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

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.
Do you sell these?
No, not yet. :-)<br><br>At some stage I might sell kits for smaller star maps, if people were interested.
Yessss, do that! That's good idea :)
Thank you for this !
Nice work!<br>The diffused light coming from behind the map is an interesting effect too.<br>Did you plan for that?
<p>I'm trying to build this up as well. I'm following what you did except I'm using 3 different sizes of optical fibers. Maybe I just went crazy and it won't make any differences but I thought I'd give a try. You can see on the pictures I posted that I'm using 5 (3 fiber sizes + 2 LED sizes) different colors to categorize the stars from fainter to brighter.</p><p>I'll continue my build and send pics along :-)</p>
<p>Awesome! :-)</p><p>I hope the three sizes of fibres works well for you. If you can, best to terminate each fibre size to a different light source. That way the relative brightnesses can be adjusted to what you want.</p>
<p>I didn't think of that, they all come to the same trunk. I also wanted to ask, why do you use a transistor ? Wouldn't that work the same without it ?</p><p>Thanks for your great project :-)</p>
<p>See: <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Star-Map/step16/Secondary-light-sources-Planning-II/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/Star-Map/step16/Se...</a></p><p>I used the transistor for brightness control - when the amount of current flowing through the gate is limited, the amount of current flowing through the main part of the transistor is limited as well.<br>Limiting the current means that the LEDs run at a lower brightness than (for my LEDs) &quot;blinding&quot;.</p><p>You could build a test circuit similar to the one in that step, to demonstrate the concept for yourself.</p>
<p>Amazing idea. I am making a small one for my wife. I am only using the ufo lamp and 6 led for the bigger star powered by an arduino to make them twinkle. I will post picture when I am finished. Thank you.</p>
Thanks jbwizzard, best of luck with your project.<br><br>For the code, maybe this will be helpful - it's the code my star map uses: https://gist.github.com/MrTrick/00f3abb1a95f813e76f5<br><br>The 'twinkling' is done by driving multiple LEDs using PWM. (so that a variable brightness is possible)<br>At each cycle,<br>1) Each LED slowly gets dimmer.<br>2) A random number is generated, and one LED might be set back to full brightness.<br><br>The human eye doesn't see the dimming, only that LEDs randomly 'twinkle'.
<p>I still have to paint the frame but here it is. For anyone using arduino on this project, I had to set the LED values at 5 so they were barely on. I'm guessing it would have been better (dimmer) to use the acrylic rods but I went for five 3mm leds and one 5mm led flush mounted. </p>
<p>Looks great! :-)<br>I'm not the best astronomer - is this a particular constellation?</p>
<p>I pulled it from the software you suggested but as to what it is I really just took a screen shot and went from there. Not really sure which one it is.</p>
<p>I deal in used computer equipment. My supplier has maybe 400 to 1000 fiber optic network cables he's trying to sell me (they are actually new). Probably 1 to 5 meters long. They are rather hard to sell as actual network cables because they are obsolete, but could work great on a project like this. </p>
<p>Keep in mind that the network cables are &quot;jacketed&quot;</p>
<p>That sounds like an interesting source.<br>You might want to get hold of ONE and do some tests with it;</p><p>- Does the other end light up well if you shine a bright light at it?<br>- Is it difficult to remove both ends of the cable without damaging the fibers?</p><p>I'd also suggest you set a stopwatch and time how long it takes you to completely &quot;prep&quot; the cable. Then calculate the time to do it 400 more times!</p>
<p>I think the cables are single fiber. Each one has an end like this. http://content.hwigroup.net/images/products_xl/078200/dell-fiber-network-cable-lcsc-10m.jpg The white part at the end I think is a diffuser. Shining a laser on one end makes the white part on the other shine. Chopping each end off with a side cutter would probably get you a single fiber with a thick jacket on it.</p>
<p>This is a wonderful idea! I am an amateur astronomer, and this would be great to have in my bedroom. However, I would not trust myself to work with the wiring and such, as I have NO knowledge of it. Hmmm..wonder if I could talk my hubby into making me one..Anyhow, great instructions!</p>
<p>Well, it takes quite a lot of work to make... it would be done much quicker if you work together. :-)</p>
awesome! you're a genius!
<p>Thanks andrea. :-)</p>
<p>This is a wonderful idea! I am an amateur astronomer, and this would be great to have in my bedroom. However, I would not trust myself to work with the wiring and such, as I have NO knowledge of it. Hmmm..wonder if I could talk my hubby into making me one..Anyhow, great instructions!</p>
<p>Really nice! i counted the stars on your map! <br>I started my project some days ago. <br>2,00m * 1,60m <br>0,75mm and 1,00mm Fibreglass for the normal stars<br>2,00mm for the 107 bright stars and 3,00mm for that big one in the centre. <br><br>So for guys who are not good at LED circuits, just use 2-3mm fibreglass instead of 108 single LEDs <br>My Question: <br>1. What is the exact diameter of your acrylic rod and your fibre glass<br>2. What would you do better next time?<br>3. You are my hero</p>
WOW, that is a lot of stars! I wish you all the best for your project.<br><br>What sort of 'fibreglass' are you using? (If it's not specifically marked/marketed as end-emitting fibre-optic, have you confirmed that it properly transmits light? - as the instructable mentions some stuff is *not* suitable)<br><br>Answer 1) I butchered a fibre-optic christmas tree to make my star map, so I never actually measured the fibre diameter. 0.25mm or smaller, I would guess. The acrylic rod is 3mm diameter.<br>Answer 2) Okay, a list...<br> a: Using two halves for the backing ended up being a problem - the middle has gradually sunk and pulled some stars behind the fabric. I'd use a single piece backing and/or make sure the fabric is securely stuck to every part. (or use a different approach, like paint)<br> b: It would have been much easier to use lots of lights and make each sector work independently, rather than one *big* light in the middle. (It's still doable with one big one, just probably easier for layout and planning)<br> c: I really like the 'twinkle' effect I used for a little star map - controlling the LEDs individually with a microcontroller. In conjunction with (b), it would probably be doable at a large scale.<br><br>Actually, there's not much that I'd change. I still love the remote control and the lava-lamps!<br><br>Answer 3) That's not really a question. :-D Thank you for your kind words. It's a big project to tackle, but in my opinion TOTALLY worth it.
