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.
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?
MrTrick (author)  kerec63 years ago
My fibers were all the same size. I wanted small and large 'stars', so I needed the LED sources to do the large stars.

One could alternatively:
a) Have all stars the same size.
b) Collate the fibers yourself, and use some different sizes of fiber.
c) Clump several fibers into one hole for larger stars.
dan11213 years ago
Does anyone know where I can buy a fiber optic Christmas tree for a good price either in stores or online? I am most likely going to purchase one after Christmas since the prices will go down (hopefully). Thank you!
MrTrick (author)  dan11213 years ago
eBay? Or maybe one of those "Christmas Specialty Stores" that pop up in the lead up to Christmas, a day or three after the 25th?

No idea where you are, so that's the best I can do. :-D
Djandco3 years ago
Well, the dead is done, just have to mount the thing on the wall and think of a fun way of turning it on and off :-)

I ended up making a cluster of white LED's and added one blue LED to the mix. This gave mostly white with a splat of blue which was quite nice.

Also, with the Arduino running 6 PWM outputs I had to change the random number from 255 to 40 as the fading effect took too long!

We sit there at the moment watching the "stars" looking at which ones will fade out first, it is mesmerizing to watch.

Thank you for building yours which in turn made me build mine.
2011-11-21 23.39.48.jpg
MrTrick (author)  Djandco3 years ago
Looks awesome!!

If you took enough photos, I think you should do a writeup on Instructables, I'd certainly be interested to see how you built it.
Djandco MrTrick3 years ago
I took a few pics as I went along. but probably not in enough detail, you know what people are like, they just keep asking questions!

I will see if I can detail the electronic side as an option for you and I may even post as my first i'ble :-)

Anyway, mine would still sit in the shadow of yours :-)
MrTrick (author)  Djandco3 years ago
Yes yes, flattery will get you everywhere. :-P Get writing!
Djandco MrTrick3 years ago
Tis done!
My first one is published http://www.instructables.com/id/Arduino-Star-Map/

Thank you :-)
madameghost3 years ago
Simply amazing. I quite wish I could commission you for one, but I suppose I will have to coerce some handier, craftier people than I to build it for me ... thank you for sharing!
Djandco3 years ago
Just a little tip, I found the perfect device for raising the board off the desk so you can feed the fibres through, I am wondering if I can paitent the idea :-)

The advantage is if you poke a fibre through and you hit the "paitent pending raising device" it doesn't damage them !
2011-11-14 20.13.32.jpg
MrTrick (author)  Djandco3 years ago
Heh, a toilet roll? Good idea.

For the big star map I raised it with a small coffee table on either side. For the small star map, I printed the map area onto a larger piece of cardboard, and folded the left and right sides down to make legs.
Djandco MrTrick3 years ago
it is no longer called a toilet roll!
I need to think of something cool to call it so I can market it :-)
I have just fitted the ally frame and the new fibre cable should be here soon for the larger stars. I was hoping to get the Arduino fitted this week but I am off for a couple of days :-(
Work keeps getting in the way!
Djandco3 years ago
You mentioned that you may want to make the good old LED's fade / flicker at some point. On my smaller but humble version I am using an Arduino to animate some of the larger "stars" by making them randomly fade.
Big thanks to meawert and qazwsx755 for the initial code and assistance.
The whole thing ROCKS!

int three = 3;
int five = 5;
int six = 6;
int nine = 9;
int ten = 10;
int eleven = 11;
int flickerONE = 7;
int flickerTWO = 8;

int threeNow;
int fiveNow;
int sixNow;
int nineNow;
int tenNow;
int elevenNow;
int threeNew;
int fiveNew;
int sixNew;
int nineNew;
int tenNew;
int elevenNew;
int flickertONE;
int flickertTWO;

void setup ()
pinMode (three, OUTPUT);
pinMode (five, OUTPUT);
pinMode (six, OUTPUT);
pinMode (nine, OUTPUT);
pinMode (ten, OUTPUT);
pinMode (eleven, OUTPUT);
pinMode (flickerONE, OUTPUT);
pinMode (flickerTWO, OUTPUT);
threeNow = random(255);
fiveNow = random(255);
sixNow = random(255);
nineNow = random(255);
tenNow = random(255);
elevenNow = random(255);

threeNew = threeNow;
fiveNew = fiveNow;
sixNew = sixNow;
nineNew = nineNow;
tenNew = tenNow;
elevenNew = elevenNow;

