Largest digital camera
LSST Camera, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Vera C. Rubin Observatory
2,800 kilogram(s)
United States (Palo Alto)

The largest digital camera is the Rubin Observatory LSST Camera, which is 1.65 m (5 ft 4 in) in diameter, 3.73 m (12 ft 3 in) long and weighs 2,800 kg (6,200 lbs). The camera was unveiled by its primary contractor, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (USA) in Palo Alto, California, on 26 October 2022.

The LSST camera combines a massive 3.2-billion-pixel CCD array with a set of enormous lenses (mounted in a powered carousel) and image-acquisition systems. All these components are sealed inside an air-tight, refrigerated housing. THe resolution is high enough to photograph a golf ball from 24 km away.

In 2024, the camera will be installed on the Charles Simonyi Survey Telescope at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, hence the "LSST" acronym in the name), currently under construction on Cerro Pachon in Elqui Province, Chile. This facility is designed to continuously monitor the night sky – using its huge camera to take up to 15 terabytes of images every night. Displaying just one of its full-sky images full-size would require over 1,500 high-definition TV screens.

The LSST camera, when installed in Chile, will have a field of view of 9.6 square degrees. For context the full moon has an apparent size (when viewed from earth) of just 0.2 square degrees. By imaging large areas of the night sky on a regular basis, astronomers will be able to identify patterns of movement and variations in brightness that might not otherwise be apparent.

Objects which move through the sky include small solar system bodies like asteroids and comets, but nearby stars also make small displacements in angle due to intrinsic velocities and the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. Variations in stellar brightness can be caused by periodic instabilities, the motions of stars around one another in binary systems, and explosive events like novae and supernovae One of the big mysteries the Vera C. Rubin observatory might be able to solve is the question of whether or not there is another dim and remote planet beyond Neptune – the so-called Planet Nine. Its combination of high resolution and wide field-of-view makes it well equipped to spot what would be a tiny speck, moving almost imperceptibly slowly between the stars.