As if Japan’s dominance of the optical photographic market wasn’t carved deeply enough in stone, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan installed their new Hyper Suprime-Cam last August on the Mauna Kea Observatories’ Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. This telescope has no relation to the car company, except that both are named after the same cluster of stars, known in English as the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. The project was spearheaded by Dr. Satoshi Miyazaki, with collaboration from Canon Inc, Mitsubishi Electric, and a number of prominent universities.
This astro-camera is an absolute behemoth; weighing in at 3 tons and measuring 3 meters high, it contains 116 CCD sensors joined together for a total of 870 million pixels. These combine to capture a field of view of 1.5 degrees – seven times more than the current Suprime-Cam. The sensors are specially engineered to capture the extreme light spectrum of outer space, in hopes that the images collected might help understand some of science’s toughest questions, such as the nature of dark matter and the rapid acceleration of cosmological expansion.
The Hyper Suprime-Cam has been in the works since 2008, championed largely by Japanese universities, as well as the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan and Princeton University in the United States. Mitsubishi built the focus drive motor, as well as the chassis which holds a Canon-made lens in seven parts. Its sensor must be operated at temperatures of -100 degrees Celsius to eliminate noise and interference from damaging the raw data.
Thanks to groundbreaking machines like this, the photographic medium continues to enjoy the honour of being the modern world’s most useful art form, always there to lend a hand in helping us unravel the greatest mysteries of the universe.
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