Tag Archives: iphone

Solar Eclipse with iPhone!

24 Aug

We had fantastic weather here in Ottawa on August 21, 2017, and I was able to photograph my first solar eclipse! We saw 71% of the sun covered here in Ottawa and I took a boatload of photos and video.

The View Through the Telescope

Here are some of my best shots. All images and video were taken through my Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope (filtered with an Eclipsmart solar filter) with my iPhone 7.

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Approaching peak eclipse in Ottawa. Stack of 10 iPhone photos through 8″ telescope.

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The classic PAC-MAN shot. Stack of 10 iPhone photos through 8″ telescope.

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Almost done! Stack of 10 iPhone photos through 8″ telescope.

Raw Timelapse

I also put together a rough timelapse built from unedited iPhone images taken through my telescope. Note: I changed the orientation of the phone/eyepiece and the degree of zoom used during the eclipse, which is why the orientation and size of the sun changes throughout the timelapse.

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Videos

Here’s a short video of the view through my iPhone as the wind picked up a bit early in the eclipse:

Solar Eclipse through 8″ telescope with iPhone 7. from Andrew Symes on Vimeo.

And this is an iPhone video (sped up 4x) that shows the moon crossing in front of a sunspot at right.

Moon swallows a sunspot! from Andrew Symes on Vimeo.

Non-Telescopic Shots

I also took some non-telescopic photos using a homemade solar eclipse “projectinator,” eclipse glasses, and a colander!

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Pinhole projection in a poster tube.

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Solar eclipse with iPhone through eclipse glasses.

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Crescent suns through a kitchen colander!

Now to chase totality in 2024!

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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!

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Saturn: Four Years of Photos

8 May

On May 10,  Saturn was biggest and brightest for 2014. I’ve been photographing the ringed planet through my telescope since 2011, and its appearance has changed substantially since then!

Saturn with a handheld video camera (2011), a DSLR (2012), and an iPhone (2013, 2014) through a 5" telescope (2011) and an 8" telescope (2012-2014.)

Saturn with a handheld video camera (2011), a DSLR (2012), and an iPhone (2013, 2014) through a 5″ telescope (2011) and an 8″ telescope (2012-2014.)

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.

Animated GIF of my Saturn photos, each frame taken one year apart.

Animated GIF of my Saturn photos, each frame taken one year apart.

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.

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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 2014 appearance by David Dickinson over at Universe Today.

Photo Credit: Roen Kelly, Astronomy Magazine.

Photo Credit: Roen Kelly, Astronomy Magazine.

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

 

 

Smartphone Astrophotography: How I photograph the Moon & planets with my phone

4 Mar
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Moon photographed with an iPhone 4s through an 8” telescope.

I’m often asked how I am able to take high-quality images of the solar system using my iPhone. In short, the quality of today’s smartphone cameras makes it possible to take very respectable images of the Moon and planets through a telescope with your phone – but it takes some work.

While the end results may not match those taken with dedicated astronomical CMOS or CCD cameras, smartphone astrophotography can be a good starting point for budding astrophotographers. It can also be a useful alternative for experienced astronomers who wish to capture an image quickly with little equipment.

What You Need

1)      A Smartphone Adapter

Orion iPhone Adapter

A smartphone adapter will hold your phone in place above the eyepiece.

The simplest way to take a photo at the telescope is to simply hold your phone’s camera up to the eyepiece, but this approach rarely produces good results. Not only is it very difficult to centre the object properly, it can be tricky to ensure that the object is well exposed.

A simple adapter will improve your smartphone astrophotography immensely. An adapter will help you centre an object in the phone’s viewscreen, steady the camera, and ensure proper focus and exposure. A handful of companies are now producing adapters, including Orion whose adapter for iPhone 4s (no longer available) is pictured here. Orion also produces a Universal Smartphone Adapter (mobile-friendly link here) that is said to fit most phone brands and which is what I now use.

Here’s a video of the Orion Steadypix in action to give you a sense of how an adapter is used: http://youtu.be/ej9uj5fsbDo?t=5m

2)      A Way to Dim the Object

Smartphone cameras have excellent resolution and many now have the manual exposure control settings needed to evenly expose the entire lunar disc or to capture subtle planetary features. On some phones, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and the Moon will be too bright on the camera screen by default. Luckily, the newest iPhones have good exposure controls that will normally do the trick to dim the image and bring out the right amount of detail.

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Use your phone’s exposure controls to dim the object. Click this photo to see a quick and helpful video from Apple: “How to Shoot the Moon on iPhone 7

If you find that your smartphone doesn’t have powerful enough exposure control on its own, you may want to try using eyepiece filters (mobile-friendly link here) such as an a variable polarizing Moon filter (mobile-friendly link here) and/or a coloured filter to reduce the object’s brightness in the eyepiece.

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Jupiter and moon with iPhone 6, default brightness.

 

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Jupiter with iPhone 6, with brightness dimmed. Now you can see the moon’s shadow on the planet!

3)      Stacking & Editing Software

While it’s possible to take high-quality snapshots of the Moon with a smartphone, it’s difficult to take an individual planetary image that matches the view through the eyepiece. To tease the most detail out of a planet, it’s best to record a short video clip of the object using the camera’s video function or an app (I use FilMic Pro with my iPhone). You can then use freely available image stacking software to select and combine (stack) the best individual frames from the video.

The photos above show the difference between single images (L) vs. stacked images (R) that combined hundreds of the best individual video frames I took of Mars and Saturn.

The Stargazers Lounge tutorial on Stacking Planetary Images offers an excellent introduction to image stacking and editing.  AutoStakkertRegistax and AviStack are popular, free stacking software tools, and Apple users can also import iPhone video directly into a shareware program called Keith’s Image Stacker to accomplish similar results.

4)      Practice

Tycho Clavius Moon iPhone

Lunar closeup captured with an iPhone 4s through an 8” telescope.

As with most astronomical pursuits, your skills will improve with practice. Don’t be disappointed if your first images don’t match those you see online. Experiment with different eyepieces, filters, and software and understand that the image quality is only partially in your hands. Your success will also depend on the degree of atmospheric turbulence or “seeing” at the time you’re taking your images. The same techniques might produce dramatically better (or worse!) results from one night to the next.

Once you’ve obtained some images you’re happy with, be sure to Tweet them to me www.twitter.com/failedprotostar  so that I can see your hard work! 

UPDATE I

It’s also possible to take photos of the brightest deep sky objects with a smartphone. Using the NightCap app, which mimics the long exposures of DSLR cameras, I was able to obtain a high-quality image of the Orion Nebula that was recently featured on the website io9!

Orion Nebula iPhone Andrew Symes

Single frame of the Orion Nebula taken with the NightCap app and brightened using the Camera+ app.

No stacking was required to record the colour and detail found in this nebula. I simply brightened the original image with the Camera+ app.

Lastly, I’ve created a Flickr gallery that contains my most recent iPhone astrophotos.

UPDATE II

In 2016 I took some of my best iPhone photos of Saturn and Mars using the techniques described above:

SaturnWatermark

MarsWatermark

UPDATE III

Here is a new image I created of the Orion Nebula using the NightCap app in February, 2015. It’s a stack of 30 iPhone 6 images taken through my 8″ telescope.

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