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How to Make a Smart Laser Pointing Planet Tracker #CitizenScience #DIY #Arduino

DIY Arduino Planet Tracker

Back in the old days when I worked for Radio Shack I remember demoing their best programmable telescope. It was so exciting discovering my first satellite and to this day I still find anything with space fascinating. Imagine how psyched I was to find this real-time planet tracker on Hackaday. You can sit in a room and have this Arduino powered device point to planets with its laser like an invisible planetarium. While many of us are loving the hardware, this project’s real success comes from the promise of skills that can be used in other projects, according to maker Shubham Paul.

Planet tracking using Kepler’s algorithms

Many co-ordinate systems and their interconversion

Pan-tilt programming and servo mapping (3.5 turns Servo and 180 degree Servo )

MPU9250 (9 axis gyro-accelero-magneto) auto-calibration programming

Using Madwicks/Mahony Filter to Stablize MPU readings.

Yaw correction using P- controller with MPU9250

Check out the tracker in action!

The intent of the project was to draw attention to the algorithms, and to that end the code uses 33KB, which is why an Arduino Mega was chosen. You should definitely check out all the posts Shubham and his team have created on how they arrived at the calculations, circuitry and final code. Certainly the education offered in just describing the “orbital elements” involved in the calculations is already worth the read. One of my favorite parts of this project is the switch pin to shift from normal to “trajectory” mode, allowing the user to track the future path of a planet for a day. So, for you STEM teachers out there, you may want to consider this build for some fun classroom excursions. Also, if you enjoy astronomy, you should check out our build for a 3D Printed Camera Tripod Adapter for a Telescope. Don’t tell people what you’ve been looking at—show them!


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