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How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse with your Phone

21 Jul

If you want to take a photo of a solar eclipse but don’t have a solar filter for your DSLR camera or a solar-filtered telescope, there is a simple option: take a photo with your smartphone through eclipse glasses!

Before the eclipse, find a pair of solar eclipse glasses (also called eclipse shades). These can be purchased at low cost online or from local telescope stores. Some local libraries or associations also give these glasses away for free in advance of an upcoming eclipse.

By holding the glasses over your phone’s camera, you’ll be able to dim the brightness of the sun and take photos as the moon crosses in front of it. Without eclipse glasses, the sun is too bright to photograph with a smartphone, but the glasses dim the brightness enough to get a decent photo.

iphone-solar-eclipse

The sun will appear small, but you should be able to make out the shape of the moon as it takes a bigger and bigger “bite” out of the sun. Once you have aimed the phone/glasses combo at the sun and see it on your screen, lock the focus and adjust the brightness down or up if necessary. You’ll be tempted to zoom in, but don’t do it. The digital zoom function on your phone will probably make the sun look too pixelated or fuzzy. You can always crop the photo later.

Here’s a photo I took of an un-eclipsed sun in this fashion with my iPhone 7:

iPhoneSun

If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that will experience a TOTAL solar eclipse, you can remove the solar glasses from the phone’s camera during the few minutes of totality (when the moon completely blocks the sun) and take a photo using the regular smartphone camera. During these short minutes, the sun’s light will be completely blocked by the moon and the scene will be dim enough to photograph without a filter.

Remember, the only safe time to look at the sun without a solar filter is when the disk of the sun is completely covered by the moon. This only lasts a few short minutes, and only happens along the “path of the total solar eclipse” as shown in this map of the August 2017 event. At all other times, and in all other locations, you can only look at the sun with proper eye protection.

EclipseMapAug2017

Other Eclipse Photography

If you want to try DSLR photography or photography through a properly-filtered telescope, B&H Photo has an excellent eclipse photography guide on their site.

And, again, NEVER look at the sun without eclipse glasses, NEVER look through a camera viewfinder at the sun, and NEVER aim a telescope at the sun unless it has a certified solar filter attached to the front of it and you are an experienced telescope user.

Jupiter Double Shadow Transit with iPhone

5 Jun

Here is the view through my Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope from Saturday, June 3, 2017. Over the course of about two hours I captured the shadows of the moons Ganymede (top) and Io (bottom) as they crossed Jupiter’s disk. These images were taken with my iPhone 6 using this method.

jupiter-shadow-transit

You can also see the moons themselves to the right of the planet. Ganymede is visible at top right, Io appears at the edge of the disk about halfway through the animation, and Callisto is faintly visible at bottom right. Europa couldn’t make it to the party and I attempted no photography there…

 

 

The Solar System with iPhone

13 Mar

I’ve been photographing the night sky through my telescope with my iPhone since 2011, but two objects have eluded me: Uranus and Neptune. Finally, in early 2017, I was able to capture them both. As a result, I’ve been able to assemble my first complete iPhone astrophotography solar system collage!

SolarSystem2017_Watermark

All planets in the above image were taken with an iPhone 6 or iPhone 4S through my Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope. The image of the sun is a composite image made from two photos taken with my iPhone 4S through my Coronado PST solar (H-alpha) telescope.

All images were photographed and edited using the techniques described in my Smartphone Astrophotography blog post, and many of the original individual images can be found on my Flickr account.

Photo Details:

Sun & Prominence, May 19, 2012
Composite image taken with iPhone 4S through Coronado PST H-alpha solar telescope.

Mercury, May 24, 2014
My first telescopic photo of tiny Mercury. Stack of 26 frames taken with iPhone 4S attached to NexStar 8SE telescope.

Venus, July 2, 2015
Stack of 51 frames taken with iPhone 6 through 8″ telescope. Processed in Registax, Nebulosity, Gimp & Flickr.

