Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website,

Saturday 3 August 2013

Minicebo !

One month ago I described my efforts to model the Arecibo Observatory. While I'd really like to use the electronic model for a whole bunch of different things - not least of which is to make an FPS level - the primary motivation of getting it laser etched in glass is now complete.

This crystal is about half the size of my gigantic Virgo Cluster glass brick, measuring 9x9x4.5cm and weighing in at about 0.8kg. That means it's roughly a 1:3000 scale model of its big brother and has a mass 1.5 million times less. The collecting area of minicebo is about 10 million times smaller than Arecibo. I'd guess that if we made an actual radio telescope this small, it would be the world's smallest filled-aperture radio telescope, instead of the largest.

Here's one we made earlier !
The etching company did a really great job of converting my untidy mesh into a sensible point-cloud that preserved all the important details.

This cube doesn't have its own light stand (yet), in these shots I'm just using the one I bought for the Virgo Cluster. Fortunately, 9cm light stands are really common and available from just $5.

I was particularly impressed that so many of the fine details were preserved from my original mesh. Even the individual girders on the platform are visible when you look closely.

Eventually, once things settle down (probably not any time before moving back to Europe), I'll make two versions. One will be a higher-polycount version with more modelled details, textures and lighting effects. One thing I'd like to do is show what the radio sky looks like above the telescope (like NRAO did for Green Bank). And possibly play with Blender's fluid simulator to recreate the end scene of Goldenye...

NO ! Not that bit !
The second will be a low-poly version which looks nice in realtime. That will be for some sort of interactive model. Maybe you'll just be able to look at the dish in 3D. Maybe it will involve an actual game. I suspect there are many uses I haven't thought of yet.

At some point down the line there will be bulk orders of these. Whether we can find some way to sell them to the public has yet to be determined. Anyone interested ? How much would you expect to pay ?


  1. Hello, I am interested in learning more about this facility and your scanning experimentation for a publication.. Can you contact me at Cheers!

    1. I've been getting a lot of spam on the blog lately, some of it obvious, some of it plausible. If you could describe a bit more about what you're interested in, that will prove you're not a robot. :)
      Or you can always contact me though Google+.

  2. The Arecibo telescope finally collapsed just now, and it's a damn shame on an engineering marvel like that. I found this blogpost on Google, and it's cool to see that you immortalized it like this.

    1. Yes, it's horrible to see it die. :( I'm trying to get the model into virtual reality and/or some other interactive format so that people can have a better idea of what it was like.


Due to a small but consistent influx of spam, comments will now be checked before publishing. Only egregious spam/illegal/racist crap will be disapproved, everything else will be published.