Great Beginnings: The Antikythera Mechanism Gets A “Day Zero”

When an unknown genius sat down more than 2,000 years ago to design and build an astronomical instrument, chances are good that he or she didn’t think that entire academic institutions devoted to solving its mysteries would one day be established. But such is the enduring nature of the Antikythera mechanism, the gift from antiquity that keeps on giving long after being dredged up from a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea.

And now, new research on the ancient mechanism reveals that like other mechanical calendars, the Antikythera mechanism has a “day zero,” or a minimum possible date that it can display. The analysis by a team led by [Aristeidis Voulgaris] gets deep into the weeds of astronomical cycles, which the mechanism was designed to simulate using up to 37 separate gears, 30 of which have been found. The cycle of concern is the saros, a 223 lunar month cycle of alignments between the Earth, Sun, and Moon. The saros can be used to predict eclipses, astronomical events of immense importance in antiquity, particularly annular eclipses, which occur when the Moon is at apogee and therefore eclipses less of the Sun’s surface.

The researchers looked at historical annular eclipse data and found that saros cycle 58 had a particularly long annular eclipse, on 23 December 178 BCE. The eclipse would have been visible at sunrise in the eastern Mediterranean, and coupled with other astronomical goodies, like the proximity to the winter solstice, the Sun entering Capricorn, and the Moon being new and at apogee, was probably so culturally significant to the builder that it could serve as the initial date for calibrating all the mechanisms pointers and dials.

Others differ with that take, of course, saying that the evidence points even further back, to a start date in the summer of 204 BCE. In any case, if like us you can’t get enough Antikythera, be sure to check out our overview of the mechanism, plus [Clickspring]’s exploration of methods perhaps used to build it.

Gathering Eclipse Data Via Ham Radio

A solar eclipse is coming up in just a few weeks, and although with its path of totality near the southern tip of South America means that not many people will be able to see it first-hand, there is an opportunity to get involved with it even at an extreme distance. PhD candidate [Kristina] and the organization HamSCI are trying to learn a little bit more about the effects of an eclipse on radio communications, and all that is required to help is a receiver capable of listening in the 10 MHz range during the time of the eclipse.

It’s well-known that certain radio waves can propagate further depending on the time of day due to changes in many factors such as the state of the ionosphere and the amount of solar activity. What is not known is specifically how the paths can vary over the course of the day. During the eclipse the sun’s interference is minimized, and its impact can be more directly measured in a more controlled experiment. By tuning into particular time stations and recording data during the eclipse, it’s possible to see how exactly the eclipse impacts propagation of these signals. [Kristina] hopes to take all of the data gathered during the event to observe the doppler effect that is expected to occur.

The project requires a large amount of volunteers to listen in to the time stations during the eclipse (even if it is not visible to them) and there are only a few more days before this eclipse happens. If you have the required hardware, which is essentially just a receiver capable of receiving upper-sideband signals in 10 MHz range, it may be worthwhile to give this a shot. If not, there may be some time to cobble together an SDR that can listen in (even an RTL-SDR set up for 10 MHz will work) provided you can use it to record the required samples. It’s definitely a time that ham radio could embrace the hacker community.

A Thoughtful Variety Of Projects And Failures

Our friends at [The Thought Emporium] have been bringing us delightful projects but not all of them warrant a full-fledged video. What does anyone with a bevy of small but worthy projects do? They put them all together like so many mismatched LEGO blocks. Grab Bag #1 is the start of a semi-monthly video series which presents the smaller projects happening behind the scenes of [The Thought Emporium]’s usual video presentations.

Solar eclipse? There are two because the first was only enough to whet [The Thought Emporium]’s appetite. Ionic lifters? Learn about the favorite transformer around the shop and see what happens when high voltage wires get too close. TEA lasers? Use that transformer to make a legitimate laser with stuff around your house. Bismuth casting? Pet supply stores may have what you need to step up your casting game and it’s a total hack. Failures? We got them too.

We first covered ionocraft (lifters) awhile back. TEA lasers have been covered before. Casting is no stranger to hackaday but [The Thought Emporium] went outside the mold with their technique.

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Yes, Of Course Someone Shot The Eclipse On A Game Boy Camera

This one shouldn’t surprise us, but there is something particularly enjoyable about seeing the total eclipse of the Sun through a Game Boy camera.

The Game Boy got its camera accessory back in 1998 when CCD-based cameras with poor resolution were just becoming widely available to the public. This camera can capture 128×112 pixel images in the four value grey scale for which the handheld is so loved.

Having taken part in eclipse mania ourselves we can tell you that unless you did some serious research and prep for photographing the thing, this makes as much sense as pulling out your smartphone did. We posit that it certainly produced a more pleasing result.

[jhx] says this is more a weird halo effect of the shot than it is a quality image of totality. At this resolution, the moon-covered Sun should be very few pixels in size, right? But fidelity is for photographers, this is for hackers. Getting the digital image off of the Game Boy camera involved using an Interact Mega Memory cartridge on a Game Boy Pocket to transfer it over, then using a USB 64M cartridge to copy from the Mega Memory and ultimately to a computer.

