Lunar phase clock

We found a simply beautiful Raspberry Pi project over at Instructables: this illuminated lunar phase clock.

lunar clock

Using John Conway’s lunar phase algorithm (that’s the same John Conway who invented the cellular automaton Game of Life in the 1970s), some simple circuitry (some soldering required, but this is an easy enough job), and a bit of elbow-grease for that handsome case, Aleator777 has produced an excellent tutorial that gives you all the steps you need to create your own lunar clock.

We love artistic, decorative projects like this one – and it’s a good way to teach your kids a little astronomy. Suggestions for improvements? (We note, for example, that Conway’s lunar phase algorithm only works for this century and last century.) Leave them in the comments!


Andy avatar

Really pretty

When I first saw it I thought the moon was going to revolve.
Which goes to show … something.

jbeale avatar

Well the moon’s rotation is tidally locked to the earth now, but I imagine at some point in the past, it wasn’t… anyway that is a very beautiful clock. Could add a PWM driver to fade in each segment gradually, for higher resolution.

Bob avatar

It would have been. Once something starts spinning in space it doesn’t really stop.

John Collis avatar

The moon does rotate, it’s period of rotation is equal to its orbital period. When there is a new moon the far side is illuminated, as the moon waxes the illuminated hemisphere moves towards the side facing the Earth until at full moon the far side is in darkness. As the phase of the moon wanes the hemisphere that is illuminated moves towards the far side until it gets back to new moon.

Tom avatar

Great project, very attractive.

Thomas avatar

Yes, a nice project, but not well suited as DIY project. The casing and esp. the acrylic segments were cut using a laser cutter. Nothing i happen to have in my basement. ;-)

Liz Upton avatar

Many people *do* have access to a hackspace or makespace in their local area, though; it’s worth looking around. (And the project author notes that the casing can be made by traditional methods if you have the time and skill.)

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