Picture of Star Map
Light up your home with this breathtaking piece of sky!
I made this star map last year for my wife, and everyone who sees it wants to know how it was made.

Be warned, to build something like this is a *big* project. You should expect to know:

* Basic woodworking skills
* How to handle a soldering iron
* How to design LED-based circuits
* How to safely deal with AC voltages

And above all, you'll need plenty of spare time.

This star map is a little over 2m wide, and 1.2m tall. It weighs 12-15kg, has somewhere between 1500-2000 optical fiber stars, and 108 LED stars.

You could quite easily use some of the techniques in here to make a small version, and it would still look really nice. This instructable then, can be used as a general reference for building star maps, not just how to replicate mine exactly. There is some additional info for small maps in the Addenda section.

Step 1: Materials - Optical Fibers

Picture of Materials - Optical Fibers
Note: You can't use fishing line. Don't even think about it. It just doesn't conduct light in the right way. [ref]

You can buy optical fiber by the reel, but there are better and cheaper ways to get it*: For large star maps; a fake Christmas tree works very well! This time of year, it's not hard to find one cheaply.

For smaller star maps; the retro-tastic 'UFO Lamps' are a great source of fibers, and are pretty easy to find in dollar stores.

Both of these sources are great! They are cheap, and they terminate all the fibers into one place, so it is easy to light the stars.

Just consider:
* The more stars you have, the better it will look. Try to find a tree or lamp with plenty of 'points'.
* The size of the tree/lamp will determine how large your map can be. For example, if you have a 120cm / 4ft tree, you can build a map about 2m / 6.5ft wide. (Of course, the exact shape of the tree and your frame will affect the maximum. Get your measurements right before you buy/cut anything expensive. ;-) )

[*] Some fiber-by-the-reel is sold here. The 0.5mm fiber is probably the closest to what is found in trees/lamps, and costs 8c/ft, or 2c/ft if you buy 19,680ft worth. A $5 UFO lamp might have 400 x 1ft strands, already cut and terminated - at 1.25c/ft.
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cwoodlief3 years ago
Do you sell these?
MrTrick (author)  cwoodlief3 years ago
No, not yet. :-)

At some stage I might sell kits for smaller star maps, if people were interested.
RamalingamP4 months ago

Great one.. but need a loooot of patience to do it.

steveastrouk5 months ago

Great work. Are you in the UK or the USA ? I couldn't find a fibre Christmas tree in any store near us in the USA, we ended up buying one for serious money for our first Christmas here.

I'd really like to make one of these things.


MrTrick (author)  steveastrouk5 months ago
Hi Steve,

Sorry, I'm in Australia, so couldn't really advise on local stores.
You could certainly try eBay or aliexpress?

If you are just going to disassemble it anyway, it's probably better to buy just the strands; see for example http://www.aliexpress.com/w/wholesale-fiber-optic.html?SearchText=fiber+optic&CatId=39

(There are a lot more supply options now than back when I originally wrote this instructable.)

Best of luck with your project.
elmagiko5 months ago

hello mr trick i know this is an old project but i would like to ask you two questions if i may.first how many hours one needs for a project like this if you have all material?second how much did it cost you alltogether?thank you,best regards,and awesome project!

MrTrick (author)  elmagiko5 months ago

Hi Elmagiko,

If you make a smaller map, I'd say about $10-50 in materials, and maybe 8 hours of work? (not including time for glue or paint to dry, etc)

The most time-consuming part is putting each optical fiber through the map - a larger or denser map can take *much* more time, but it'll look great!

The costs are not very high - you can buy a nice frame cheaply from a dollar store, and a 'UFO' lamp from a dollar store or ebay.

troyka9 months ago

just amazing work. well done looks great and the instructable is great. thank you

MrTrick (author)  troyka9 months ago

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

troyka9 months ago

well done looks amazing instructable is great too. seriously well done

alcurb10 months ago

Outstanding. Clearly a labor of love.

MrTrick (author)  alcurb10 months ago

Thank you. :-)

The universe is a mystery,

as this invention has to

Oscelot1 year ago
So one thing that might be interesting to try.. I've got a large christmas tree (3-4 foot or so) that's fiberoptic. It has a motor in the base that turns a coloured plate above the lamp, under the fiberoptics, and makes them different colours. Just thought I'd throw that in to the hive mind creativity pot. Love the instructable! Been wanting to do something like this for years. Saw a reading nook done this way about a decade ago, been in love with the idea since.
MrTrick (author)  Oscelot1 year ago
That turning wheel might be re-usable, if you have room. I didn't want my star map to be too thick, so it wouldn't have fit.

