's already producing some spectacular images, and you can see the very first of them in the gallery below.

Dark Energy Survey, via Fermilab

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