Canon Expands Dragonfly Telephoto Array With 120 EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II Lenses

Dragonfly Telephoto Array

We reported about the Dragonfly Telephoto Array in the past. It’s a project developed by the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics for which Canon delivers the optics.

The Dragonfly Telephoto Array started with 10 lenses and is designed to reveal

[…] the faint structure [of the universe] by greatly reducing scattered light and internal reflections within its optics. It achieves this using ten, commercially available Canon 400mm lenses with unprecedented nano-fabricated coatings with sub-wavelength structure on optical glasses.

Now Canon provides 120 (one-hundert-twenty) more EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II lenses to the array. So, now that you got what it is about, here is a more detailed description about the Dragonfly Telephoto Array:

The Dragonfly Telephoto Array is a novel telescope concept designed to image large and extremely faint structures in the night sky. These structures hold important clues to the distribution and nature of dark matter, the elusive substance whose contribution to the total mass-energy density of the Universe is five times higher than that of normal matter. These structure are hard to see with conventional telescopes due to a combination of scattered light from bright stars and their mosaicked detectors. Dragonfly harnesses the power of commercially-available high-end telephoto lenses to address these issues. The latest generation of Canon 400 mm f/2,8 lenses have superb anti-reflection properties, owing to one of the first applications of nano-fabricated coatings with sub-wavelength structures on optical glasses. Furthermore, each lens is equipped with a single monolithic wide-field detector covering six square degrees, and with multiple redundant lines of sight Dragonfly achieves extremely accurate modeling of the night sky emission. 

Commissioned in 2013 with three lenses, the array currently consists of 48 lenses in two clusters of 24. Optically the telescope functions as the equivalent of a 1.0 m diameter refractor with a focal ratio of f/0.4, the largest and by far the most sensitive lens telescope in existence. “Behind the scenes” innovations include the use of AI planning tools to optimize nightly operations and survey design, unit-based basic data processing with compute sticks, the application of Internet of Things operational protocols to communicate with the 48 lenses, and fully automated gate-driven cloud-based data analysis. Our dual goals are to:

1. Improve our understanding of dark matter through study of the low surface brightness universe

2. Harness the potential of distributed telescopes, combined with advances in information technology, for transformational science

Canon press release:

Canon U.S.A. Inc., to Provide 120 EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lenses for Expansion of the Dragonfly Telephoto Array Project

MELVILLE, NY, November 18, 2021 Canon U.S.A. Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today announced 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 company will provide the project with 120 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM large-aperture super-telephoto single-focal length lenses, and its parent company, Canon Inc., will provide technical assistance.

The Dragonfly Telephoto Array is a telescope array equipped with multiple Canon large-aperture super-telephoto single focal length lenses – specifically, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. The telescope was designed in 2013 by Project Dragonfly, an international research team from Yale University and the University of Toronto. The Dragonfly Telephoto Array is capable of capturing images of galaxies that are so faint and large that they had escaped detection by even the largest conventional telescopes. Its mission is to study the low surface brightness universe to elucidate the nature of dark matter and to utilize the concept of distributed telescopes.

In support of this research, Canon provided technical assistance by supplying 40 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses in 2015, expanding the array to 48 lenses with 24 telescopes bundled on two separate mounts. Since then, the research team has produced significant results in extragalactic astronomy, including discovering the ultra-diffuse galaxy Dragonfly 44 in 2016 and the identification of a galaxy that lacks dark matter, NGC 1052-DF2, in 2018.

This time, Canon will provide technical assistance by supplying 120 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses to the research team, further expanding the telescope array. With a total of 168 lenses, the telescope array has a light-gathering capability equivalent to that of a refracting telescope of 1.8 meters in diameter, with a focal length of only 40 cm, and is expected to open new windows on the universe.

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.

Message from Professor Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University comments

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. 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.

Canon’s CE-SAT-2B Experimental Satellite Successfully Launched Into Space


Canon’s CE-SAT-2B Earth-imaging satellite has been launched into space without issues.

The Canon CE-SAT-IIB is a microsatellite equipped with middle-size telescope and an ultra-high sensitivity camera to take night images of the Earth. This time three types of cameras are mounted on the satellite, one of them being a mirrorless camera (EOS M100) and another one a compact camera for wide angle images (PowerShot G9X Mark II).

Spaceflight Now reports:

The largest spacecraft on Wednesday’s mission was CE-SAT-2B, an Earth observation satellite for Canon Electronics of Japan.

The 78-pound (35.5-kilogram) spacecraft is Canon’s third microsatellite to launch, following an experimental Earth-imaging station that launched in 2017 on an Indian PSLV rocket.

A follow-on satellite named CE-SAT 1B launched in July on a previous Rocket Lab mission, but it was destroyed when the Electron rocket failed before reaching orbit.

According to Canon, CE-SAT-2B carries three types of cameras to be demonstrated in orbit.

“With the newly developed super high sensitivity camera, CE-SAT-2B is capable of observing the Earth during night time,” Canon said in a press release. “The satellite is equipped with three types of cameras including Canon’s mirrorless camera and compact digital camera.

“CE-SAT-2B will go through a two-year demonstration experiment for forthcoming production of cassegrain reflectors as series,” Canon said.

Thanks Edina for the tip.

Lens Maker Irix Reaches For The Stars, Literally


Lens manufacturer Irix announced the Irix 300 SR, a lens ready for outer space.

Press release:

Young photographic company Irix is reaching infinity…literally.

Irix, young company which successfully entered photography world just few years ago with innovative and properly designed products is reaching another level of evolution. Quality, durability and precision were always strong points of Irix. It has been just proven. Irix has been selected as cooperating company in exciting, high technology project.

