Decorative Light Box Lets You Guess The Time

Telling time by using the current position of the sun is nothing revolutionary — though it probably was quite the “life hack” back in ancient times, we can assume. On the other hand, showing time by using the current position of the sun is what inspired [Rich Nelson] to create the Day Cycle Clock, a color changing light box of the Philadelphia skyline, simulating a full day and night cycle in real time — servo-controlled sun and moon included.

At its core, the clock uses an Arduino with a real-time clock module, and the TimeLord library to determine the sunrise and sunset times, as well as the current moon phase, based on a given location. The sun and moon are displayed on a 1.44″ LCD which doubles as actual digital clock in case you need a more accurate time telling after all. [Rich] generally went out of his way with planning and attention to detail in this project, as you can see in the linked video, resulting in an impressively clean build surely worthy as gift to his brother. And if you want to build one for yourself, both the Arduino source code and all the mechanical parts are available on GitHub.

An interesting next iteration could be adding internet connectivity to get the current weather situation mixed into the light behavior — not that it would be the first time we’d see weather represented by light. And of course, simulating the northern lights is also always an option.

7 thoughts on “Decorative Light Box Lets You Guess The Time

  1. I really like this, its elegant, aesthetically pleasing and no over-complicated. Not everything needs to be connected to WiFi, just work, and work well.

    Along those lines, it might be worth upgrading the RTC from a DS1307 to a DS3231, i have found the 1307 to loose time over a matter of weeks but the 3231 is rock solid!

    Very tempted to make one of these when time allows :-)

  2. Very very nice project, well executed and documented. Would love to see more like this here.

    As a LCD is used, it’s a pity to not keep the moon crescent angle aligned, as in real life. (and even adjust this angle depending of your location on earth).
    But I think it’s too complicated: mixing moving parts AND display.
    The (infrequent) noise of the servo will prevent placing this clock in a bedroom
    Why not just one larger LCD? While keeping the front template and RGB background.

    I really like the design and how you can scale it or change the background to mountain, pyramid, [your own environment].

    1. I was thinking it’s a real shame to have the sun and the moon moving in opposite directions, seeing the construction makes it clearer why that is. It would still annoy me though. I’d want to build in the phase of the moon too, although there would need to be some way to tell the difference between the sun and the full moon.

    2. Aligning the crescent is a matter of how large the moon is on the display and some software. I suspect the servo just makes a tick from time to time, though it would be useful to create a separate suspension that is counterbalanced to unload the servo.

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