#define fade(x,y) if (x>y) x--; else if (x
void loop()
analogWrite(three, threeNow);
analogWrite(five, fiveNow);
analogWrite(six, sixNow);
analogWrite(nine, nineNow);
analogWrite(ten, tenNow);
analogWrite(eleven, elevenNow);
threeNew = random(255);
fiveNew = random(255);
sixNew = random(255);
nineNew = random(255);
tenNew = random(255);
elevenNew = random(255);

while ((threeNow != threeNew) ||
(fiveNow != fiveNew) ||
(sixNow != sixNew) ||
(nineNow != nineNew) ||
(tenNow != tenNew) ||
(elevenNow != elevenNew))
analogWrite(three, threeNow);
analogWrite(five, fiveNow);
analogWrite(six, sixNow);
analogWrite(nine, nineNow);
analogWrite(ten, tenNow);
analogWrite(eleven, elevenNow);

flickertONE = random(5);

flickertTWO = random(1000);
MrTrick (author)  Djandco3 years ago
Excellent! Do you have any video of it?
Djandco MrTrick3 years ago
Not yet, it's still a "work in progress"
Just painting the ally framwork so I can start to assemble the parts. Once that is done I can put the Arduino in and start running the LED's.
I will try and get you some pics and a video once it is done.
Djandco3 years ago
4 hours in and I am still "obtaining" my fibers!
Just a tip for stripping the tree, don't use a knife unless you need to, not only do the fibers end up with a red tint to them but you also end up with a pile on the floor for that smaller map you mentioned :)

I have started so I will finish.........

Top idea though! Wish I had this project when my son was young, the LED version was too bright!
MrTrick (author)  Djandco3 years ago
Excellent! I wish you every success in getting there, feel free to ask questions if you get stuck anywhere.

The tree I dismantled tended to use green plastic foliage wound around and around, then sticky taped at the end. Finding and removing those strategic bits of sticky tape might make things go a bit faster.

This wasn't something I used, but might be useful; what about an unpicker (just google it) or a crochet hook to strip the foliage with less risk of personal or fiber injury?
Djandco MrTrick3 years ago
There are a few dents in the fibers where the next level of branches went off but the general result looks good :-)

the base where all of the fibers are glued is very dull, so the light going through is also dimmed. Any ideas how I can polish it up at all?

Thanks for the insperation!
MrTrick (author)  Djandco3 years ago
I'm not sure it's a problem - 'dullness' means that the light that hits the base isn't reflecting back to your eyes. This is a good thing - it would mean that the light is actually transmitting through the fibers.
Tonspaa3 years ago
It could also be possible to use thicker fiber instead of leds, say 2mm
MrTrick (author)  Tonspaa3 years ago
Yes, absolutely.

The only trouble is that 2mm LEDs for example are quite easy to find, but I wouldn't know where to get my hands on 2mm fiber.
newpeople3 years ago
My e-mail: exchange123@yeah.net
newpeople3 years ago
Hello, I am in China, your work well, and I want one, you give me a production of documents?
Damios4 years ago
How did you power the 3W LED spotlight?

