Friday, 08 Jul, 2011 Science
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ESA to Launch Spacecraft Equipped with a Billion-Pixel Camera

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The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to launch in 2013 its Gaia spacecraft equipped with a billion-pixel imaging sensor. This will be the world's largest digital camera that will help identify 15,000 new alien planets.

It would be interesting to note that the huge sensor is composed of 106 separate CCD detectors, collected together in order to create a gigantic camera that is more than 3 feet wide.

The system is powerful enough to be able to detect a hair located 600 miles away and accurately measure its width. From Earth the camera can detect a small coin on the moon. But these are not the real objectives of the device.

Gaia will spend time (5 years to be precise) producing a 3D map of our galaxy with about a thousand million stars. In just one day the camera will be able to identify about 250 quasars, 30 brown dwarfs, 10 stars that have planets orbiting them, and 10 exploding stars found in other galaxies.

The first images from Gaia will arrive in sometime in 2013.

[via ESA]

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