Monday, July 11, 2011

European Space Agency: Billion pixel Gaia camera starts to take shape

Message from the European Space Agency (ESA):

"Another milestone in the development of Gaia, ESA's ultra-sensitive space astrometry mission, was passed on 1 June when the 106 electronic detectors of its billion pixel camera were assembled like a large mosaic for the first time.

Technicians carefully bolting and aligning each of the CCDs onto the support structure. Credit: Astrium
"During its ambitious mission to map one thousand million stars, the spinning Gaia spacecraft will monitor each of these pinpoints of light up to 70 times over a five year period. In order to detect distant stars about one million times fainter than the eye can see, Gaia will carry 106 charge coupled devices (CCDs), each of which is, effectively, a miniature camera.

The complete Gaia CCD mosaic.
Credit: Astrium
"The contract to provide the Gaia CCDs was awarded to e2v Technologies of Chelmsford, UK, in summer 2005, and their production kept the company busy for more than 5 years. With an overall total of about a thousand million pixels, Gaia's focal plane is the largest digital camera ever built for a space mission.

"Technicians from the mission's prime contractor, Astrium France, have been carefully bolting and aligning each of the CCDs onto the support structure at the company's facility in Toulouse..."  read more here.