Did you use a driver such as this: http://cgi.ebay.com/3w-LED-Driver-MBI6651-based-Luxeon-White-Green-Blue-/350484311200?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item519a7e2ca0#ht_4244wt_957

Or create something yourself?
MrTrick (author)  Damios4 years ago
The 3W LED spotlight I used ( http://www.dealextreme.com/p/gu10-3w-cree-q5-wc-180-lumen-white-led-light-bulb-85v-265v-ac-15070 ) simply runs off AC mains voltages, and has the driver inbuilt.
Damios MrTrick4 years ago
Sorry for the twenty questions, but what did you connect the bulb to power it then? In terms of "AC mains voltages" do you mean simply plugging it into the wall at 120v? I can't really make out what you did for that part from the pictures, sorry.
Damios Damios4 years ago
Nvm I think I figured it out from your picture on the other page. So main volatges as in 120v or 240v for the 3W bulb, connected to the 30v power supply for the LEDs.

I saw you ran it off 240VAC, anything I should change if I'm gonna be running mine off 120VAC?
MrTrick (author)  Damios4 years ago
Just depends on the bulb - my one was 80V - 265V.
Suggest you buy the appropriate socket at the same time, I had a hard time finding a GU10 socket around my area.
Damios MrTrick4 years ago
For sure sounds good, thanks for the information!
Damios4 years ago
Great instructable, but I have a quick question.

You show the board here having a large transistor with a heat sink attached but later on two or so steps later you show the same board with all the LED wires attached and there is no transistor or heat sink, also no potentiometer, which schematic did you use?
MrTrick (author)  Damios4 years ago
Both. :-)

I initially figured that the LEDs would need dimming, and show the board with all those components attached - but it was just a mockup before soldering.

I initially built the board for full brightness... and it ended up eye-bleedingly bright!

So I reworked it back to the dimmable design and turned it down to a more sensible level. That schematic is tested and working well.
Damios MrTrick4 years ago
Oh okay that makes sense, sounds good. I'll probably build a few separate circuits for the LED's then so I can have some different levels of brightness across the board.

Thanks for the clarification!
MrTrick (author)  Damios4 years ago
You're welcome.

Star Map MkII uses software PWM to make the LEDs flicker. :-D
Damios4 years ago
I just have to say this star map is an awesome idea! I was very intrigued when I saw this and instantly wanted to start building my own.

In terms of the primary light source for the large map though, couldn't you create a larger rendition of the LED cap you have for the smaller map, just with more LEDs?

The main concern for me is the heat of the 3W bulb, consumers say that it gets fairly hot and I assume using 8 LEDs or so would create the same level of brightness but with less heat because the light is being produced from multiple bulbs instead of one?

Do you think it would be a comparable alternative solution?
MrTrick (author)  Damios4 years ago
It just depends how bright you want the map to be. A 3W bulb is going to be much brighter than even 20 x 5mm LEDs, and I suppose my big star map could be quite a bit less bright and still look good.

On the other hand. the reason that LED bulbs have serious heatsinks is because they're trying to keep the LED as cool as possible, whereas halogen bulbs will happily get to hundreds of degrees. Any simple heat shield will keep it safe, 3W isn't much heat to disperse.
Damios MrTrick4 years ago
Hmm okay, I guess I'll go with the 3W bulb then. If it doesn't concern you at all when it is that close to cardboard and cloth then it must not be getting as hot as I thought.

Thanks for the info!
MrTrick (author)  Damios4 years ago
I had some concerns before I built it, so I hooked up the LED inside the can shield and left it switched on for a few hours, horizontally - the can didn't even get warm. By having the can mounted vertically there is natural convection too, and there's plenty of air inside the cavity so that 3W of heat is being distributed through the entire thing I doubt a thermal imaging camera would even pick up much warmth from the front.

I would recommend a) buy the 3W bulb, and b) test it to your satisfaction.
If you still have concerns, you could even put a thermal fuse on the outside of the can, and if it ever got hot it would trip far before anything would ignite: http://jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=ST3800
hopper424 years ago
Would the smaller fibers couple well enough into the acrylic rod that you could just use a small bundle of fibers taped to the end of an acrylic rod for the "big" stars? That would remove the need for involved LEDs at all.
MrTrick (author)  hopper424 years ago
You could, or you could just shove as many fibres into the larger hole as will fit.

