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!

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’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!



Jupiter Shadow Transit Animation with iPhone

23 Apr

This week I assembled my first-ever animation of a planet photographed with my iPhone. On April 14, 2015, I took images of Jupiter over the span of 2.5 hours with an iPhone 6 attached to my 8″ Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope. I then chose the best four images and assembled them into the following GIF:

Jupiter Shadow Transit AnimationWhat you’re seeing is the shadow of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede move across Jupiter, while Jupiter’s rotation carries the Great Red Spot along. Ganymede itself is visible at left in the first three frames before it moves out of view.

I was able to use my iPhone for almost everything required to create this animation except the stacking and editing of the individual images. To obtain and edit the images with my iPhone, I used the methodology outlined in my smartphone astrophotography post. To create the GIF, I used the 5SecondsApp.

I would love the ability to stack and edit video directly via the iPhone, so if anyone knows of an app to do this (or wants to create one) please let me know in the comments!

Lastly, if you want to enjoy this with some relevant music, see my Instagram version.

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 >>

Jupiter with iPhone, February 27, 2015

2 Mar

I captured my best iPhone image of Jupiter to date thanks to excellent seeing and a new 9mm eyepiece. The Great Red Spot is clearly visible as is the moon Io at far left.

Jupiter iPhone

Jupiter and Io. Stack of 234 video frames taken with iPhone 4S through NexStar 8SE telescope.

I also took some video with my iPhone 6. The default iPhone 6 camera does not seem to capture the colour of small objects properly (I’ve yet been able to match the planetary quality I obtain with my 4S) but I was able to capture a decent video of Jupiter and 3 moons a bit later that night using the FilMicPro app:

Moon with iPhone 6

1 Dec

My first telescopic photo with my new iPhone 6 was a success! Here’s the Moon on November 28th through my 8″ telescope, taken and edited solely with the iPhone. It’s had more than 17,000 views on Flickr so far!