Cassiopeia Observatory logo

More iPhone 5s Astrophotography Tests, Astro FaceTime

Posted: 24 September 2013

The observatory was opened Monday, 23 September 2031, at 1813 MST, 90°F. The sky was clear. The primary purpose of this night's session was to do more astrophotography with my new Apple iPhone 5s (32 GB). I had done some on the previous session; see that report for more photos. As on the previous session, just prior to opening the dome I saw the same spider sitting on the POD wall.

Sunset was at 1822 MST. Briefly viewed Venus in the 8" LX200-ACF, 83X. Then began setting up for iPhone astrophotography. Used my homemade afocal adapter with a 9mm eyepiece (222X) and the Apple earbuds as a remote shutter release. This image of Saturn is a cropped frame from a video recording:


In order to keep Venus from overexposing I added a moon filter to the 9mm eyepiece. This image of Venus is a cropped frame from a slo-mo video:


Both planets were very low in the sky and so seeing was not very good, resulting in fuzzy images. (The spider was terminated after I completed my planet imaging.)

Now that I have high speed networking available from the observatory (via the AT&T 4G cellular network), I decided to try an astronomical FaceTime video conference with John Martellaro, Senior Editor of The Mac Observer, in Denver, CO. After he first saw my red-illuminated face from the front camera on the iPhone 5s, I switched to the rear camera and he was able to see Venus as viewed through my telescope at 222X (with moon filter). He captured this screen image:


I removed the moon filter and slewed to Saturn. This is the view he saw via FaceTime:


The astro FaceTime video conference was ended at 1927 MST. We both agreed it was a success even though seeing was not good and I'm still testing optical setups with the new iPhone 5s camera. Using FaceTime can be an ideal way to do a "virtual star party" showing bright objects (planets, moon, sun) to your friends. I will have to do more in the future.

Beginning at 1945 MST, I repeated my tests of the iOS app "Dark Sky Meter Lite". As occurred on the previous session, I would always get an "invalid" when trying to read the night sky. What is strange though is that I had tested the app indoors in a dark room earlier and it worked fine. I have passed this information to IDA and the developer.

I then did some sky photography tests using the low-light apps "Night Modes", "True Nightvision", and the iOS 7 Camera app. All three apps were able to photograph bright Venus as a dot in the sky. True Nightvision was able to photograph Vega in the sky:


I tried imaging M17 (Swan Nebula) through the telescope at 77X using the three apps. Unfortunately, my homemade afocal adapter would not hold optical alignment precisely enough to ensure the desired faint object was in the field-of-view and nothing was captured in the images. I do plan to get a better iPhone afocal adapter for the iPhone 5s in the future. I ended low-light app testing at 2010 MST.

I then viewed M17 (Swan Nebula), 83X. I followed that with some 7x50 binocular sky observing: Milky Way in Sagittarius, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), Double Cluster, and M13. I returned to the 8" telescope and using 83X, viewed M16 (Eagle Nebula) and M22 (globular cluster).

At 2030 MST, I began using a 2X nightscope for some terrestrial and sky viewing. A lot can be seen in the sky with a nightscope. I viewed the Milky Way, M31 (galaxy), the constellation of Lyra, and M13 (globular cluster).

I then returned to the telescope and viewed M31, M32, and M110 (galaxies), 83X. At 2104 MST, the eastern sky was beginning to brighten due to the rising waning gibbous moon. I tried to view the supernova SN 2013ej in the M74 galaxy, 83X, but the galaxy was too low in the sky. By 2135 MST, it was higher but the rising moon was now interferring.

At 2150 MST, the moon began appearing over the hill to the east. I watched it rise using 83X on the 8" telescope. I then waited for the moon to get higher before beginning iPhone imaging. At 2225 MST, I switched to using the 1.25" 26mm eyepiece (77X) on the homemade iPhone afocal adapter. I did some more nightscope terrestrial viewing while waiting for the moon to rise higher. Didn't see any critters.

I began iPhone lunar imaging at 2300 MST. This is a slightly cropped single photo:


I added a 3X TeleXtender to the 26mm eyepiece (yielding 231X) and captured this view (slightly cropped) of the lunar south polar region:


Next, I did a slo-mo video recording of the south polar region, 231X. This is a single frame, slightly cropped, from that video:


I completed imaging at 2310 MST, and did some lunar observing using the Explore Scientific 2" 9mm 100° eyepiece (222X). The south polar region was impressive.

The observatory was closed at 2330 MST, 66°F.

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

Previous report

Cassiopeia Observatory Home Page

Back to Top

Copyright ©2013 Michael L. Weasner /