A connected laser pointer for stargazing

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This project contains two parts: the hardware, a laser pointer, with acceleromter, inclinometer, GPS, magnetometer and Bluetooth, that can operate stand alone, giving the indications in an OLED display; and app on an android phone connected via Bluetooth, using talkback capacity for a more in depth information, without using your eyes.

The idea of Astroscopus, is based on the use of green laser pointers in amateur astronomy. The goal to point to the sky and get the details of what we are pointing on. The plan is to have two different operation modes: standalone, where you point and the handheld device displays basic information; or paired, where you point the device and via a paired smartphone you have a more detailed information, or for hands and eyes free use, audio description via text-to-speech.

The handheld contains a GPS module for surface location and time, magnetometer to find magnetic north and right ascension inclinometer to find declination. A microprocessor compiles the data and compares it to an ephemeris. The result is displayed in a small OLED display. The handheld pack also contains an Lithium battery and its charging circuitry.

A simple schmatic of the project is shown bellow.

  • 1 × 10mW Green Laser Module The working end of the device
  • 1 × Yuan 20081 4.2V 500mAh Lithium Battery Power supply unit
  • 1 × Wireless Bluetooth V2.0 RS232 TTL Transceiver Module How to talk to outside
  • 1 × HMC5883L Digital Compass Module Never loose the North
  • 1 × GY-50 L3G4200D 3-Axis Digital Gyro Sensor Module Witch way is up or down

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  • It's full of stars...

    Glitchmaker08/19/2014 at 20:53 0 comments

    In a previous log a talked about using the bright star catalog as a the base for the calculus of star position. This is a very complete catalog that has too much information, that would take to much space in an enbebed solution. To my project I just needed the Harvard Revised Number to identify the star, the Right ascension and  the declination, and the visual magnitude. To clean up the file to my needs i used the following bash code:

    grep . bsc5.dat |awk '{print substr($0,1,4)";"substr($0,5,10)";"substr($0,76,15)";"substr($0,103,5)}' > cleaner.csv

    What this does is "grepping" the original file line by line, run by awk to get the desired substrings and place the output of the operation in the destination file.

    The next step is to start to calculate.... still rusted....

  • First Code!

    Glitchmaker08/18/2014 at 17:30 0 comments

    I have added to my Github page my first code. Its a simple code co convert a Gregorian date to the correspondent Julian Day (JD). This is used to calculate an ephemeris based on a determined epoch. I'm feeling the coding rust going away...

  • The calculus basis

    Glitchmaker08/17/2014 at 15:49 0 comments

    In order to calculate the position of a star in the nightly sky, we need to agree to an epoch and use a catalog that contains the position of the stars at the chosen epoch. For my project I will use epoch J2000 and the Bright Star Catalog. This catalog contains 9110 stars with magnitude greater than +6.5, meaniing that are visible to the naked eye. This number is too large to our application, since the laser just gives us a coarse position in the sky. The first tests will be made with a list  with a number of stars one or two orders of magnitude lower.

  • Calculating odds

    Glitchmaker08/13/2014 at 20:31 0 comments

    Before advancing with the coding and deciding which microcontroller to use, I'm taking some time to refresh my astronomy notions, in particular, the algorithms needed to calculate the positions. I hope to have some code soon for calculate planetary position.

  • The Logic behind

    Glitchmaker08/06/2014 at 20:04 0 comments

    In this project log I want to explain the logic behind the operation of the astroscopus. Bellow is a flowchart with the operation mode of the device. These are my preliminary ideas that can change with the progress of the project.

    On power up the device uses the GPS module to find the current time and location. Given that on the same day (i think..) that there are no large variantions of the ephemeris table, we calculate once every 24 hours. After this phase we wait for the aks (futurama ask) button to be pressed. If the button is pressed, we find the RA/DEC using the inclinometer and the magnetometer.

    I think the basic idea is clear, but I hope this schmatics helps.

  • OK lets start... I guess

    Glitchmaker08/06/2014 at 19:28 0 comments

    This first project log I will use to explain the basis of why I think my project will work outside the box called cranium.

    Anyone that love astronomy, or simply stargazing, knows that one of the best ways to point someone a star is using a green laser pointer. There are commercial products (Celestron SkyScout) that are use for star-finding, that comprise a viewfinder with a cross-hair, which can identify the celestial body. However this solution is a bit "selfish" because only one can use the device at one point. I want with this project to combine both ideas, allowing a more pleasant experience, even for a group. I take  in account some safety measures such suppressing the laser usage near airports, and a key operated switch to provide some child protection.

    This is my first project log, in the next one I will try to have already chosen the micro controller and the why of the choice

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jagriesser wrote 06/02/2019 at 22:03 point

What is the status of your "Astroscopus"  project?  I worked on building something *very* similiar a few years ago,  My design differed in that the handheld unit only sent altazimuth coordinates via Bluetooth to a cellphone app which (using its own GPS coordinates) calculated RA and Dec which it then passed to Stellarium to display..  Multiple users could be connected to the unit at on time.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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