In the UK, scientists from Durham, Edinburgh and Belfast universities will fund the instrument, pictured right, which will scour the skies for any asteroids on a collision course with Earth. The PS1 Telescope, on the Pacific island of Maui, Hawaii, is being fitted with the world’s largest digital camera. It will have 1.4 billion pixels – about 300 times as many as a typical camera on sale in the High Street.
The telescope’s nearly 6ft-wide eye – a 71-inch light-collecting mirror – will be used to survey the night sky from the summit of Haleakala mountain more efficiently than ever before.
The telescope, set up by the University of Hawaii, is expected to discover billions of new stars, galaxies and solar system objects including potential “killer asteroids” when it begins operations next year. Astronomers say it will also produce the most detailed three-dimensional map of the universe ever made.
More than 30 world-renowned scientists and their graduate students have agreed to analyse the flood of data expected from the telescope over the next three and half years.
Project leader Kenneth Chambers said: “We decided to recruit a number of top astronomers to join us in order to make the best use of this fantastic instrument.”
The worldwide consortium will contribute about $10 million (£5.3 million) to cover the cost of operating the telescope.
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