The James Webb Space Telescope is not just a remarkable feat of engineering; it’s a beautiful one too. Take its 18 hexagonal mirrors made from gold-plated beryllium, which inspired YouTube’s Cellar Nerd to create a replica to hang on their wall as a piece of functional art, accented with actual images captured by the telescope.
The first captured images arrived just last week, but the Webb Space Telescope itself has actually been in development as far back as 1996, with a major redesign in 2005, and construction finally being completed in 2016. The telescope’s mirror array measures 6.40 m across, making its light-collecting area about six times as large as what the Hubble Space Telescope used, allowing the Webb to image objects that are even older and farther away. It will help give us more insights into the origins of our universe, but the Cellar Nerd’s reproduction is a lot less ambitious. It just looks really cool, and costs a lot less than $US10 ($14) billion to build.
Instead of turning to companies like Northrop Grumman, the Cellar Nerd sourced their gold-tinted mirrors from Amazon, which meant having to wait until they actually arrived to get accurate measurements to design and construct a frame to mount them to. The frame was mocked up in 3D in Autodesk’s Fusion 360, but instead of creating all the parts using a 3D printer, the Cellar Nerd instead reached for their trusty jigsaw and a slab of plywood.
To make the mirror worth staring at even for those who aren’t vain, the Cellar Nerd replaced the sensors in the centre of the Webb Space Telescope’s mirror array with a salvaged 15.6-inch laptop screen connected to a Raspberry Pi 2 that holds actual images captured by the real telescope and scales them to fit the visible part of the screen as part of a passive slideshow. Eventually, the Cellar Nerd plans to update the mirror to automatically retrieve new images from the Webb Space Telescope as they’re shared online, to add to an ever-growing slideshow.