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
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.