I didn't take that option, because I didn't know how many fibres would be needed, and I was worried that it would use up too many.
jobard4 years ago
This is the most perfect instructable ever! Congratulations and thank you very much for sharing your gift.

I saw the smaller map at the end of this presentation and I wondered if it would be possible to paint the big one too, instead of using fabric. Maybe it would impair the visual effect.. or not?
What do you think?
MrTrick (author)  jobard4 years ago
Yes, you could use paint instead of fabric. It all depends on your substrate material. For the large star map, my cardboard didn't have the neatest surface. Using fabric let me hide the flaws in the cardboard.

Paint would be easier than fabric when inserting the fibres, too, because they wouldn't get caught as easily.
cosmonoise4 years ago
Awesome cosmic art project!.
Sorry for my English....

Is it possible to control (dimmable twinkle) a group of stars separately by means of a dmx channels console?.
I'm thinking design a background stars for a scene theater of my daughter.
Thanks so much.
MrTrick (author)  cosmonoise4 years ago
If you used multiple LEDs you could control them separately.

However, for theatrical work you might be better off just buying the stars backdrops that they sell.
tinker2344 years ago
wow wpould love to make it
Cthulu4 years ago
Awsome. Been wanting to try this for a while. When I actually get to do it, I'll have a great guide to go by!
dherzberg4 years ago
Discovered this Instructable a couple months ago, and I kept saying to myself "Maybe when I get my own place..." But I can't take it anymore, I'm gathering the materials tomorrow, security deposit be damned!

Pacca4 years ago
Very nice instructables!
I have a little question, because i'm not very good with electronics, and i hope someone can help me =)
How can i calculate the value of the resistors, the transistor and the pot, based on the number and the type of leds?
MrTrick (author)  Pacca4 years ago
I was a little vague about exact values, because it depends on your power supply voltage and how many LEDs you have.

Use an NPN transistor, that has a max voltage C->E more than the supply voltage and max current C->E more than the expected current usage at max brightness. (So that it doesn't blow up.) An NPN darlington transistor would be good, if you've got one, because it has a much higher gain.

A 1K resistor and 100K pot on the left side should be fine.

For the right-hand side of the circuit, select your ballast resistor(s) as if the transistor wasn't there.

The trick is to test it on breadboard and make sure it all works before you touch a soldering iron. :-)
Pacca MrTrick4 years ago
thanks for the perfect explanation =)
douks4 years ago
Hello its Really beautiful and i like what you done with LED

And now i am Collecting All the materials to Start one even if its lil bit hard

But thanks for the idea ........... Keep the ood work
BRAVOOOO great Job
astack4 years ago
Killer project. I've found someone throwing out a fiber optic tree in town and looking forward to nabbing it tonight. Perfect timing on posting this!

I'm planning to use the same technique for the opposite image. I've wanted to make a light-up map of the NASA earth at night image (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/0011/earthlights2_dmsp_big.jpg) for a while and I think the fiber optic lights will work perfectly. The big trick is being able to represent huge metro areas like Bos-Wash and coastal CA that are almost solid light (and aren't round like LEDs).

Also planning to try foamcore or 1/8" mat as a mounting surface.
MrTrick (author)  astack4 years ago
The earth at night sounds like a great image to use! (Even if, technically, it won't not a map of stars.)

Foam-core seems like a fantastic idea to me, I hadn't thought of that.

Representing those very built up areas might be a challenge with individual fibers, but I don't know if a better solution exists. Perhaps you could test with spare foam-core; poke heaps of holes into a small space, feed fibers through but don't glue them, and see a) Does it look good? and b) Can the foam-core cope with so many close holes?

