British astronomical camera deploys

Dec. 23, 2004 at 1:57 PM
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MAUNA KEA, Hawaii, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Britain's astronomical Infrared Telescope has begun operating at the summit of the dormant volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

The wide field camera, or WFCAM, is the world's most powerful infrared survey camera, and will survey large regions of the sky at infrared wavelengths. It is expected to discover both the nearest objects outside our solar system and the farthest known objects in the universe.

In a single exposure it can image an area of the sky equal to that of the full moon.

"WFCAM will be used to do surveys of the infrared sky which will detect objects one hundred times fainter than those in the deepest existing surveys," said Dr. Paul Hirst, WFCAM instrument scientist. "This survey program will take up to seven years to complete and will provide astronomers with a picture of the infrared sky to unprecedented depth."

When WFCAM is scanning the sky, it produces images at a phenomenal rate. In a single night, it will generate over 200 gigabytes of data -- enough to fill over 300 CDs.

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