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Microsoft develops Nokia Lumia 1020-powered Ultrascope

Partners with the Open Space Agency to create 3D printed telescope

Microsoft and the Open Space Agency (OSA) have created a 3D-printed observatory dubbed the "Ultrascope".

The prototype is powerful enough to take professional-grade photos of space using just a smartphone.

According to Microsoft, the mini-observatory has "the potential to completely reinvent astrophotography, making it possible to capture professional-grade celestial images, right from your back garden, for a fraction of the price of traditional space telescopes".

The viewing devices can be fabricated using a 3D printer and stand at 1 metre tall when pointed vertically and 65cm wide at the base. They can be controlled via a laptop, which receives ISS orbital location data.

This then forwards the information to the telescope, locating the target, while using the smartphone to take pictures. These images are then sent to the cloud where the data is processed into a form useable by scientists.

The Ultrascope is the idea of OSA founder, James Parr, who said such a project would have been the exclusive preserve of professionals a few years ago.

He also hopes the project will open up "opportunities for people who have been gazing at the stars their whole lives, but haven't, until now, been able to get involved".

"Our hope is that hundreds of Ultrascopes will be assembled, enabling a large number of people to contribute to new discoveries as they explore the night sky."

Dr Juha Alakarhu, head of Imaging Technology at Microsoft, said: "It's great to see that the efforts of James Parr and the OSA with the Ultrascope, and I look forward to seeing the images as they continue to shape this exciting project. It's wonderful to think this could be available to the masses in the near future."

In order to make the Ultrascope, interested people need to sign up and be accepted on to a beta programme. To make the scope, access to a 3D printer and laser cutter is also required.

The OSA hopes to create "increasingly sophisticated models" over the next 12-18 months to help enthusiasts "peer ever deeper into the stars".

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