You'd better post pictures when you're done. :-D
iahaleem4 years ago
This is absolutely beautiful. My older brother has always loved astronomy, someday I hope to try my hand at making this for him as a present. Thanks for the wonderful idea, and the instructions on how to make it happen. I only hope I can manage to make it look so nice!
bradiieee4 years ago
A great place to buy unjacketed optical fiber is http://www.fiberopticproducts.com/Unjacketed.htm. For a project like this, the fiber (0.75 mm) costs $0.12 per foot. An alternative using LEDs would be to use larger diameter fiber, such as 3 mm. That costs about $1.17 per foot. Great project by the way! I'm a high school science teacher, and I plan on building one of these in the near future.
MrTrick (author)  bradiieee4 years ago
Great to hear another person planning to build one. :-)

I think those fiber prices are still a bit pricey though, consider you might want thousands of fibers for a map this size, at an average length of a couple of feet - you're looking at $45 for every cent/ft the fiber costs. (1500@3ft)
This is true after doing some more research. I did find 8,858 ft of 0.75 mm for $289, which works out to about $0.0326 per foot, which is much better. I'm looking to build something more on a professional level (no diss to you, yours is amazing). Thanks for the info though!
with star fields there isn't much "professional" to it. take my instructable on a star field, patch cable, styrofoam, kevlar from the patch cable, and LED. as for mine, i didn't have many "stars" certainly more the better looking. but as for "professional" not a very applicable term to this type of project. But if "professional" must be applied I would say building ones own light driver is reaches professional status.
frollard4 years ago
Awesome sauce. Seriously awesome.

Only thing I would add is the motorized 'flicker wheel' to give it that twinkle star feeling -- even if just adding a few strands that flickered on a separate 'channel' would be awesome!
MrTrick (author)  frollard4 years ago
I seriously considered that doing that, but the light source needs to sit perpendicular to the wall. The 'color wheel' that many trees and UFO lamps have would probably double the thickness of the star map.

Maybe if you made something to occlude the light source with a belt instead of a disc, (out of flexible clear plastic) and drew fine lines on it, that might work well! You could probably reuse the same motor from the tree/lamp base, too.
is opening the light source a option? the color wheel could be placed between the "bulb" and the beginning of the strands.
MrTrick (author)  mossDboss4 years ago
Certainly, but consider - by design, the wheel is at least twice the diameter of the terminator. It has to be, see the first diagram below.

If one used a belt made from clear plastic, the same functionality could be made thinner - see second diagram.

I think it would look good for the stars to flicker, actually - but perhaps just to dim a little, not phase completely in and out.
who said it had to be a flat disc?

I just doctored yours, probably would have been faster to just make my own :D
--with a belt drive, it could be made as thin as your current rig with the drum going around the light source, and the light's power wires running under the edge of the drum., blam flat! Your belt drive can be modified also to run the belt behind the light source as well.
MrTrick (author)  frollard4 years ago
That's a really good idea! It's probably more durable, mechanically, than the 'belt' idea I had.
static4 years ago

Do not lick wires, not only is he a designer, and craftsman, he's a comedian as well :)   For in rooms where such art worked would  be displayed, I wouldn't think a circuit protected by a Residual Current Device would be necessary. Here in much of North America, a RCD is known as a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Your instructable does a good job of instructing.  The final product looks great, but I'm sure photos can do it justice, as seeing it in person would. Adding a twinkle effect would be great, but I think that would require a microprocessor to insure  a better level of randomness so someone using the art to help the chill out there baggage, don't  see a pattern.  Great work you may have my vote.
MrTrick (author)  static4 years ago
My comment about an RCD is primarily intended for when one is *building* the star map. I for one would much rather have something that can protect me against accidental idiocy. (Not licking the wires, but perhaps accidentally touching them when live)

When building the map, I did manage to trip the BIG circuit breaker on my sector of the apartment complex - at 2 in the morning! I blame that on an old power board that shorted internally. :-D
mossDboss4 years ago
i used fiber optic patch cable for my starfield. it works well. you would be amazed how bright the .001 - .002 in fibers are from the computer cables.

i bought 400ft on ebay for 25$
MrTrick (author)  mossDboss4 years ago
That's an interesting fiber source - are they plastic or glass fibers? If it's single core, 400ft@$25 comes out to a bit over 6c/ft - not a bad price, comparable to the link bradiieee posted..

