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Space Earth Technology

1.4 Billion Pixel Camera To Watch For Asteroids 138

Posted by timothy
from the one-last-hawaiian-vacation dept.
SpaceSlug writes "The world's largest digital camera is to be used to keep an eye out for asteroids heading towards Earth. The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) has been built by researchers at MIT's Lincoln Lab. At its heart is a 1.4 billion pixel (or 1400 megapixel) camera that will scan the night sky looking for rogue near-Earth objects from atop Mount Haleakala in Maui Island, Hawaii. The system uses something called an orthogonal transfer CCD to remove atmospheric blur from images."
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1.4 Billion Pixel Camera To Watch For Asteroids

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  • by yogibaer (757010) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:02PM (#25888737)
    No, it's a lost toolbag! So many practical applications for things lost in space.
  • by Darth_brooks (180756) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {773reppilc}> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:04PM (#25888769) Homepage

    Asteroid hunting doesn't really have anything to do with blue or red shifting. You're not looking to see whether a distant object is moving towards or away form you. More likely, they're looking at dots. Specifically, which dots in picture A moved in comparison to picture B and which one didn't.

    Think of it this way: Step out at night and look at the stars and whatever planet happens to be in view. Now, step out the next night at precisely the same time (ok, to be fair, a couple minutes later) and look again. The stars are in the same spot, but the planet has moved.

    With high-res digital cameras you can take very precise pictures, then let software pick out which of the faint dots are distant stars, and which maybe be asteroids. It's a pretty standard way of discovering and plotting the course of the various odds and ends floating around our solar system.

  • Blurred summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:11PM (#25888867) Homepage Journal

    The system uses something called an orthogonal transfer CCD to remove atmospheric blur from images.

    Shoddy. "Something called?" Come on, guys, this is supposed to be "news for nerds". If you can't find it on wikipedia, use google.

    orthogonal transfer CCD (OTCCD) [harvard.edu]

    We have designed and built a new type of CCD that we call an orthogonal transfer CCD (OTCCD), which permits parallel clocking horizontally as well as vertically. The device has been used successfully to remove image motion caused by atmospheric turbulence at rates up to 100 Hz, and promises to be a better, cheaper way to carry out image motion correction for imaging than by using fast tip/tilt mirrors. We report on the device characteristics, and find that the large number of transfers needed to track image motion does not significantly degrade the image either because of charge transfer inefficiency or because of charge traps. For example, after 100 sec of tracking at 100 Hz approximately 3% of the charge would diffuse into a skirt around the point spread function. Four nights of data at the Michigan-Dartmouth-MIT (MDM) 2.4-m telescope also indicate that the atmosphere is surprisingly benign, in terms of both the speed and coherence angle of image motion. Image motion compensation improved image sharpness by about 0.5'' in quadrature with no degradation over a field of at least 3 arcminutes. (SECTION: Astronomical Instrumentation)

  • by rpiquepa (644694) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:12PM (#25888883) Homepage
    You also should read a story published 4 days ago about this camera by ZDNet. Here is a link [zdnet.com] to this article, which contains several pictures not included in the Technology Review article.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:18PM (#25888977)

    He links to his own articles in comments because noone wants to see them on the front page anymore.

    Don't be fooled by his claim about 'several pictures'; really, there's only two, one of which is a generic photo of a galaxy. The TR article also has a generic picture of an astronomical object.

    The only picture Rolly is really offering is at
    http://www.blogsforcompanies.com/TTimages/pan_starrs_gigapixel_camera.jpg [blogsforcompanies.com]

  • by JayAitch (1277640) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:52PM (#25889453)

    Maybe for very far objects outside the solar system, but for these objects the earth moves a significant distance within a day. Backyard astronomers do this all the time.

  • Re:Pending Doom (Score:3, Informative)

    by Amazing Proton Boy (2005) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:50PM (#25901333) Homepage

    Um,no. You have missed the point.

    It has nothing to do with a shock wave. The theory is that the detonation will heat the surface of the asteroid causing a thin layer to vaporize and move away from the body thus imparting a small thrust and altering the trajectory.

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