A document describes a simple night sky display system that is portable, lightweight, and includes, at most, four components in its simplest configuration. The total volume of this system is no more than 106 cm3 in a disassembled state, and weighs no more than 20 kilograms. The four basic components are a computer, a projector, a spherical light-reflecting first surface and mount, and a spherical second surface for display. The computer has temporary or permanent memory that contains at least one signal representing one or more images of a portion of the sky when viewed from an arbitrary position, and at a selected time. The first surface reflector is spherical and receives and reflects the image from the projector onto the second surface, which is shaped like a hemisphere.
This system may be used to simulate selected portions of the night sky, preserving the appearance and kinesthetic sense of the celestial sphere surrounding the Earth or any other point in space. These points will then show motions of planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and comets that are visible from that position. The images may be motionless, or move with the passage of time. The array of images presented, and vantage points in space, are limited only by the computer software that is available, or can be developed.
An optional approach is to have the screen (second surface) self-inflate by means of gas within the enclosed volume, and then self-regulate that gas in order to support itself without any other mechanical support.
This work was done by Timothy P. Castellano of Ames Research Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.
This invention has been patented by NASA (U.S. Patent No. 7,438,422). Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at (650) 604-5761. Refer to ARC-15437-1.