Canon's giant image sensor gets a job

The mammoth chip at the University of Tokyo's Kiso Observatory spotted more dim meteors in a minute than otherwise are seen in a year.

Canon's 202x205mm sensor dwarfs a high-end full-frame sensor for expensive SLR cameras.
Canon's 202x205mm sensor dwarfs a high-end full-frame sensor for expensive SLR cameras. Canon

A huge image sensor that Canon showed off last year turns out to have more of a purpose in life than touting the company's manufacturing prowess. It's being used to help a Japanese observatory hunt for meteors.

Canon's 202x205mm sensor dwarfs the 24x36mm "full-frame" sensors that are used commercially in the company's high-end SLR cameras. When Canon touted the giant sensor last year , it said, "Potential applications for the new high-sensitivity CMOS sensor include the video recording of stars in the night sky and nocturnal animal behavior."

Well, it looks like those words weren't academic, so to speak. The University of Tokyo's Kiso Observatory is using the sensor to capture nighttime video to monitor for dim meteors. The large sensor lets the astronomers record a relatively large patch of sky 3.3 degrees by 3.3 degrees

The University of Tokyo's Kiso Observatory
The University of Tokyo's Kiso Observatory Canon

It's sensitive enough to record light from very dim objects with brightness of magnitude 10, Canon said. That's about 25,000 times dimmer than a bright star such as Antares.

Only about 10 magnitude-10 meteors are seen in a year, but the sensor and the telescope spotted that many in just a minute of video. That could help scientists to better understand them, not just their brighter compatriots.

The sensor is about as large as one can be made from today's prevailing microprocessor manufacturing processes using silicon wafers that measure 300mm in diameter.

via Petapixel.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.


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