Braille Astronomy

I wanted to share the world of astronomy / astrophotography with the blind and those that see poorly. This project will do that in a simple fashion with few supplies and cheaply.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

You don’t need many supplies.

1) Some black foam core board big enough for your final design. I believe I got mine at Walmart, but many craft stores have it as well.
2) Paint. I used Windsor & Newton acrylic white paint. I don’t think it has to be that brand, but thicker paint such as acrylic will do well.
3) Paint applicator. I used a quarter inch (approx. 6mm) diameter plastic dowel from a mandala tool kit, but I bet a carefully cut/ sanded wooden dowel rod would do just fine.
4) Embossing tool. I used this to make depressed lines between stars. Not sure what you could substitute. I believe you can get them at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. Mine had about an eighth of an inch ball at the end (about 3mm).
5) Office supplies: hopefully on hand; pencil, paper, tape.

Step 2: Take an Astrophoto

If you have a friend or nearby astronomy club, you can get them to take the base picture you want. But with an SLR and a tripod, you can shoot your own. See other instructables for the steps.

Step 3: Reverse the Image

Use an app or Photoshop to make the black white and the white black. This might be optional, but I found it very useful to simplify the process. I used PictoScanner for iPhone (free). Crop the image to the constelllation you want. I started with Orion. Note that I had to take a picture of my monitor when I used PictoScanner. Once you like the framing, print it off. Leave a little room at the top for a flap to attach.

Step 4: Attach Reverse Image

Simply crease the printout paper at the top, so that you can hang it on the foam core and tape it to the back. I pressed the tape against my palm a few times first to remove some of the stickiness. This allows easier removal, but is optional.

Step 5: Make Pencil Marks for the Stars

Pick and choose the stars you want to use. This is a case of less is more, so be careful to not overdo it. Flip the paper up and down as you mark star by star with a pencil (don’t dig in, just enough so you know where it is).

Step 6: Connect the Stars

Use the embossing tool and a ruler to connect the star marks. Again, less is more, you can crack the foam core board if you are not careful (like I did in the picture). It might be a good idea to practice on scrap.

Step 7: Paint the Stars

Take the dowel and dab paint on the stars you marked. Try to keep the dowel perpendicular. Let it dry. I waited overnight before painting again. Repeat the process at least a couple times for each star. I did a regular star with a few small stars to illustrate a nebulae.

Step 8: Finish Up and Box It.

I signed my “art” in the corner..this turned out to be useful for another reason; it gives orientation to the work.

I boxed it up in a box that could be reopened so that it didn’t get damaged going back and forth. You are now ready to share the sky with a vision impaired friend. Enjoy!

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    Ysabeau

    4 days ago

    That is a very nice idea and instructable.