Iridium flare tracker

iridium flare tracker

Iridium is a constellation of 66 communication satellites. Each one features 3 large polished antennas. The reflection of sunlight off of these panels causes brilliant flashes of light. Since the satellite’s orbit is known the time and location of these flares can be calculated ahead of time. C.L.I.V.E. is a project designed for Burning Man to assist in observing these flares. It has a DPSS laser mounted to a turntable that automatically points at the location of the next flare. A large clock counts down the time till the event. Everything is controlled by an Xport 2.0 FPGA development board for the Game Boy Advance. All power is provided by a solar array and wind turbines.

Comments

  1. Alex says:

    lol this is cool

  2. Pocketbrain says:

    burning man is so last year.

  3. Bombasschicken says:

    this whole rig just to see a reflection off a satellite?

  4. Munky says:

    burning man is like the clap, just when you think it’s over it comes back again

  5. bluelip says:

    >>this whole rig just to see a reflection off a satellite?

    That’s like saying “All this mess to have a POV image on your bicycle spokes?” Or “All that work to cool off you overclocked cpu?”

    I think it’s a neat idea. Although the “fun factor” may be larger than the practicality, much can be learned from building this project that can be used on future builds.

  6. dan says:

    This is extremely cool. Since so much is known about the position of the satellites and their antenna orientations, someone should build a device to bounce a powerful laser off the antennas and down to… somewhere. Just as an extremely cool proof-of-concept. I’d imagine a 1 watt laser could do it, considering there are 400 mW lasers visible for 120 miles or so….

  7. bird603568 says:

    if you wanted it to go 240 miles it would have to be 1600mW. forgot the inverse square law?

  8. amonkey says:

    repost?

  9. g_attrill says:

    The Iridium flares are very impressive, a -8 magnitude flare almost dazzles your eyes if they are adjusted to the darkness. Have a look at http://www.heavens-above.com/ to predict them for your location – use your exact lat/long coordinates if possible because the flare tracks are very narrow.

  10. Tor amundson says:

    Heh… cool! We did this for B’man two years ago. It’s neat to see it get some press after all this time.

    We’re currently working on CLIVE2.0 for this year’s festival. This time we’re making it all out of metal as an excuse to learn metalworking and gearcutting, trying to use as few pre-fab parts as possible.

    I better go update the web pages now!

  11. fatherland security department says:

    Um, won’t Fatherland (Oops, I mean “Homeland”) Security get pissy about shining lasers into the sky?

  12. @fatherland security department
    Do they get pissy when rock concerts do it? No. Get off your soapbox.

  13. Phugedaboudet says:

    Now all it needs is a fast enough scanning system to do cloud writing!:) And be set up on normal battery or mains feed and avoid the rest of the pseudointellectual hypocritical claptrap that is Burning Man.

  14. chris says:

    2 things i wanna see.. 1 building a diy laser from at home materials….. not “buy a laser and then do this to make it trace” and also …..

    why wudnt it be possible to the cloudwritting with a good enough laser at night….

  15. josh says:

    @14:

    go nuts, chum:

    http://www.repairfaq.org/sam/lasercon.htm

    homemade lasers are really, really hard. From the article:

    //———–
    Building a laser is like climbing from the depths of the Pacific to the top of Everest and beyond. Note: If you don’t believe this then you will probably not have enough motivation to complete the project!
    //———–

  16. : says:

    it isn’t all that hard to build a laser from scratch… You could build a few mw N2 laser in a week for ~$50 from stuff arround the house. This would give UV, which could then be used to pump a dye cell (also pretty easy), but you would probably have to buy the dye. Then you can get just about any color you want… it would take a pretty huge one to get enough power for a visiable beam, but it is dooable

    Building a DPSS laser completly from scratch (ie building a laser diode and growing/coating the nd:yag (or yvo4) and KTP crystals…) would be akin to what josh said. But you could buy a casix hydrid vandate/KTP and a 3w 808nm pump diode (fiber coupled) for ~$200–assembling that would be just a matter of holing the fiber to the crystal and putting some beam shaping optics on it… A 15 year old could do it. (I did)

    Back to this project…
    This is sweat :O
    I remember back when we would go and sit out on the roof to watch the iridium flares or the space station… This is just so genius

  17. Bryden says:

    There’s been a site for quite a while called http://www.heavens-above.com that shows the schedules of the appearances of iridium flares, what satellites are causing them and some other stuff. Pretty cool, though I have yet to catch site of one.

  18. Bryden says:

    ah, i just read through the rest of the comments and saw that this has already been mentioned. woe is me…

  19. srw777 says:

    BillytheImpaler asked:
    > Do they get pissy when rock concerts do it?

    I don’t know about the states, but, from what I understand, in Canada, you are required to get a permit and file a NOTAM and keep the beams within the prescribed area. (I had a friend a few years back who did fireworks/laser shows.) So, yes, they probably would get pissy unless you somehow got the proper permission.

  20. Jcg says:

    bryden, thank for the link, just 13 minute for the next iridum flare where i live =]

  21. chris says:

    @15

    well thats alot of work i’m looking more at… lets see… upping the power on one of those little crappy lasers you can get for 5$ or perhaps building a laser using components from a cdplayer or something i dont know lol

  22. Aalok says:

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