April 7th, 2009

Back in 2005, I created a sort-of industrial art-project in the form of a decorative brass clock. The project introduced me to some rapid-prototyping technologies such as photo-chemical etching and other cool stuff. The question was, what to do next? With the kernel of a good idea but no idea I how to complete it, I embarked on a 2-year project to build a large ( had to be large ), functional, brass celestial clock. Well, its been more than 2 years, but I’ve finally completed it.

The clock is 2-feet by 2-feet in a solid oak case. It display all the major constellations in the Northern Hemisphere visible from 37°.75′, 122°.68′ ( San Francisco ) for any time of day for any day of the year. This is done using two counter-rotating disks. The rear disk displays the constellations ( and date ) and the front disk partially masks the rear disk and marks the time. The time is tracked in a 24-hour format accurate to 5-minutes.

Although it looks as though it might be mechanical, its actually a network enabled robot in the shape of a clock.

The clock gets the time/date from the NIST (National Institute for Standards and Technology) over a WiFi connection. A small microcontroller provides the brains and is connected to stepper-motors, to move the brass disks, and optical sensors, to determine the position of the disks.

The rest is software, much as it should be.

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