<p>i ordered these fibres from Aliexpress:</p><p><a href="http://de.aliexpress.com/store/product/0-75mm-diameter-2700m-roll-PMMA-fiber-optic-cable-end-glow-for-decoration-lighting/312912_1923997993.html" rel="nofollow">http://de.aliexpress.com/store/product/0-75mm-diam...</a><br><br>To make my stars twinkle, i use a small engine to rotate a disc with blue and black paint on it. </p>
<p>Looks awesome so far!<br>I really like how you've gathered and illuminated the fibres.</p>
<p>I need clarification. How exactly were the fibers affixed to the canvas? How and with what?</p>
In summary; a hole was poked through the material, the fibers were fed through, a dab of glue was applied to the back, and once all applied and dried they were trimmed.<br><br>There's more detail in Step #14:<br>https://www.instructables.com/id/Star-Map/step14/Poking-through-and-gluing-the-fibers/
Hi Elisha,<br>It wasn't just canvas - there was a corrugated cardboard layer behind it to help keep the fibers straight and to provide a stronger backing.<br><br>The fibers were put in place, then glued with PVA glue. It's a water based wood glue that's white, and dries clear.<br>You shouldn't use superglue or other solvent glues because it will damage the fibers.<br><br>-MrTrick
<p>Wow! This is a very thorough, well done, Instructable. I have been thinking of doing a ceiling star map, using actual star data, for some time. I have read about many versions of this, using luminous paint or fiber optic cable, but this is, by far, the best I have seen. Some of the highlights of your implementation are the following. First of all, using actual star maps. Most people just wing it and use random patterns, which, IMO, look awful. Second, you actually differentiate the lower magnitude stars, somewhat, with LEDs. I'm thinking, instead, of using multiple fibers, and having several magnitudes. I really like the idea of simply printing out the star maps and using them on the reverse side of the substrate. Brilliant! These ideas could be combined with the ideas of another Instructable, </p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Fiber-Optic-Panel-Star-Ceiling/" rel="nofollow">Fiber Optic Panel Star Ceiling</a></p><p>. Thank you for sharing your great ideas. You get my vote for a PRO membership!</p>
Thanks Laral, I'm glad you enjoyed it!<br><br>A full ceiling map would look fantastic, though I think it'd be a *lot* of work to do with real star maps.
<p>You're right. I'll probably never do it. I originally wanted to do it with luminous paint, which would be easier.</p>
Could the star map be cut using a laser cutter to save all that drilling/poking? Guessing the challenge it getting the star map rendered in a way that can drive the laser cutter? Thanks for a great project/work of art.
I've made a similar project, although I didn't use fibres for the lighting, and the drawing I made only took about 15 minutes in AutoCAD. Many of the holes would have been the perfect size to take the fibres, and I'm planning on doing a second version using that lighting method.
Interesting - so are the points of light all LEDs, or is there a backlight?
in the fist version, I used led strip lighting around the inside of the frame, and diffused the light through a piece of parchment paper. I've since replaced the led strips with a 4x4 neopixel array, so I can alter the lighting patterns and brightness easily.
<p>Nicely done. :-)<br></p>
It could...<br>I didn't have access to a laser cutter when I built this one, and it is way too big to fit into any laser cutter.<br><br>A smaller one, definitely. It might be a little bit complicated to convert your design into the right format, and to make each 'point' a little circle for the laser to travel around, and to ensure that the laser is actually cutting all the way through every hole... <br><br>Total effort vs using a cordless drill may actually be higher, depending on your source design and how many stars there are to cut out.
<p>I'm not sure if you're brilliant or simply insane. </p>
&iquest;Porque no los dos? :-D
<p>&iexcl;Eso que s&iacute;! Aunque lo que algunas personas consideran locura es<br>s&oacute;lo la libertad del pensamiento.</p>
<p>Ciertamente. ^_^</p>
<p>Great gift idea for the wife. I'm doing this. I have 6 months. Thx for the writeup!</p>
It took me at least 3 solid months to get done, while the wife was away. (lots more free time)<br>Best of luck, and get cracking!
<p>could you make a small one whith a battery powered string of LEDs (20 long) and put them in a bottle cap and add some small length of fibre optics to them and for some brighter ones just have the led on its own I think this would work but what size do you think is best for it Is 1ft by 2ft about right would be great if you could tell me Thanks </p>
You certainly could do it this way, and the size you've chosen seems fine. (It makes it a bit easier to buy a ready-made frame, so that would give you your size)<br><br>The main thing I'd be concerned about with using ready-made LED strings for both the 'big' stars and the fibre optics is relative brightness.<br><br>LED strings are not that bright, and the fibres in the bundle have to all &quot;share&quot; the brightness of the LEDs attached. I think it might end up making the fibres too dim. <br>It might be better to use the LED string for the big stars, and maybe a LED torch for the fibers?
Thank you for replying and for the useful tips
<p>Might I suggest you record the various scenes onto a HD video disc and offer them up for sale. People could then play them back on their HDTV's and enjoy the views.</p>

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