This is what the moon looks like through a Game Boy Camera and a 179 year-old telescope
The Game Boy Camera – even on its launch in 1998 – was more of a novelty than a serious piece of photographic equipment. A 2-bit 128×128 sensor resulted in grainy black and white images that would give a vague sense of the subject, if you were prepared to use your imagination and squint a little when looking at the results. It would also help if the subject was close, otherwise detail would be lost in a sea of greyscale blocks.
Obviously, you can’t just point the Game Boy at the sky and hope for the best. To pull off his unique ambition of 2-bit space photography, Pietrow used a strange combination of new, old and very old technology. The former is represented by a smartphone camera mount, and the latter the Fraunhofer telescope in Leiden University’s Old Observatory, which dates back to 1838. Joining the two was the relatively modern Game Boy Advance SP – but a real one, not one of these new-fangled keyring sized ones.
After waiting for a cloud-free night, Pietrow first tested the apparatus by capturing some shots of a relatively local target: the moon. At just 238,855 miles from Earth, this was very much the project on easy mode. You can even see craters on the moon’s surface.
Pietrow then moved on to Jupiter and was pleasantly surprised by the results, writing: “To the eye it was very bright and you could easily resolve the four Galilean moons. I half expected to maybe be capable of resolving the lines on the planet but was very surprised when one of the pictures showed three of the moons of Jupiter!”
Similar results could arguably be achieved with Microsoft Paint and a little patience, and yet there’s still something remarkably engaging about the images. They’re reproduced here, albeit blown up thanks to the Game Boy Camera’s 112×128 resolution. For comparison, the Apple Watch has a resolution of 272×340. The image below is 400% bigger than the original for closer inspection:
You’ve got to hand it to Nintendo. Who thought people would still be using the Game Boy Camera in 2017? Meanwhile, nobody thinks about Sega’s Game Gear TV adapter anymore…