Tag Archives: Ultrascope

Building a 3D-printed, Arduino-powered telescope at home

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.

Ultrascope is a 3D-printed automated observatory

Microsoft has partnered with The Open Space Agency (OSA) to build the very first 3D-printed telescope or automated robotic observatory. Standing just one meter tall, the Ultrascope harnesses the power of a Nokia Lumia 1020 phone to bring a DIY microscope to the masses.


The Open Space Agency are the geniuses behind this galaxy exploring tool and describe it as an, “Automated Robotic Observatory that would allow amateur astronomers to contribute to citizen science projects for a radically reduced cost.”


Through web connectivity provided by the internal Arduino shield, the Ultrascope is provided a known location in space (in beta tests, the International Space Station has been used), and then captures images of the defined point. The Arduino singlehandedly interprets the coordinates of the given space location and moves the motors within the Ultrascope to survey the area. After the telescope positions itself, the 1020 starts snapping images and sends them to the cloud for post-processing.


The OSA is currently working with Microsoft to develop a user-friendly mobile application for the device, but you should be able to get your hands on this DIY device in the near future. According to Nokia’s official site, “The Ultrascope is currently in beta testing and 3D plans will be downloadable from the OSA website, which can be 3D printed, laser-cut and assembled in the home. Over the next 12-18 months increasingly sophisticated models will be released, enabling enthusiasts to peer ever deeper into the stars.”

Stay up-to-date with the Ultrascope’s latest developments by following along with their Twitter feed and homepage.