Mars, June 24, 2016
Stack of 1200 frames with iPhone through NexStar 8 SE telescope. Stacked & edited in PIPP, Autostakkert, Registax, Nebulosity & Gimp.

Jupiter & Double Moon Shadow Transit, March 22, 2016
Includes Great Red Spot and shadows of moons Io & Europa. Stack of 700+ frames taken with iPhone 6 through 8″ telescope.

Uranus, Feb 26, 2017
Stack of 150 iPhone 6 video frames taken with the NightCapPro app through 8″ telescope.

Neptune, Jan 2, 2017
Stack of 5 single images taken with iPhone 6 using the NightCapPro app through 8″ telescope.

Let me know what you think in the comments and feel free to reach out to me via Twitter @FailedProtostar!

 

My first photo of Neptune!

5 Jan

On Monday night, I captured my first-ever photo of Neptune using my iPhone and 8″ telescope. This is a single, unedited 6 second exposure using the NightCap Pro app for iPhone.  It may not look like much, but Neptune was 4.5 BILLION kilometres away when I took this!

neptune

Now, the only planet I haven’t photographed is Uranus, so I’ll need to get on that and complete a full solar system collage in 2017.

Six Years of Saturn

8 Nov

Here’s a snapshot of how Saturn’s tilt has changed (from Earth’s perspective) through its long (29-year) orbit around the sun over the past few years as seen through my telescope.

saturncollage

Photo details: 
April 30, 2011: Single image, handheld digital camera through 5″ telescope.
June 23, 2012: Saturn, June 23, 2012. Stack of 70 frames in Registax from iPhone 4S video taken through NexStar 8SE telescope.
May 3, 2013: Stack of 10 frames from iPhone 4s video through NexStar 8SE telescope.
June 1, 2014: Stack of 200 frames from iPhone 4s video through NexStar 8SE telescope.
May 28, 2015: Stack of 300+ frames from iPhone 6 video through NexStar 8SE telescope.
June 6, 2016: Stack of ~1000 frames taken with iPhone 6 through Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope.

Jupiter & Moons with iPhone

2 May

Here is a GIF of two images (each a stack of 300+ frames) taken with my iPhone attached to a Celestron NexStar8SE telescope on the night of April 29, 2016.

JupiterGIFoutput_rlnTHt

These images were taken about 20 minutes apart and show the movement of Europa (left), Io’s shadow, and Io (right) along with the Great Red Spot.

For information on how I take these images with my iPhone, please see my post on Smartphone Astrophotography.

Astrophotography: Saturn Over Five Years

20 May

On May 22, Saturn will be at its biggest and brightest for 2015. I’ve been photographing the ringed planet through my telescope since 2011, and its appearance has changed substantially since then!

You can see that the quality of the images has improved over the years as my equipment and technique has evolved. You can also see how the rings are more “open” now than they were in 2011.

Saturn GIF

Animated GIF of my Saturn photos, each frame taken one year apart. Saturn with a handheld video camera (2011), a DSLR (2012), and an iPhone (2013, 2014, 2015) through a 5″ telescope (2011) and an 8″ telescope (2012-2015.)

The Tilt of Saturn

Like Earth, Saturn’s axis is tipped. This allows us to catch a different view of the planet’s ring system as Saturn moves around the Sun. In 2009, the rings appeared extremely thin (and seemed to disappear altogether in small telescopes) because we were looking at them “edge-on” from Earth. In 2017, the rings will be very “open” to us.

Saturn-Rings-Tilt-Opposition

Saturn’s axis is “tipped” 27 degrees relative to its orbit. This gives us ever-changing views of Saturn’s rings (from “edge-on” to “above” or “below”) as it moves around the Sun. Photo Credit: Tom Ruen

If you want to have a look at Saturn for yourself in May, it’s visible to the naked eye. Look for a moderately bright, non-twinkling star in the Southeast after sunset. You can also read an in-depth guide to Saturn’s 2015 appearance by David Dickinson over at Universe Today.

If you want to see more of my Saturn (and other astronomy) photos, please visit my Flickr page!