Canon USA has announced that the company will provide technical assistance to Project Dragonfly, an international research team from Yale University and the University of Toronto, in its plan to expand the Dragonfly Telephoto Array.

The Dragonfly Telephoto Array is a telescope concept designed to capture images of extremely faint structures in the night sky. It is believed that the structures offer insight into the distribution and nature of dark matter.

Canon USA will provide the team with 120 Canon EF 400mm F2.8L IS II USM large-aperture super-telephoto lenses. Canon Inc. will also provide technical assistance. The telephoto array currently consists of 48 Canon EF 40mm F2.8L IS II USM lenses given to the team in 2013 and 2015. The lenses are arranged in two clusters of 24. The additional 120 primes will significantly enhance the array's capabilities.

Canon EF 400mm F2.8L IS II USM

Per Canon, the 168 lenses will create a telescope array with 'light-gathering capability equivalent to that of a refracting telescope of 1.8m in diameter with a focal length of only 40 cm.' It will be interesting to see what the team can discover with the larger telescope array and improved capabilities. In 2016, the team discovered the ultra-diffuse galaxy Dragonfly 44. In 2018, they identified a galaxy that lacks dark matter, NGC 1052-DF2.

Dragonfly Telephoto Array installed in New Mexico - Image by Pieter van Dokkum, Yale University

Canon adds, 'Canon is committed to contributing to the development of science and technology by leveraging the technological strengths it has cultivated as a leading imaging company.'

'The Dragonfly Telephoto Array is the pre-eminent survey telescope for finding faint, diffuse objects in the night sky. It has enabled us to discover ultra-diffuse galaxies and other low-surface brightness phenomena—rendering images that deepen our understanding of how galaxies are formed and providing key insights into the nature of dark matter. The initial array was equipped with 48 Canon EF 400mm telephoto lenses featuring anti-reflection coatings that mitigate the effects of light scattering, overcoming the limitations of conventional telescopes in detecting faint structures. The lenses are coupled to monolithic wide-field detectors that permit excellent error control,' said Professor Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University.

Photo taken with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. The moon is shown for scale - Image by Pieter van Dokkum, Yale University

Van Dokkum continues, 'With the addition of 120 of these lenses, in a newly developed configuration allowing extremely narrow filters to be used, Dragonfly will be the most powerful wide-field spectroscopic line mapping machine in existence. A major goal of the next iteration of the Dragonfly array is to detect and study the faint gas thought to exist around and between galaxies. By opening this new window on the cosmos, Dragonfly will tackle some of the most critical questions in astrophysics today.'