Washington: Astronomers have announced that the first Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) telescope, PS1, is fully operational.
The system will search for “killer” asteroids and comets and will map large portions of the sky nightly, making it an efficient sleuth for not just asteroids but also supernovae and other variable objects.
“Pan-STARRS is an all-purpose machine. Having a dedicated telescope repeatedly surveying large areas opens up a lot of new opportunities,” said Harvard astronomer Edo Berger.
“PS1 will discover an unprecedented variety of Centaurs [minor planets between Jupiter and Neptune], trans-Neptunian objects, and comets. The system has the capability to detect planet-size bodies on the outer fringes of our solar system,” said Smithsonian astronomer Matthew Holman.
Pan-STARRS features the world’s largest digital camera – a 1,400-megapixel (1.4 gigapixel) monster. With it, astronomers can photograph an area of the sky as large as 36 full Moons in a single exposure.
Inventor Dr. John Tonry (IfA) said, “We played as close to the bleeding edge of technology as you can without getting cut!”
Each image, if printed out as a 300-dpi photograph, would cover half a basketball court, and PS1 takes an image every 30 seconds. The amount of data PS1 produces every night would fill 1,000 DVDs.