A project of the Dark Energy Survey collaboration


Big Sky, Big Beautiful Machines


Sometimes, big ideas need really big machines. Here, we see a rare close-up of the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) and most of its components. Over the course of about 10 years, hundreds of scientists and engineers from institutions across the world designed, built and calibrated the major components of DECam—an optical lens barrel, a hexapod, a filter changer, a shutter, CCD sensors and control electronics (from lower right to upper left).

In the image, DECam is not yet actually on the Blanco Telescope, which is in Chile. Before being installed there, it was assembled at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) in Batavia, Illinois in a test facility. The operations team performed tests to make sure that the multiple components came together and operated seamlessly before shipping all the components to their final location at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). Fermilab technician Kevin Kuk works on the last elements of assembly before testing.

As we plunge into a new era of science with big data, the needs for diverse skill sets and efficient communication between many scientists becomes increasingly clear. Last century, a few people around a table could design and create an experiment in a very short time, and with it make astounding discoveries. It is unclear how often this will happen in the future: our biggest questions require so many measurements with such high precision, that we need more and more people to work on them.  Welcome to a new day in science, welcome to the super-collaborative era.

Written by: Det. B. Nord [FNAL]
Image by: Reidar Hahn [FNAL]

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