A reading nook would be a great place for stars overhead, absolutely!
fido9dido2 years ago
kimsxs32 years ago
I wouild like to be able to do my entire bed room ceiling like your star map, do you think tht it would be possible?
MrTrick (author)  kimsxs32 years ago

What I'd suggest though, is to make it out of lots of small pieces and tile them together. That way each part is relatively easy to build and move around.
You would also need a frame on the ceiling to hold them, I'd recommend magnets, and connectors for power.
dan11213 years ago
Would Anyone who lives in Southern California be down to help me build one of these?? :D this is such a spectacular piece of art; im having trouble getting all of the material down to order. and im not the brightest when it comes to LED lights haha
KDS4444 dan11212 years ago
I live in southern California and would love to make one of these... Message me if you are still interested. (Am in Los Angeles)
dan1121 KDS44442 years ago
I live in Long Beach, would you like to make one?
KDS4444 dan11212 years ago
Your e-mail was nearly lost among a slew of others I received. But I got it! first my regular e-mail address is Schroeder.kirby@gmail.com. Contact me there from now on. Second, what do you propose we do?? I am intrigued and will be looking forward to hearing from you.
MrTrick (author)  dan11213 years ago
As some have suggested, using a big string of Christmas LED lights might make the electrics simpler. :-)
Kristen.p2 years ago
Instead of making my own frame, do you think I can use an art canvas? I was hoping to do it on a darker piece of art so it looks nice during the day. Can't wait to start making this! :)
MrTrick (author)  Kristen.p2 years ago

The only thing I'd be concerned about is whether the canvas on its own would be stiff/sturdy enough to support the fibres. I suggest you get some foam-core or cardboard, and fit it behind the canvas. That way the fibres go through *both* layers.
lirk3 years ago
littlepetry3 years ago
I am having an incredibly hard time find any fiber optic lamps, trees, or anything in southern wisconsin in April. Any suggestions?
MrTrick (author)  littlepetry3 years ago
I'm not in the U.S., let alone Wisconsin... How about amazon, though?

lukefrice3 years ago
Any thoughts on using foam or expanding foam on the back? I have just gotten all my fibers in and did my gluing, but since I have so many fibers and they are so close together, I would have had to use a syringe to apply the glue. I watered down the glue a bit, poured in onto the map (while flat) and then used a shop-vac on reverse to blow it around. It seems to be holding the fibers so far, but my friend just suggested foam. I'm not sure if it would eat the fibers or not, but it's worth a test sometime I think.
Oh, and great instructable! I'm now almost done with my monster. 40"x60" with about 5200 stars. I only did the major constellations accurately (with 1mm fibers), then a few spaced out .75mm for accent stars, and then several thousand .25mm stars. The couple major stars in the sky are 2mm as well. I might make another instructable that adds onto this with my personal tips and experiences.
Thank you so much for the ideas and inspiration.
MrTrick (author)  lukefrice3 years ago
Wow, 5200 stars sounds awesome! I'd love to see your photos, and instructable.

(Glueing after putting fibres in is difficult, that's why I glued as I went)

Definitely test the foam before you put it near your hard work! The cyanoacrylate in superglue ruins fibres, I'm sure some of the components in that stuff would have a similar effect.

Luna!3 years ago
Its NOT a instructable, ... its a piece of art! Beautiful!
tinker2343 years ago
i love this i might make nut and GA the sky goddess of ancient Egypt and here husband is the earth just to clear it up
MrTrick (author)  tinker2343 years ago
Sounds like it'll look great!
Luna!3 years ago
LOVE IT! Congrats !! It looks like a windows ...to space!!


MrTrick (author)  Luna!3 years ago
Thanks. :-)
kendrkin3 years ago
Thank you for the inspiration. My kids and I completed a small one using an astronomy poster of a nebula ($5 from a local planetarium), a 4 ft fiber optic tree ($13 from large chain department store), appropriate sized frame with glass ($30), and some scrap wood to box out the frame. The LED's in the base of the tree were set to shift colors, so we just kept it so the stars twinkle and change color. It was a great family project that turned into a Christmas gift for a relative. (Now, we have no idea how we are going to top this one for next year!)
MrTrick (author)  kendrkin3 years ago
Awesome! :-D

Please post a photo of it, if you're able.
Here's a picture of the finished project: 

MrTrick (author)  kendrkin3 years ago
Looks great. :-)

Well done!
kerec63 years ago
Why do you need 2 light sources?
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