The Sciences

Forget Megapixels: Here Comes the Gigapixel Sky Camera

The Pan-Starrs-1 telescope will scan the skies for asteroids and comets that could wipe out life on Earth.

By Diego CupoloApr 3, 2009 12:00 AM

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To help Earth’s inhabitants avoid the fate of the dinosaurs and the Clovis people, researchers with the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-Starrs) have developed the world’s largest digital camera, which can capture 1.4 billion pixels, to scan the skies for approaching asteroids or comets. The camera is scheduled to begin its search this month with the Pan-Starrs-1 telescope in Haleakala, Hawaii.

Pan-Starrs will repeatedly scan the same portions of the sky to look for changes, such as the supernova discovered during the telescope’s test runs last fall. And if an asteroid is detected hurtling toward Earth, scientists and engineers are still working on ways to use spacecraft to alter its orbit.

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