A 570-megapixel camera, dubbed the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), has captured its first images in a quest to map deep space.
60 million light years from Earth sits the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365, as seen on 12 September 2012.
(Credit: Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)
Developed by a team spanning three continents, the phone booth-sized DECam now sits atop the 4-metre Víctor M Blanco Telescope in Chile. The aim is to capture the nature of dark energy in a survey beginning in December.
The imagery captured during the survey will potentially help scientists unravel the mystery surrounding the rapid expansion of the universe. It is thought that dark energy is the cause.
A DECam prototype.
DECam is capable of capturing light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away. In the course of its five-year photography spree, the camera is hoped to snap one eighth of the sky.
The main image above is one of the first photos captured, showing the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365, in the Fornax cluster of galaxies.
The 570-megapixel DECam consists of 62 CCD sensors, which are specially designed to be more receptive to red-shifted light. There are five lenses that provide an incredibly wide field of view — the biggest lens has a diameter of just under 1 metre, and weighs over 172kg.