ROYAL GREENWICH OBSERVATORY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY. ROYAL GREENWICH OBSERVATORY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY.
View of an astronomical CCD camera ready for fitting to a telescope. The CCD, or charge-coupled device, is the integrated circuit (silicon chip) at the centre of the green circuit board. It consists of 640,000 light-sensitive elements called pixels, arranged in 800 columns of 800 pixels each. When a telescope's image is focused onto the CCD, an electrical charge is built up in each pixel proportional to the brightness of the light falling on it. CCDs began to be widely used in astronomy in the early 1980s because they are more sensitive than photographic plates.
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