Raytheon has announced the creation of the world's largest infra-red light wave detector, the "4K by 4K" focal plane array. Not only will it allow whole hemisphere satellite monitoring at 16 megapixel resolution but it should also make sensors less dependent on the complicated scanning mechanisms used in current systems.
Optimized for applications in space, the new array offers a field of view four times larger than anything currently in use and allows for the collection of data in much greater detail. A focal plane array captures packets of light waves (photons) and converts them into electrical impulses that can be used to produce data about the object that emitted the photons.
Just like photography, the more pixels you have at your disposal, the greater the area available for survey. Because its 16 million pixels (4096 by 4096) will facilitate detailed detection of obscure and dim objects - or events over a very wide field of view - using just one array, it will likely find its way into early warning missile detection systems.
Incorporating the array in weather satellites could give constant, detailed information about weather systems stretching over vast areas. Astronomers could also benefit from being able to monitor phenomena at greater distances than previously possible.
It's a comforting thought that monitoring machines orbiting the Earth could now possess an "unblinking eye" which, in a single glance, can detect and report an entire hemisphere's activity.
Find out more about the project at the company's website.