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How To Track Satellites In Space With a $35 Computer

Since the launch of the Sputnik 1 in 1957, more than 6,600 satellites have gone into orbit, used for everything from navigation systems to environmental monitoring to military purposes. But we’re rarely aware of these complex machines revolving around our planet; at altitudes ranging between 124 and 1,240 miles, they’re all but invisible to the human eye.

To help visualize the activities of these satellites, Berlin-based art and robotics studio Quadrature custom-built a drawing machine called the Satelliten, powered by arduino and Raspberry Pi, which channels available data and tracks the position and paths of the floating objects in lower earth orbit. When placed atop an old analog map, it uses a pen to draw satellites’ paths in real time, using its own position as a starting point. As Satelliten draws, as Quadrature describes on their website:

Now the paths of the satellites start to form on top of the familiar neighborhoods, thus setting the normally invisible traffic in relation to our usual habitat. But as time passes the lines of the satellites will obliterate the well-known streets and cities, overwriting not only the information the map originally contained but as well the marks left by the preceding satellites.

It scribbles furiously until the object it’s tracking has left the horizon. What results is an almost entirely blacked-out square on the map, covered with the satellites’ inked paths. The map becomes a clever small-scale visualization of the invisible happenings around our planet.

[via Creative Applications]

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