Monday, September 22, 2014

PiKon: UK University launches first telescope made by 3D printing

The University of Sheffield has released the very first photos of space ever taken with PiKon, a telescope that has been made using a 3D printer.

The telescope in question costs just £100 to make and is constructed from parts readily available on the internet.

The entrepreneurs responsible, Institute of Physics member, Mark Wrigley, and University of Sheffield Physics and Astronomy research associate, Andy Kirby, have even made the plans available online so that any budding astronomers can build their own telescope, saving a minimum of £800 compared to models of the same capabilities.

The ground-breaking product, which is based on Isaac Newton's reflecting telescope design, is called PiKon; a portmanteau made from combining the alternative spelling of 'icon', which is Greek for 'image', and the name of the readily available Raspberry Pi camera, which sits in the telescope.

The product works by using a Newtonian concave mirror to form an image of whatever the telescope is focussed on directly onto the Pi camera sensor, which is mounted onto components created by 3D printing.

Because of the small size of the Raspberry Pi camera, it is possible to mount it directly in front of the mirror.

The PiKon telescope has a magnification of times 160, which means that on a cloudless night it will be capable of detailed lunar observation as well as galaxies, star clusters and some planetary observation.

Subsequent processing of the PiKon's digital images also makes it possible to use the telescope to 'stack' and compare images, therefore scanning the night skies for unusual occurrences, such as comets.

The physicists have unveiled the ambitious project, called Disruptive Technology Astronomy, as part of the University of Sheffield's Festival of the Mind (18-28 September 2014), which has been designed to make academic research accessible to the public, teaming leading academics with famous artists and creatives.

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