Cassiopeia Observatory logo

Initial NightCap Pro iOS App Tests;
iPhone Jupiter and Mars

Posted: 17 April 2014

Opened: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 1811 MST
Temperature: 87°F
Session: 676
Conditions: Clear, slight breeze

1822 MST: viewed Jupiter, 83X and 222X. No moons visible yet; sky too bright about 30 minutes prior to sunset. 1831 MST: One moon now visible, 222X; probably Ganymede (it was). 1834 MST: the moons Io and Europa were now visible. 1841 MST: began preparing for iPhone 5s afocal imaging. Seeing was not great however.

This is a stack of 1718 frames from a slo-mo (120 fps) video, 666X, taken at 1902 MST:


1904 MST: resumed Jupiter observing, 222X. The moon Callisto was now visible. Took this handheld iPhone afocal photo, 222X, at 1907 MST, showing the four moons (Jupiter is overexposed):


This screen shot from the iOS app "Pocket Universe" shows the moon names:


1920 MST: last look at Jupiter, 83X.

1925 MST: slewed to M42 (Great Nebula in Orion) and viewed it using 83X. No nebulosity was visible (sky too bright 55 minutes before the end of astronomical twilight), but the stars were lovely, especially the Trapezium. 1932 MST: nebulosity starting to become visible.

I then began trying out the new NightCap Pro iOS app (released on 16 April 2014; half-off sale at $0.99 until 30 April 2014) with my iPhone 5s. NightCap Pro can save images as JPEG, HQ JPEG, and TIFF. I used HQ JPEG. My first target was the western sky. The top photo (handheld) shows the sky at 1948 MST as photographed by NightCap Pro with settings of Normal, Noise Reduction on, and Night Mode. The image was slightly edited to brighten the sky somewhat. The second photo (also handheld) was taken using the iOS Camera app at 1950 MST and was highly edited to bring out the stars.

NightCap Pro

Camera app

Note that the constellations of Canis Major (left), Orion (center), and Taurus (right) were easily captured in the NightCap Pro photo. Only the brighter stars were captured in the Camera photo.

I then did some afocal imaging of M42, 77X, using NightCap Pro. The top photo was taken using Normal, Noise Reduction on, Night Mode, with Light Boost on, with some editing to best show the nebula. The second photo is the same raw image but highly edited to show that more of the nebula was actually captured by NightCap Pro.



At 2022 MST, I took this handheld NightCap Pro photo showing Orion (left), Taurus (center) and even M45 (the Pleiades; right). Settings used were Normal, Long Exposure, Night Mode, and Light Boost.


Amazing that it actually captured the Pleiades.

I was really impressed with the astrophotography capabilities of NightCap Pro. It has a lot of modes that are ideal for astrophotography of some objects. However, there were two features in this initial release that I feel should be added (developer notified):

1. Unlike Apple's iOS Camera app, NightCap Pro does not allow for use of the earbuds volume control as a remote shutter release to avoid image shake from tapping the onscreen shutter button. Fortunately, there is an adjustable self-timer (1, 3, 5, and 10 seconds) that can be used to avoid the shake.

2. Many times NightCap Pro would not focus on the bright stars in the afocal eyepiece field-of-view. I had to wait for the app to decide to focus before I could lock the focus. A manual focus capability or a "lock to infinity" mode would be good to have.

I plan to do more testing of NightCap Pro and will report the results on my Cassiopeia Observatory reports.

2016 MST: the Zodiacal Light was clearly visible in the western sky.

2046 MST: eastern sky beginning to brighten from the rising waning gibbous moon.

2050 MST: viewed Mars, 222X. Seeing not very good. The North Polar Cap and Chryse Planitia were visible. Began iPhone afocal imaging. This is a stack of 1729 frames from a slo-mo video, 666X + Variable Polarizing Filter (1):


2118 MST: last look at Mars, 222X and 83X.

Closed: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 2127 MST
Temperature: 63°F

Here's a local newspaper article about the recent Oracle Dark Skies Committee meeting.

In other news, the Arizona Science and Astronony Expo 2014 will be held 1-2 November 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. As in 2012 and 2013, I will be there.

Comments are welcome using Email. If you are on Twitter you can use the button below to tweet this report to your followers. Thanks.


Previous report

Cassiopeia Observatory Home Page

Back to Top

Copyright ©2014 Michael L. Weasner /