SUPERNUS, the Sky Globe

Meet SUPERNUS, the SKY GLOBE; a solar and lunar tracking device that will keep you looking up, night and day.

The Latin word “supernus” means “heavenly; celestial; of the gods” and beautifully describes my latest creation (muah ha ha).  SUPERNUS continuously calculates the azimuth and elevation of the sun in the sky (and at night, the moon) and displays its position as a beam of coloured light on the inside of an 8″ diameter frosted glass globe.


SUPERNUS, the Sky Globe. The image above was taken at 3:30AM on 9 June 2015.

SUPERNUS the Sky Globe

SUPERNUS the Sky Globe. The image was taken at around 17:30 on 8 June 2015 and shows the current position of the sun (at my location) in the sky (SSW and ~30% elevation)


SUPERNUS at 07:15 9 June 2015, with the sun in the ENE, elevation 20 deg.


SUPERNUS at 20:40 8 June 2015 with the sun just about to set in the WNW.


The sun “beam” moves in sympathy with the sun across the sky from East to West and at sunset is replaced by a moon beam that similarly traces the path of the moon across the globe. The position of the sun and moon take into consideration the user’s location and the the exact date and time and so accurately mimics how we see the passage of the sun and moon across the sky.

For those of you who have read about some of my most recent projects (Heaven’s Above – Lunar & Solar Clock, the Solar Tracer, and the Graphic LCD Analogue Clock) you will appreciate that I’ve been creating novel models that determine and articulate the daily movements of the sun and moon.

As part of an ongoing body of work that examines our understanding, measurement and lived experience of time, this project attempts to capture another “essence” of time, that of “sidereal” time, where our perception of the passage of time is from the movement of heavenly bodies.

SUPERNUS is built using an Arduino Nano, a real time clock and a pair of servo motors that are positioned orthoganally. At the top of this assembly (similar to a pan & tilt mechanism) is a pair of addressable LEDs. One of the servos controls the azimuth – from East to West – while the second controls the elevation – so that a beam of light can be moved around the inside of a frosted glass globe. The servo head assembly and light head is mounted to the top of a hollow wooden base that contains the electronics and associated wiring. The glass globe fits snugly onto the base.

Supernus - dual servo light "head"

Supernus – dual servo mount for the light “head”

Supernus - globe base

Supernus – top of globe base showing grooves for the servo mount

Supernus - underside of globe base

Supernus – underside of globe base showing electronics and wiring

Using the user’s latitude and longitude and the accurate time and date from the real-time clock are used to calculate azimuth and elevation. These are then mapped to control the two servos to  track the position of the sun during the daytime (from sunrise to sunset) and moon at night (from moonrise to moonset, if visible).

For those of you who are interested, the bulk of the software has already been shared in other projects. I plan to continue to play with SUPERNUS’ features and capabilities, with the thought of adding an IR or Bluetooth interface to control options (location, time, colours etc.)

I’d love to read your comments – by the light of either the sun or moon – so feel free!

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