Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Astrophotography Has Come a Long Way, Baby – Part II

27 Mar

In 2014, I compared a photo I’d taken of the Orion Nebula with my iPhone to the first-ever photograph of the nebula (taken by Henry Draper in 1880) and noted how similar they looked. I’ve continued to photograph the nebula through my telescope with a smartphone since then and noticed that my latest photo matches one taken by Draper near the end of his life, exactly 140 years earlier!

In ten seconds – with equipment we can carry in our pockets – we’re able to outdo what used to take more than two hours with the best photographic tools on the planet. And, of course, our smartphones can capture colour! See my full resolution iPhone image of the Orion Nebula on Flickr and learn more about the pioneering astrophotographer Henry Draper on Wikipedia.

You can also find Draper’s 1882 photo, which appears to have been damaged, here via the Cosmic Reflections blog.

Another Solar Eclipse!

17 Jun

On June 10, 2021, Ottawa Canada woke up to an annular solar eclipse. I wasn’t sure that I’d even be able to view it given that it would be so low on the horizon and the day was forecast to be party cloudy. Happily, the clouds were thin and actually made the eclipse even more interesting!

Here is my favourite photo from the morning, taken with my iPhone 11 Pro attached to a Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope fitted with a solar filter. It reminds me of an alien gas giant being eclipsed by another large planet…But maybe that’s just because I watch too much science fiction 🙂

Annular eclipse through an 8″ telescope with an iPhone 11 Pro. Stack of 10 photos.
Here’s a video I took around the same time as the photo above.

Full Christmas Moon with iPhone

3 Jan

December 25th saw the first Christmas Day full moon since 1977, and I was able to capture it with my iPhone 6 attached to an 8″ telescope. Despite horribly cloudy weather through December and January so far, we had two clear nights in a row (December 24th and 25th) which allowed me to take the telescope out for a spin.


This is a stacked image of 50+ frames taken with iPhone video through a Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope on the night of December 25, 2015 when the moon was just past full in Ottawa, Canada.

I took two separate videos of the moon (one of the top portion, and one of the bottom portion) with the FiLMiC Pro iPhone app because the entire moon could not fit in the video frame. I merged and rotated the stacked images from those two videos in Photoshop, and then edited them for sharpness and clarity using the iPhone apps Camera+ and SnapSeed.

You can see more of my smartphone astrophotography on Flickr.





Hadley Rille with iPhone

31 Jul

For *years* I’ve been trying to photograph Hadley Rille — a long, meandering channel on the moon visited by the Apollo 15 astronauts in 1971.


Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott attends to the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) at the edge of Hadley Rille, August 2, 1971.

It turns out I’d captured it in 2012 with my iPhone 4S…and not even known it!


Hadley Rille, stack of 30 frames from iPhone 4S video attached to an 8″ telescope. October 23, 2012.

Above is a zoomed-in GIF that shows what I’ve long sought to photograph! The highlighted area is the winding channel known as Hadley Rille or Rima Hadley. In October, 2012, I was able to spot the rille with my eye at the telescope, so I took a 30-second video of the region with my iPhone 4S to see if I could record it. At the time, I couldn’t see any hints of it in the video or its individual frames, so I assumed it was too small to be picked up by the smartphone camera.

Three years later, armed with much more experience stacking and sharpening video frames, I returned to the video and was amazed to discover that the smartphone camera definitely picked up the rille! While the chasm is long, it only measures 1km across and 300m deep, on average, so it’s amazing to think that a smartphone camera attached to a modest telescope can capture something that small from 380,000 kilometres away.

My photo doesn’t appear to have captured *all* of the rille, however. Hadley rille continues further North than my photo shows. In fact, I was disappointed when I saw that the specific section of the rille visited by the Apollo astronauts isn’t visible in this photo — possibly due to the way it was lit at the time of the photo. It *should* be possible for me to capture the entire channel under the right conditions, however, so it looks like I have something else to try for on an upcoming moon shoot.

