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The Astro Pi Sensors

The new Astro Pi computers contain a range of sensors that will allow Mission Space Lab teams investigating life on Earth and life in space to do a wider range of experiments than ever before.

Check the list of sensors below for more information.



A passive infrared sensor (PIR sensor) is an electronic sensor that measures infrared (IR) light radiating from objects in its field of view. They are most often used as motion detectors.

Colour and luminosity sensor

A colour and luminosity sensor can detect the received light intensity for red, blue, and green respectively, making it possible to determine the colour of the target object. It can also measure illuminance, which can be used to measure more than the brightness of a light source. Because the illuminance decreases as the sensor moves away from a steady light, the light sensor can be used to gauge relative distance from the source.

Coral ML accelerator

The Coral machine learning device can run machine learning models for object detection, such as TensorFlow, to detect objects using the camera sensor. A pre-trained AI model can be deployed to the device, using a camera as the input.

The new Astro Pi hardware includes the Coral Edge TPU. Using the TensorFlow Lite framework with this specialised hardware, you can greatly accelerate machine learning tasks like image classification and object detection.

Gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer IMU sensor

The gyroscope sensor can be used to measure angular velocity about three axes: pitch (x-axis), roll (y-axis), and yaw (z-axis). IMUs are used to measure acceleration, angular velocity, and magnetic fields, so you can write code to determine motion, orientation, and heading. Check out this great example of how a team used the sensor to determine the magnetic field of the Earth.

Temperature sensor

The temperature sensor measures temperature readings on the ISS through electrical signals. The sensor is made up of two metals, which generate electrical voltage or resistance once it notices a change in temperature. Be mindful that the International Space Station is carefully regulated, so you will not see many fluctuations in temperature.

Pressure sensor

The air pressure sensor is a type of engine-management sensor commonly found on many vehicles. The sensor on the Astro Pi is responsible for measuring the atmospheric pressure of the environment on the International Space Station.

HQ Camera

The Raspberry Pi High Quality (HQ) Camera sensor from Raspberry Pi offers a 12 megapixels resolution. It comes with a 6mm, 3MP wide-angle lens, which offers a wide field of view to allow you to see more of the overall target area. Teams can choose to take either visible-light or near-infrared photos as part of their experiment.

Check out how this ‘Life on Earth’ team used IR photography to conduct NDVI analysis to analyse burn scars from forest fires. They even managed to get results over Chernobyl!

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