It might still be more expensive than buying a tree or UFO lamp though - a UFO lamp might have ~400 of the 1ft-long fibers, come with them already terminated, and cost $5-10. I suppose you might have less wastage though, always a good thing.
the fibers were glass.
as for terminating the ends on the patch cable, I polished each each with a wet stone, at one point I have a 200x microscope but I realized I could do just as good with out it. I polish each end and use a superbright LED to determine which end "shined" the best. It took about a week with a few hours a night.

I would suggest volume, in terms of strands. The smaller diameter strand the more one would want. so for my star ceiling I did about 200 strands in 5x3 area. My child is a little older now so I think I will set the star ceiling back up and take a long exposure photo.
Ive seen those ufo lamps at the dollar store. I think I will go pick one up and build a small one for my son.
Great job.
commandergc4 years ago
Beautiful and so easy to make. Think I'm going to make a small one for my niece's bedroom she'll love it.
Awesome project, thanks for posting. I'm going to get myself a tree and have a go!
vernsolo4 years ago
absolutely brilliant! thanks for the inspiration, you have my vote as well!
corhen4 years ago
Vote for this guy up top, this is awsome, and he deserves to win the laser cutter thingy!
pyper4 years ago
Step 24B Spark up a bowl.
Amazing, just amazing....
I love great ideas especially when they can look this good...
I am definately saving this instructable
thanks for the time spent on making this instructable you get my vote..
Big WOW!!
jrbuilta4 years ago
I voted for you. Frigging awesome project.
AlphaRomeo4 years ago
I had a quick glance at your project and instantly realized what a wonderful project you have come with - first thing that did was to vote for you and now I would like to shake your hand - accept it virtually. What astronomers do to get spectrum of many stars - you have done just the reverse of it. Since I have not read you project completely - and if you have not done so - may I suggest that

you have classify the fibers into bundles of 3 or 4 magnitude class and illuminate those with appropriately? Use one source for one magnitude.

Secondly - you could also add a few variables - I am sure you can rig up a circuit to make a star bright and faint periodically.

thirdly - this project is also useful to demonstrate - why we do not see stars during the days and the effect of light pollution.

And MOST importantly - you should send this project to Sky and Telescope or Astronomy Magazine.

Buddy it is early morning here in India - but you already have made my day.  Jai Ho!!

MrTrick (author)  AlphaRomeo4 years ago
Thanks muchly. :-)

I have not deliberately made the small fibers different magnitudes, because of the sheer number of stars I was unsure whether there would be enough fibers available to use multiple fibers per star. There is some random variance in magnitude because of how the fibers were cut.

I am working on a smaller map that has individual control over the larger stars, and will randomly 'flicker' them.

I think that if one wanted to have multiple levels of brightness, the best way would be to have multiple fiber 'trees', one for each magnitude level, and adjust the brightness of their light sources. It would probably make the back of the map a tangled nightmare though. :-D
May be I was not clear - but this was exactly what I had in mind.  One bundle of fibers for mag. 1, another for mag 2 and so on.
And illuminate each bundle by lamps of different brightness.

You could also think of putting gelatin paint on the fibers (on the side facing viewers) to indicate their colours - eg red for Alpha Ori - 

Anyway this is certainly a wonderful project - what I propose to do - if and when I get time - is to go one constellation at a time and join them together.
well it would be nice to see your article on one of the international magazines for astronomy.

rc jedi4 years ago
beautiful! I love starfields.
Gazmatron4 years ago
Loved the idea- but was a bit complicated for me. I have done the following- Took me about 6 hrs

Got the same effect by laying a star chart over MDF and drilling holes in it- 2m X 1m piece of MDF ($12 AUD)
Building a recessed frame 15cm deep ($15 AUD)
Mounting 2 white IKEA Tube lights to the back frame ($24 AUD)
Installing 2 small fans in the centre of the frame, to make the lights flicker- ($30 AUD)
Painted it high gloss black.

You can also substitute the white lights with LED Christmas lights with a mirror on the back to reflect the light.

