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Image credit: Alexander Pietrow

Researcher uses Game Boy Camera to capture 2-bit photos of space

Astronomy photography with 1998’s smallest digital camera.
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Alexander Pietrow

The Game Boy Camera, released in 1998, wasn't even close to the weirdest peripheral for Nintendo's classic handheld console and even earned a Guinness World Record for the smallest digital camera in the world. Its 2-bit, 128 x 128 pixel CMOS sensor managed very grainy black-and-white shots, making it far more fun than technically impressive. And yet, a Dutch researcher and tinkerer just used one to catch some charmingly blocky photos of the moon and Jupiter.

Astrogphrapher Alexander Pietrow used a universal cell phone mount to strap one of the 19-year-old monochrome workhorses to an appropriately old telescope (built in 1838) in Leiden University's Old Observatory and aimed at at the stellar bodies.

The resulting photos are barely detailed -- Jupiter is half a dozen pixels wide -- but they're blocky in a charming throwback to the original Game Boy's 8-bit graphical style. Pietrow even managed to pick out three of the gas giant's moons, singular pixels in a field of star dots. (Note that the image below has been blown up 400 percent to make it visible, since the Game Boy Camera takes photos at a whopping 112 x 128 pixel resolution.)

Maybe it doesn't do much for astronomy as a field, but it's a lovely reminder that space still fascinates at any resolution -- that we still find meaning when stretching for the cosmos with the crudest of tools.

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