Just the other day we experienced a lunar eclipse and I was thinking of dragging out the old telescope to try and capture some images of the event. I decided against it because I didn’t have a way to mount my phone to the scope. James Parr must have been reading my mind, though: He founded the Open Space Agency and created plans for a 3D printed telescope that uses the 41 megapixel sensor of a Lumia 1020 for astrophotography.
Parr’s device is called the Ultrascope and the plans for it will be made available so that individuals can print their own parts and build the telescope.
The Ultrascope isn’t just a set of mirrors and lenses, though. Using a connected Windows computer, software and an Arduino board connected to motors, the Ultrascope is more like a mini-observatory, moving around from one celestial object to the next. And all of those objects can be digitally captured by the PureView camera on a Lumia 1020, where they can be viewed in a high resolution zooming mode.
The Open Space Agency will get data and images from any Ultrascopes, essentially crowdsourcing photos of the night sky. In that way, citizen space explorers are contributing towards our collective astronomy efforts at a far lower cost. Says Par,
We’re inspired that we live in an era where consumer technology now allows us to do things that were only exclusively available to professionals just a few years ago. Keen amateur astronomers can now download this design and software, 3D print and assemble their own hardware, which is an amazing development. It opens up opportunities for people who have been gazing at the stars their whole lives, but haven’t, until now, been able to get involved. Powered by Lumia smartphones, our hope is that hundreds of Ultrascopes will be assembled, enabling a large number of people to contribute to new discoveries as they explore the night sky.
While the project is still in beta mode, interested amateur astronomers can sign up on the Open Space Agency site to become one of the first to print and use an Ultrascope.