Not as detailed but pretty good for the not techy person!
MrTrick (author)  Gazmatron4 years ago
That sounds interesting - do you have a picture of it somewhere?
BrianJone54 years ago
I have followed 'ables for a couple of years. I learned more, and hold more admiration for your industry and art, than any other 'able I have seen.

This is gallery-level art. I'm very glad to read that your wife loves it. So she should.

Thank you. Brian
bahi4 years ago
Beautiful !
baltimoron4 years ago
amazing; i want one now. I sure wish I had teh skils to make this piece of awesome.
greygizmo4 years ago
This is beautiful. One of my favorite projects on here.
At Liberty4 years ago
That is one of the best things I have ever seen in my life, and I love it.
Honus4 years ago
Beautiful. Just beautiful.
luckyvictor4 years ago
Wonderful artwork!!! I would like to know may I use the fibre optic from this lamp please?

MrTrick (author)  luckyvictor4 years ago
That looks ideal!

Wait until it arrives before buying/building a frame for it - the length of the strands will determine how large the map can be.
The reason I ask this was because your fibre optic looks a lot softer then this one here, so i just wonder are they the same thing
MrTrick (author)  luckyvictor4 years ago
They are very similar, certainly. The fibers in my photos look thinner because of their length - shorter lengths of my fibers would stand up straight like that lamp.

When you are placing the fibers, just take care not to bend them too sharply lest the fibers get damaged and light escapes. If you light up the fibers while you work, you can easily see if they're being over-bent.
Esque4 years ago
Very very nice. A brilliant way for re-cycling old fibre-optic xmas trees, on the lookout for one myself now. Excellent 'ible, many thanks for taking the time to share.
makendo4 years ago
"It's full of stars!"
I'm surprised you didn't make it with the aspect ratio 1:4:9 :)
Fantastic project; kudos.
MrTrick (author)  makendo4 years ago
Thank you. :-)

Making a star map in the shape of a monolith would be a FANTASTIC idea, for the joke value alone! It would be easy to do, you'd just omit the outer frame from the design.
ironsmiter4 years ago
Wow. Pretty!
technically awesome, but since my other half was looking at this over my shoulder, I guess I'm in for a long week or two of soldering.

If you substtragte is too thick for the leds to go all the way through, could you have drilled the 2mm "exposure hole" seen from the outside, and a 5mm led hole in the back? then, a dab of hotglue to hold the led's in place(letting the flange keep it from poking through).

Wireing before hotglueing would be required, but shouldn't prove TOO tedious to anyone already commited to all this work.
MrTrick (author)  ironsmiter4 years ago
That is a very good idea! (Have you been spying on me?) I have been using 2mm LEDs for the "next one", and like you say, the cardboard is too thick.

Rather than making a larger hole at the back, it works best to just cut a slit in the cardboard with a box cutter in the same direction as the 'grain', and push the LEDs through.

Thanks for the suggestion - Thanks to you I now need an 'Addenda' section. ;-)
Great job! =)
lukefrice4 years ago
Question. How big is that fiber optic tree that you used? I couldn't find where you said that. Also, what should I expect for a price range for a similar sized tree? Thanks a ton and I hope to be starting on this project soon!
MrTrick (author)  lukefrice4 years ago
The tree I used was about 120cm tall, but there were about 105cm of fibers (subtract the height of the base.)

I do not know how much the tree cost initially - it was a few years old. When tree-shopping, the important thing to look for is the *number* of fibers on it. It won't help much having a 1.8m tree if it only has a few hundred fibers.

If you have trouble finding a tree with enough fibers, you could alternately divide your total area into 'tiles', and use several UFO lamps with a light source for each.
Fake_Name4 years ago
You can *significantly* improve the regulation of your LED current source by putting a small-value resistor in series with the emitter of the transistor, between it and ground. You want it to drop about ~1V at the target voltage.

This way, f you feed the base 1.6V, it will regulate the current.

