Astro–photography with an iPhone

The past couple of weeks I’ve been learning how to set up and use the telescope my physics department recently bought.  During one session I wanted to get a photograph of the Moon but it was too difficult to hold my iPhone camera steadily over the eyepiece.  So I began thinking about how to set up a rig to hold the phone over the eyepiece.

At first I looked for an object as tall as the telescope’s eyepiece, which happened to be a speaker with a thin book underneath it.  I then used my Joby tripod to (awkwardly) position the phone’s camera lens over the eyepiece.  This worked but it was incredibly tricky to work with.  In order to line up the camera and eyepiece I had to manoeuvre the speaker at floor level, which meant that I couldn’t look into the screen to know that it was correctly lined up.  So I had to use trial and error to get it correctly lined up.  Worse still than that was the fact that every time I had to readjust the telescope’s line of sight as I tracked the Moon I had to then realign the camera too!  This was very time consuming and detracted far too much from the main purpose of looking through the eyepiece!

Very Awkward Rig
Very Awkward Rig

I then decided to design a simple mount for the phone so that it would move with the telescope.  A section from a kitchen towel tube fits around the eyepiece.  Two vertical strips of cardboard support a platform for the phone.  Lastly a small ledge prevents the phone from slipping down when the telescope is at large angles to the horizontal.  It is a very low tech solution but a solution nonetheless – it works really well.

Phone Mount in Use
Phone Mount in Use

Here are some shots of the Moon using this set up.

Moon 1

Moon 2

And here is one lucky photograph to finish.  Just after making some adjustments and looking back into the eyepiece I notice some sort of a black mark across the lens.  I thought perhaps an insect had landed on the lens, but then looked closer and saw an aircraft moving in front of the Moon!  Unfortunately I didn’t react quick enough to capture the aeroplane over the Moon but I did capture its jet trails.

Jet trails across the Moon's disc
Jet trails across the Moon

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