The Open Space Agency is currently developing a range of open source automated robotic observatories.
The Open Space Agency is hoping to do the same for space as the OpenROV has done for underwater exploration. But instead of navigating the deep blue sea with low-cost robots, the latest initiative wants to use powerful telescopes that can be built right from home.
In order to make this a reality, the OSA has devised what they call ARO, or the Automated Robotic Observatory, which will enable Makers and amateur astronomers to contribute to citizen science projects for a significantly cheaper cost than more profesional-grade equipment. As part of the initiative, the group has created a prototype for their open source, 3D-printable telescope named the Ultrascope.
At the moment, the Ultrascope has two versions in the works: one with a 3.5” mirror, another with an 8” mirror. Once completed, both of their design files and control software will be released under an open license. The telescope, which can be made for roughly $300, is driven by simple robotics, and captures celestial images using a smartphone’s high-megapixel camera. On top of that, the OSA has also developed an Arduino shield for controlling the telescope.
How the telescope works is pretty straightforward: A laptop finds a known location in space (such as the ISS) and forwards its whearabouts to Ultrascope’s Arduino shield to move its motors. After the telescope positions itself, the smartphone starts snapping images and sends them to the cloud for post-processing. The team hopes users will one day build up a library of shared pictures online.
“This dream would have been almost impossible just 24 months ago. The levels of precision required for a maker-made scientific quality scope would have resulted in compounding errors conspiring to make observations frustrating for aspiring citizen scientists. However, the emergence of low-cost 3D printers and laser-cutting, paired with microcontroller platforms such as Arduino and Lumia 1020 — with its 41 Megapixel CCD — mean that a project such as this is now eminently possible,” the OSA explains.