At approximately one billion pixels, it’s the largest digital camera ever built for a space mission. Over a five-year period, the “billion-pixel array” will be used aboard the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, to map upwards of a billion stars. While it will be focusing mainly on our own Milky Way galaxy, Gaia will also be mapping other celestial bodies, including galaxies and quasars near the edge of the observable universe.
New images from the rejuvenated, more powerful Hubble Space Telescope have universally delighted astronomers. Last week, observations from four of its six operating science instruments were released by NASA
. They include colorful, multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely-packed star cluster, an eerie ‘pillar of creation’, and a ‘butterfly’ nebula.
While the twinkle of stars may delight poets and lovers, for a scientist it’s simply evidence of the atmospheric disturbance that blurs and distorts detail in deep space images. Combining an incredible 1500 exposures a second capability with an extremely sensitive CCD220 image sensor, the OCam camera is able to analyze and correct these distortions, enabling pictures taken through Very Large Telescopes (VLT) on Earth to be as sharp as those taken from space.