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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
What 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.
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 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:
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!
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.)
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.
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 2014 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!