Glamour shots ain’t easy, yo. But it is possible to read images directly off the Game Boy camera thanks to some reverse engineering work.

[via Kotaku]

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Hackaday Links: August 20, 2017

Foam core, dollar tree foam board, Adams foam board, or whatever we’re calling a thin sheet of foam sandwiched between two pieces of poster board, is an invaluable hacker’s tool. Everyone should have a few sheets on hand, and not just because each sheet is a dollar each at any Dollar Store. [Eric] has been working on a technique to create compound curves in foam board, and the results look great. It’s a true three-dimensional plane with weird curves, and certainly has applications for something.

The Apollo Lunar Module is the first, and only manned space-only spacecraft ever made. The design of this spacecraft isn’t constrained by trivialities like ‘atmosphere’, and the design didn’t need ‘bulkheads thicker than a stack of paper towels’. It is a beautiful ship, and now a company wants to produce a gorgeous 1/32 scale model of the LEM. The goal is $25k, which is quite high for the real space modeling market, but if this GoFundMe campaign succeeds, this will be one of the finest real space models ever created. It’ll also match the scale of the 1/32 Revell CSM.

Speaking of Apollo-related technology, here’s a slight bit of drama. [Fran] has been working on recreating the DSKY — the user interface for the Apollo Guidance Computer — for a few years now. She’s set up a crowdfunding campaign to recreate the electroluminescent, screen printed segment display, and things are going great. Now there’s a company selling commercial DSKYs (with a stupid TFT display), that potentially uses the same art. Is this copyright infringement? Maybe, but probably not. It is a dick move not to credit [Fran], though.

The Monoprice Mini Delta is phenomenal. More on that in a bit.

There’s a complete solar eclipse happening across the United States tomorrow. Many schools should have started classes by then, but they’re calling tomorrow a snow day. Everyone who is traveling to see the eclipse is probably already where they’re going to be, and there are clouds on the horizon. Literal clouds. Everyone is watching the weather channel to see what the cloud cover will be tomorrow. Some people don’t have to worry: [Dan] is building a high-altitude balloon to get 100,000 feet above any clouds. There’s a 360° camera onboard, and the resulting video will be awesome. At least one person in Charleston will be renting a plane; I question the wisdom of renting a 172 over a Piper or Cirrus or another low-wing plane, but whatever. If you’re working on a project that will look at the eclipse from above the clouds, leave a note in the comments. For those of you looking at clouds tomorrow, Hackaday is doing another eclipse meet up on the Pacific coast of Mexico on April 8, 2024.

Don’t Miss Watching This Solar Eclipse High Altitude Balloon Online

[Dan Julio] let us know about an exciting project that he and his team are working on at the Solid State Depot Makerspace in Boulder: the Solar Eclipse High Altitude Balloon. Weighing in at 1 kg and bristling with a variety of cameras, the balloon aims to catch whatever images are able to be had during the solar eclipse. The balloon’s position should be trackable on the web during its flight, and some downloaded images should be available as well. Links for all of that are available from the project’s page.

High altitude balloons are getting more common as a platform for gathering data and doing experiments; an embedded data recorder for balloons was even an entry for the 2016 Hackaday Prize.

If all goes well and the balloon is able to be recovered, better images and video will follow. If not, then at least a post-mortem of what the team thinks went wrong will be posted. Launch time in Wyoming is approximately 10:40 am Mountain Time (UTC -07:00) Mountain Daylight Time (UTC -06:00) on Aug 21 2017, so set your alarm!

How To Eclipse When All You Have Is A Welding Helmet

What do you do if you don’t trust cheap eclipse-watching glasses from the internet? What about if everyone’s sold out? Well, if you want to watch the eclipse and you have an auto-darkening welding helmet, you can do what [daniel_reetz] did and hack something together with a remote and your welding helmet to let you see the eclipse without blinding yourself.

Essentially, the hack tricks the helmet’s sensors into thinking it’s very bright. [Daniel_reetz] accomplishes this by gluing a remote with an infrared LED to the side of the helmet and covering it with a 50mm plastic lid. There are two sensors on [daniel_reetz]’s helmet, so he covers the other one with aluminum tape. What this means is that when he presses a button on the remote, the lid-covered sensor thinks it’s very bright out and since the other sensor is covered, it darkens the lens of the mask.

I’m sure some of our readers could come up with a more sophisticated method that would allow you to do something other with your hand than press the remote buttons, but this is a quick and easy hack that’ll get you able to take a quick look at the eclipse – assuming you have a welding mask capable of shading to level 13 or 14. If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the eclipse, check out the safety guide from NASA just to make sure your eyes are safe. For another method of viewing the eclipse, check out this wearable pinhole camera. For another welding mask hack, check out this augmented reality mask.

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