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More Software Tests, Brief Sun Viewing, iPhone 5s Tests

Posted: 23 September 2013

Thursday, 19 September, was clear during the day. Since I would not be able to open the observatory that night (going to the Apple Store early the next morning to try to get new iPhones), and as I wanted to try out a new beta version of the software I'm testing, I decided to go out mid-morning. I opened the observatory at 0924 MST, 91°F. I mounted the Orion full-aperture solar filter on the 8" LX200-ACF to do some observing of the sun at 83X. Several small sunspots were visible.

After completing my software tests, the observatory was closed at 1004 MST, 96°F.

I arrived at the Apple Store in Tucson shortly before 0200 MST on Friday, 20 September, for the release of the iPhone 5s and 5c. I estimated I was about #50 in line, although someone told me later that I was more like #35 or #40. Either way, I was fortunate to get my first choice of a new iPhone: the iPhone 5s Space-Gray 32 GB. Here's a photo taken by a local KVOA TV station reporter showing a portion of the line:

©2013 - Tucson, AZ. Used with permission.

I'm the guy standing at the right. Here's the store entrance as I approached it to get my new phone:


Unfortunately, after I got back home from the Apple Store, clouds came in mid-day. The observatory was not opened on Friday. Cloudy skies continued on Saturday and Sunday. I checked out my old iPhone homemade afocal adapter on Sunday morning. Other than a slight tightening adjustment (by bending the wire loop that holds the phone), no modifications were required to the adapter to use it with the iPhone 5s even though I had originally designed it for use with the Apple iPhone 3GS. It does have a problem with getting and keeping a good optical alignment with the camera since there is some movement in the wire. But, as was the case when I had an iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, the iPhone 5s is securely held in the adapter. I do hope to get a better adapter at some point in the future. But for now, it should work. Here are a couple of photos with the iPhone 5s mounted on the 8" LX200-ACF:



Note the use of the iPhone "Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic" cord. The "+" volume button on the cord can be used as a remote shutter release. It works for still photos, and for starting and stopping video recording, including the new slow motion video. Unfortunately, it does not work for burst mode. I was hoping to use that mode for astrophotography. One other point about the remote: I traded in my iPhone 4 at the Apple Store when I purchased the iPhone 5s. Apple only wanted the phone and not the accessories. So now I have an extra iPhone remote control that I can keep handy in the observatory.

Shortly after leaving the observatory, a nice thunderstorm arrived with heavy rain and wind. Got 0.2" rain in less than 10 minutes. But the sky cleared as sunset approached. The observatory was opened Sunday night at 2035 MST, 69°F. As I was about to open the dome, I noticed this large spider on the dome:


It got away. This was this first photograph I took with the iPhone 5s. Nice first subject!

Since it was dark and the waning gibbous moon had not yet risen, I did some tests of the iOS app "Dark Sky Meter Lite". However, it reported "invalid" on every test. Maybe the app doesn't work with the iPhone 5s and/or iOS 7. I will try again on the next session.

I then tested the iPhone 5s camera's low light capability. This photo is an HDR:


And this one with the new flash on the iPhone 5s:


In both cases, the results were much improved over what I could do with the iPhone 4.

At 2053 MST, the eastern sky began brightening from the rising waning gibbous moon. I took a quick look at Uranus, 83X.

Beginning at 2106 MST, I observed the moon as it rose over the hill to the east, 83X. At 2115 MST, I switched to a 1.25" 26mm eyepiece (77X) for tests of the iPhone 5s using my homemade afocal adapter. I did some tests on the moon, still low in the east, using the iOS 7 Camera app. I used the earbuds remote as a shutter release remote control. The first photo is a normal single shot of the moon:


This is a frame from a slo-mo video:


I then did two "burst" mode photos, 14 and 18 images respectively. As mentioned previously, the remote can't be used for burst mode so it was necessary to actually touch the camera, being careful to minimize hand-induced vibrations as the photos were taken. Burst mode works, but none of the images were significantly better than the single photo I took earlier.

I completed imaging at 2136 MST. This session was a short one so these tests were just initial ones. I plan to do more tests on future sessions. Took a final look at the moon, 83X, and then began closing up for the night.

The observatory was closed at 2148 MST, 64°F.

In other news, back on 12 August 2013, I mentioned that I would be changing my Internet access service. I will end CenturyLink DSL (0.8-1.2 Mbps; fastest available here) for satellite Internet service from HughesNet (15 Mbps). Installation has now been scheduled for Monday, 30 September 2013. I'll report on the results after the switch occurs.

Comments are welcome; use the Comments section below, or you can Email Me. Thanks.

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