Irix Team is proud to announce its participation in the project of the first Polish Earth observation satellite named Światowid. Nanosatellite equipped with the test platform of future Irix 300SR lens, on April 17, 2019, will be elevated to Earth’s orbit.

The collaboration between the manufacturer of Irix lenses and SatRevolution company began in mid 2017. The result of this collaboration is the first prototype of the Irix 300 SR experimental lens, which, combined with the camera installed in the Światowid nanosatellite, will provide the best possible quality of Earth’s images from space.

Irix 300 SR – the first Space Ready Irix lens

The technical requirements for the lens design were a real challenge for the Irix R&D department, as they included strictly defined optical parameters such as: focal length, f-number, optical resolution and very low level of optical aberrations. The design of the lens has to be also modular in order to provide the possibility of use with satellites equipped with cameras of a different resolution and specific diagonal size of the sensor. Such an optical system has to fit designed place for optical system in satellite’s construction. Maximum diameter, but what is more important in case of nanosatellites weight must be strictly controlled. (Światowid’s optical system limit is 300 grams / 0.66 lbs).

Very important for the success of the satellite’s mission are launching standards. Launching into orbit and working in open space is a complicated process. Extremely high standards of materials and technologies used must be fulfilled. The same requirements were applied to the Irix 300SR lens. Design and construction process must follow NASA guidelines for materials and technologies permitted for space flight. In other words, the Irix 300SR has to meet requirements much higher than lenses used on a daily basis by astronauts photographing from the board of the International Space Station.

Today’s launch is a first step in research project supported by EU funds (Polish National Centre for Research and Development). Irix R&D center in Poland for next several months will be preparing lens for next launch. Except optical performance which will be on highest level individual components of the lens as well as the complete lens will have to pass various tests. Among other things resistance to overload as well as mechanical and acoustic vibrations occurring during the launch of the rocket will be tested. The aging tests will verify the lens’ resistance to a wide temperature range of -50°C to 150° (-58°F to 302°F), UV radiation and extreme vacuum conditions.

Knowledge and technologies of this project will be used in other lenses and products intended for the “civil” photographic market. In other words, Irix product will become even better and more innovative.

Ready for the mission

The satellite Światowid with the test platform of future Irix 300SR lens onboard will be delivered to the International Space Station via the NanoRacks operator as part of the Cygnus NG-11 Commercial Resupply Service. The launch of Antares 230 rocket is planned for April 17, 2019 at 4:46 PM EDT (20:46 UTC) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia (US).

Irix Team cordially invites you to visit the special website dedicated to Irix 300SR lens available at

We also invite you to visit the SatRevolution website at, where you will find more details about the Światowid satellite project.

Canon fires another small rocket into space

canon rumorsNext episode of Canon’s space saga. Previous episodes can be seen here.

As Nikkei Asian Review reports, Canon was set to launch another mini-rocket into space on February 2nd.

TOKYO — A number of Japanese companies have been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to get commercial launches of small rockets off the ground. But they have not given up.

Canon Electronics and Interstellar Technologies both failed in their first attempt to launch a small rocket. Having learned from the missteps, they are set to try again soon. If they succeed before the full enactment in November of a law governing the commercial use of space in Japan, their chances of turning their launch businesses into moneymakers will improve significantly.

Canon Electronics is set to fire off its SS-520 minirocket, possibly as soon as Feb. 3. The rocket, which is a little bigger than a utility pole, was developed by Japan’s space agency, JAXA, and has a control system made by Canon Electronics and others. It will take off from JAXA’s Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, in southwestern Japan.

The company’s first launch, in January 2017, was a near miss. The rocket successfully lifted off the launch pad, but ground controllers soon lost contact. Fearing that it might fly out of control, JAXA shut down the engine, plunging the rocket into the sea. The satellite and control system that were scheduled to be tested during the flight sank beneath the waves.

Read the report at Nikkei Asian Review.

Canon joins private sector in Japan to establish rocket launching sites, report

Image courtesy of Canon

Next step in Canon’s race to the space. Our previous reports about Canon’s space efforts. Canon also build its own micro satellite with Canon EOS 5D Mark III cameras on board.

Nikkei Asian Review reports:

TOKYO — Japan’s first private-sector effort to build rocket-launching facilities is underway as new aerospace legislation paves the way for meeting growth in demand for small observation satellites.

Canon Electronics, a Canon unit, has joined IHI subsidiary IHI Aerospace, construction company Shimizu and the state-owned Development Bank of Japan to establish joint venture New Generation Small Rocket Development Planning. The new company had begun scouting potential sites nationwide by Tuesday, aiming to shorten the list in time to embark on operations in fiscal 2018 at the earliest, following government checks.

The government has led Japanese space development. Launches have generally been at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tanegashima or Uchinoura space centers in Kagoshima Prefecture in the south.

Read the report at Nikkei Asian Review…

Canon joins space race by building a low-cost “mini-rocket” for Japan

canon rumors

Nikkei Asian Review reports:

Canon is helping Japan build a low-cost “mini-rocket” for future satellite launches as private companies seek to give the country’s lagging space industry greater thrust.

Engineers from Canon Electronics, a unit of the Japanese imaging devices maker, have joined a team led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, that is building what stands to be the world’s smallest satellite launch vehicle — about the size of a utility pole.

The company’s experience designing and manufacturing devices such as digital cameras will help the team choose the best rocket parts as well as make key control instruments smaller and lighter. Read the article…

Well, wow, Canon is expanding to the universe! :-) They may be late on the mirrorless bandwagon but they might be the first to shot beautiful JPGs in space.