New camera turns lay stargazer into expert astronomer

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If last night's lunar eclipse has you thinking about the beauty of the night sky, some young entrepreneurs visiting from Singapore are working on something just for you -- a tiny camera that could turn anyone into an expert astronomer.

Hundreds lined the waterfront to watch the lunar eclipse Sunday, many with their big cameras and telescopes.

But one group of young men showed up with something much smaller, the world's smallest astronomy camera.

They're calling it the TinyMOS camera. Right now, it's a series of prototypes, some metal, some plastic.

Inside that rough exterior the camera's already working and producing stunning images of the moon and the stars.

"This is going to hold a sensor that is very sensitive to light," said Grey Tan, TinyMOS CEO.

That sensor is one-seventh the size of a normal camera.

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"Which means your images are going to be seven times as zoomed in as normal," said Lih Wei Chia, TinyMOS technology officer.

That means you don't need a telescope. A breathtaking shot of the Milky Way came from the tiny lens that's included with the camera. Or find a telephoto lens from an old film camera and now it becomes seven times as powerful.

"That is actually qualified as a telescope," Chia said.

But having good hardware is only half the battle. A lot of the magic is going to be the software that lets an amateur astronomer take pictures like a professional.

The biggest problem that people have is they're not really sure what they're pointing at, so the camera takes care of that for you.

"You can type in for example, Saturn, and the camera actually points you toward it," Chia said.

Once you find it, that's when the hard work would normally begin.

"Right now the solutions out there, you have to use say about three different software just do the capture, the processing and the post-processing and that makes it really difficult," Tan said.

Programs that combine multiple pictures to take out the graininess and the blur from the atmosphere are built into the camera. In fact, there's no need to ever touch a computer.

"All this can actually be directly uploaded to a smartphone and you can share on social media," Tan added.

After showing off the camera at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, the team's headed back to Singapore. They'll start selling pre-orders later this year, for $350 apiece.
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