You might spend a few thousand dollars on a telescope that can see the moon's surface in detail, but a team of astronomers at University of Sheffield spent just a fraction of that. Using a 3D printer and a Raspberry Pi camera module, they built a telescope that can shoot 5MB images of sky.

The project is called PiKon, and it aims to make the plans for the astro-imaging scope available to anyone who wants to print it. "We hope that one day this will be seen on a par with the famous Dobsonian 'pavement' telescopes, which allowed hobbyists to see into the night skies for the first time," said physicist Mark Wrigley in a statement about PiKon. "This is all about democratizing technology, making it cheap and readily available to the general public."

Image via Alternative Photonics.

Here's how it works: Similarly to a reflecting telescope, it uses a concave mirror to reflect an image down a tube. But whereas your home telescope might use another mirror to reflect that image into the eyepiece for your viewing pleasure, the PiKon has replaced the viewer with a simple, cheap Raspberry Pi camera, which can capture the reflected image as a photo file instead.


Images via PiKon.

According to Alternative Photonics, the company that collaborated with the university on the project, the files you'll need to print the telescope will be uploaded on Thingiverse in the near future. Right now, the first printed prototype is being shown off at Sheffield's Festival of the Mind.


While we already knew NASA was working on a 3D-printed space telescope, which is reportedly close to operational, it's neat to see physicists working on similar projects that just about anyone with a 3D printer can use. [BBC]