Basically, if the current increases, the vdrop across the emitter resistor increases, which decreases the base-emitter voltage, and the transistor turns off more.

Symmetrically, if the current decreases, the vdrop across the emitter resistor decreases, increasing the base-emitter voltage, and the transistor turns on more.

This is called Current Feedback, and is the basis of a simple current source, which is the ideal thing to drive LEDs with.

In your example schematic, simply move the 100R resistor.

The advantage of this is you get much tighter current regulation, any thermal effects of the transistor changing bets as a function of temperature is removed, and you can predict the amount of current flow from the base voltage without having to involve the transistor's beta.

Also, you can basically stick any transistor in the circuit without having to change anything, and the brightness should stay close to the same.
MrTrick (author)  Fake_Name4 years ago
That does sound like a better regulator design in general. In this star map though, I can't just move the 100R resistor, because that one transistor is regulating 12 parallel sets of LEDs - there are 12 x 100R resistors.

Using a 12 resistors R1-12, and single resistor R13 might be more appropriate, where the value of the two resistor types adds up to the original value. (100R)
R1-12 carry only a single LED chain's worth of current, but R13 will need to be more robust, probably at least 1W-rated. I think that will work well, and as you said improve upon the original design.
Yep. In this situation, the resistors in each string are the "current-sharing" resistors.

The emitter resistor does not have to be large, because of the way the circuit works. It'll work fine with only 0.1V across the emitter resistor, provided the transistor has a decent amount of gain (beta > 150-200). Alternatively, you could use a darlington, but you'd have to change the base voltage to compensate for the larger vdrop.

That way, with 1A of current, you only get 100mW of dissipation.

With a smaller emitter resistor, you should probably change the values of the pot about a bit, though. Since the relevant range for the base voltage is ~.5v - ~1V, you want to add scaling resistors so that the pot can only reach those voltages, which will give you finer control of the brightness. A 1k resistor to ground, a 1K pot, and 8K between the pot and 5V+ would work.

Otherwise, very small adjustments in the pot result in very large changes in brightness.
Hmmm. With a darlington, you base current is very low.

Therefore, you could get clever, and put a CdS photoresistor in series with the pull-up on the pot, and make the brightness vary with ambient light.

Put a pot across the photoresistor (value probably 1-4x the photoresistor, tweak to taste) to tune the sensitivity.

That way, it's visible in the daylight, but doesn't blow your eyes out at night.
little red4 years ago
Wow this is amazing!!!! I'm defiantly going to try my hand at this but I think mine won't be as big and I might cheat and just buy a string of LED lights cause my wiring skills aren't very advance. Awesome Awesome Awesome, I am in awe of how goos this is!!!
MrTrick (author)  little red4 years ago
Thanks! :-) Using store-bought LED strings could be a good idea actually, I've made a note of it in Step 2.

One problem with that approach is that you might have to splice in lots of extra wires between the LEDs to make them reach the right positions. How are your wiring skills? ;-)
I could do it but I think that mine will be small enough that I won't need to do a whole lot of slicing there will just be some bulbs that I don't use.
Some of the other fiber-optic star-field projects I've read up on use multiple fibers through one hole to get a brighter spot. When I get around to doing my basement ceiling that's what I plan to do. Just thought I'd add that incase some builders don't want to play with circuits.
MrTrick (author)  CraigStanton4 years ago
True, that is possible. :-)

In my case, I didn't think I'd have enough fibers for that - given a big star might need a dozen or more fibers.
I guess that halfway through placing the fibers, if you find you have more fibers than you need you could just start making larger stars here and there.
tannerb9244 years ago
Instead of wiring a hundred LEDs it seems like you could use a string of white Christmas lights. They might be too bright but it's worth looking into, especially for the circuit building-impaired.
rubyrox14 years ago
Oh Man this is absolutely amazing!! I'd love to try it but I have no idea at all about voltages or wiring or resistors and such.
ChrysN4 years ago
depotdevoid4 years ago
What an incredibly awesome project! Thanks for sharing!