To Trinitron and Beyond

For most of us, when we think of Sony, we think of audio/video stuff. Hey, we're home-theater nerds, and our view of reality is warped by that. In reality, Sony is much bigger than TVs and headphones. For example, the company is also traveling to outer space.

Sony's origins are firmly in audio. But in the ensuing years since its founding in 1946, the company has steadily diversified. For many consumers, the Sony name is probably more strongly associated with movies and video games than audio/video. But even they might not realize that digital imaging is a core corporate strength. In fact, Sony is the world's largest manufacturer of CMOS image sensors – the chips used in digital cameras, smartphones, and many other devices.

Thus it comes as no surprise that Sony wants to publicize and promote its strength in digital imaging. And what better way than to launch a Sony camera into space, and let you take pictures. This in fact is the goal of Sony's Star Sphere project.

In particular, its Mission 01 aims to place a small (10 x 20 x 30 cm) satellite into orbit (500 to 600 km altitude) carrying a full-frame camera (made by Sony, of course). The camera will be the first in space that will allow us ordinary folks to take heavenly photographs and videos. The system will have a 360-degree range, able to look at the Earth, the horizon, and out into space. As the satellite passes over a ground station in Japan, users will have a period of about 10 minutes to actively control the satellite's camera in real time (with a few seconds of latency) and watch live images. The satellite will complete about 16 orbits every day.

Furthermore, you'll be able to orient the camera (pan, tile, zoom), choose the settings (sensitivity, aperture, shutter speed) and take pictures much as you would use a smartphone camera. (For you photography buffs, the lens is 28 – 135 mm, F4). A simulator will let you plan a photo session and schedule its completion. Far-off science fiction? Not really – Sony hopes to go live later this year. Not sufficiently jazzed yet? This YouTube video might help. And here is Star Sphere's web page.

DIY orbital astrophotography! Very cool, Sony! A snapshot of the Aurora Borealis or a New Years' sunrise? Maybe a sneak peek at another nearby satellite? Be creative! Have some fun! However, views of the hot tub in my backyard are strictly off limits.