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TALK ABOUT A sharper image,” Science magazine, September 11, 2020, wrote. The news brief describes a recently constructed imaging sensor array that captured a world-record 3200 megapixels in a single shot.

Here are tidbits of celebration as well as technical amplification of this feat.

The Array’s Future Home. This giant array of sensors will be used at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Cerro Pachon, Chile, scheduled for operation in 2021. See CELEBRATING VERA RUBIN—HERALDER OF DARK MATTER for more information on this facility and the American cosmologist/astronomer it honors.

The imaging sensor array destined for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. Image from Science, September 11, 2020.

Science reports, “The sensor’s focal plane is more than 60 centimeters [23.6 in.] wide, much larger than the 3.5-centimeter sensors on high-end consumer digital cameras, says the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which built the array.” 

SLAC inherits its name from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and is one of 17 national laboratories supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Show Us Your Megapixels. A megapixel is a unit of graphical resolution, describing how sharply an image is produced. A kin to other mega scientific units, a megapixel is a tad more than a million pixels, actually 220 or 1,048,576 of these little guys.

A pixel is a single dot of illumination on a display screen, out of which the image is composed. If you have access to a scanner, you can fool with image resolution by adjusting its dpi (dots/inch) setting. The dpi unit describes the number of ink dots on a printed image; ppi (pixels/inch) is its digital image equivalent. 

As described at, “Digital images with more pixels have better detail. The amount of ppi is determined by the image size of a photo.” 

Dots per Inch. Images here at SimanaitisSays are scanned at 300 dpi (unless my scanner inadvertently defaults to its blocky 50 dpi).

Above, an image scanned at 300 dpi; below, the same size image at 50 dpi.

Front/Rear Megapixels. Specs of my trusty iPhone6 list its rear camera resolution (i.e. its dashboard facing me) at 8 megapixels. Its front camera resolution (i.e., in Facetime mode) is only 1.2 megapixels. 

That is, for better resolution, use the rear camera setup.

To put my iPhone6 in perspective, high-end digital cameras are in the 50- to 100-megapixel range.

A Pinhole Camera. In its first imaging test, the SLAC team devised a 150-micron pinhole to project the image of a Romanesco broccoli onto the focal plane.

Images from EurekAlert.

Wanna See a Golf Ball at 15 Miles? Science reports that, in testing, the Vera C. Rubin’s giant sensor “recorded a variety of objects, including a Romanesco broccoli, at that resolution, which is detailed enough to show a golf ball clearly from 24 kilometers away.”

That’s quite the megadrive. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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