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Your old Game Boy can photograph the moon

Because the '90s are officially back, one man rigs up an old Game Boy Camera to a much older telescope. What happens next is 2-bit glory.


A Game Boy and Camera attached to a six-inch telescope.

Alexander Pietrow

You may have noticed that a lot of things from the 1990s are getting attention again (how I missed you, Toad the Wet Sprocket). Even an ancient, somewhat inexplicable two-bit Game Boy Camera is finding new and inspiring uses. 

Leiden University astronomy student Alexander Pietrow connected the forgotten photography oddity, which was designed specifically for Nintendo's classic portable gaming unit, up to a 179-year-old telescope to grab some blocky images of other worlds in our solar system.

"I wondered if it would be possible to do astrophotography with this camera," Pietrow writes on his blog. "Searching the internet I was surprised that nobody had tried this before and decided to give it a go."


Dutch clock tower as seen through a telescope and captured by a 2-bit Game Boy Camera.

Alexander Pietrow

While he waited for the clouds to break over Leiden's "Old Observatory" in the Netherlands, he practiced by attaching the Game Boy camera to an 1838 six-inch Fraunhofer telescope and pointing it at a nearby clock tower.

The amount of detail his setup featuring a vintage telescope, obsolete oddball camera and cell phone adapter was able to capture is impressive, despite the fact that each of the three components hails from a different century.

A few weeks after the successful test, Pietrow finally got a clear, moonlit night for his low-tech astrophotography experiment. He rushed to the observatory and photographed the natural satellite through both the viewfinder and main telescope.

"The second moon series was much better, especially when looking at the border between the light and dark sides. We can clearly see craters on the Moon."


Shots captured by a Game Boy camera looking through a telescope manage to capture craters and other details on the moon.

Alexander Pietrow

Pietrow decided to see if he could push the limits of observing the solar system as it would appear through 2-bit eyes and pointed his rig at Jupiter. To his surprise, it was able to pick up not only the distant gas giant, but also its four Gallilean moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto).


A Game Boy Camera shot of Jupiter and four of its moons. Europa and Io appear very close together, relatively, as the same bright spot nearest Jupiter.

Alexander Pietrow

Inspired by his results, Pietrow told me via email that he's still planning to push the frontiers of extremely low resolution astrophotography.

"There are some other things that I'd like to try at some point with the camera. I still want to image Saturn and try to look at the sun (with a filter) and get sunspots."

If the entire universe could be captured in 2-bit, life would certainly be simpler, as many of us remember it being in the 1990s. And there's just something comforting about the possibility of being able to reduce the massive, roiling hellfire that is our sun down to a blocky character.

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