Below is my full-size image of the region. It’s a composite of 30 iPhone video frames which have been “stacked” together and sharpened using various software tools that include Registax and GIMP.


Imbrium basin & site of Apollo 15 landing. Stack of 30 frames from iPhone 4S video attached to an 8″ telescope. October 23, 2012.

To see more of my smartphone astrophotography, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Flickr!

My iPhone Astrophoto Process Featured in ShinyShiny

2 Apr

I wrote a guest post for ShinyShiny that can serve as a very quick “how-to” for photographing the night sky with an iPhone (or any smartphone, really.) I was really happy with the way they used my imagery and hope this inspires some new people to try their hand at smartphone astrophotography!


Read my iPhone astrophotography article >>

Mars From Earth vs From Orbit

30 Sep

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) successfully entered Martian orbit on September 24, 2014 and has sent back some spectacular photos. The most recent (and most beautiful, IMHO) is a global, colour image of Mars that shows Syrtis Major and the Hellas basin at far right.

After seeing the image, I realized that I’d taken a photo of almost exactly that region through my telescope in April. I’ve compared the two below. Clearly, it pays to be in orbit!

India Mars Orbiter

Mars through my telescope (LEFT) vs from India’s Mars orbiter (RIGHT). Orbiter image credit: ISRO.

Learn more about my image on my Flickr page, and about the orbital Mars image on Emily Lakdawalla’s Planetary Society Blog.

The Five Ancient Planets…with an iPhone!

7 Jul

Since 2012, I’ve been using an iPhone 4S to photograph the planets and the Sun via techniques described in my iPhone astrophotography blog post. By attaching my phone to my 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (for planetary photography) and my 40mm solar telescope (for solar photography) I’ve been able to capture some surprisingly detailed photos of our celestial neighbours.

It was only this year, however, that I was able to capture Mercury (the most elusive of the naked eye planets) through the telescope. With Mercury in hand, I was able to complete my first collage of the Sun and the five planets known to the ancients: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

iPhone Astrophotography

Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn taken with iPhone 4S through Celestron NexStar 8SE and Coronado PST telescopes.

Moving Forward

Now that I’ve completed this collage, I plan to attempt to capture Uranus and Neptune with my iPhone this summer/fall to create a complete montage of the solar system. Those will be very dim targets and I’m not sure how well I can capture them via the iPhone camera, but I figure it’s worth a try!


All photos were taken with my iPhone 4S through my Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope unless otherwise noted.

Sun: June 29, 2012 through Coronado PST
Mercury: May 24, 2014
Venus: May 11, 2012
Mars: April 11, 2014
Jupiter: March 16, 2014
Saturn: June 1, 2014

The images used in this collage and others can be found on my Flickr page.

Astrophotography Has Come a Long Way, Baby

3 Mar

Today I stumbled upon the first photograph of the Orion Nebula, taken by Henry Draper in 1880. I realized that it looked a lot like an image I was able to get through my telescope in December, 2013 using my iPhone!

I’ve compared the two photos below.


LEFT: The first telescopic photo of the Orion Nebula by Henry Draper in 1880.
RIGHT: My telescopic image using an iPhone.

In about a second – with equipment we can carry in our pockets – we’re now able to outdo what used to take almost an hour. Now that’s progress!

Learn more about Henry Draper on Wikipedia and see my full resolution iPhone image of the Orion Nebula on Flickr.

UPDATE 03/06/14

This photo is now the subject of an article on the website io9 and a post on the I F*cking Love Science Facebook page! A big thrill for me!


My photo of Comet ISON

29 Nov

My photo of Comet ISON

Due to long periods of cloudy weather, I only had one peek at Comet ISON. Here’s my photo of it over Ottawa on November 20, 2013. You can also see some closeups and wide angle views on my Flickr page:

Astronomy App Review: Starmap Media

11 Sep

I was recently able to review a new astronomy app in a guest post I wrote for the Urban Astronomer blog run by Allen Versfeld. The app is called Starmap Media and if you’re looking for an app to learn more about the night sky or astronomy in general, it’s worth checking out.  


Here’s my review: