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World’s largest digital camera

  • Context (IE): The world’s largest optical astronomy digital camera is going to be hosted on the edge of the Atacama desert in Chile.
  • The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest on the planet, and due to its exceptionally bright skies, it is perfect for astronomy.
  • The camera will be mounted on the Simonyi Survey Telescope at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. It weighs approximately three tonnes and has a resolution of 3.2 gigapixels.
  • The observatory comprises an eight-meter wide-field telescope, a groundbreaking camera, and an automated data processing infrastructure.
  • Objective: To understand the nature of dark energy and dark matter in the universe, studying the possibility of Earth colliding with asteroids or stars and planets close to the sun.
  • The observatory is expected to collect around 20 terabytes of data daily, culminating in a 15-petabyte catalog over its decade-long survey.

Atacama Desert

  • The Atacama Desert is a 600-mile-long (1,000-kilometer) plateau in the north of Chile, near the borders of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina in South America.
  • It is wedged between the coastal Cordillera de la Costa mountain range and the Andes Mountains.
  • It is the driest nonpolar desert in the world, as well as the only true desert to receive less precipitation than the polar desert.
  • It is almost without vegetation, except along slopes moistened by drizzle during the winter or in mesic valleys (moderate supply of moisture) that bisect the otherwise xeric (dry) desert.
  • The Atacama Desert contains the world’s largest supply of sodium nitrate.

Atacama Desert - PMF IAS

Why is the Atacama desert dry?

  • Rain shadow effect of the Andes.
  • Off-shore trade winds & westerlies that blow far to the south of the Tropic of Capricorn (dry subsid-
  • ence caused by the South Pacific high-pressure cell).
  • Cold ocean currents: Cold Humboldt current & upwelling of cold water due to Walker Circulation.
  • The most arid region is situated between the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range (two-sided rain shadow).

Why is the Atacama desert dry? - PMF IAS

Credit: BBC

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