iPhone planetary photography

We're getting towards the best time for viewing planets. Jupiter and Saturn are both above that critical 30° angle for good viewing before midnight. Pretty soon they'll be high in the sky at an hour that will have you asleep soon after midnight.

And later in the year they'll be joined by Mars. Opposition - the point when the Earth and Mars are closest, and the planet is highest at midnight - is in late October.

People are beginning to take great photos already, and you don't need hugely expensive equipment to do it.

It's fantastic what you come across when you subscribe to different Facebook groups. I was browsing through one of my favourites the other day, "Budget Astrophotography", when I found these.


Adam lives in Tucson, Arizona, and took these using a manual 8" Dobsonian scope, and an iPhone 6 clamped to a 9mm eyepiece using a Celestron NeXYZ phone adapter. Each one is a single exposure - there's no stacking.

I contacted Adam to find how he took such great shots. These are his tips:

Use the eyepiece that gives you the sharpest image. This probably isn't at maximum magnification, so you'll have to do some experimenting before you know which one to pick.

Always shoot with your camera in manual mode - if you can't set the exposure yourself, get a different app. You'll need it because you'll be underexposing the shots a little. Automatic exposure will just give you a white ball as the planet.

Zoom in on the phone so you can adjust the focus finely. If you're on Jupiter, use the moons for focusing.

Take a series of photos so you can select the best, then edit it using your phone's editor.

Don't worry about the Moon's phase. While the Moon will ruin nebulas, planets are bright enough to punch through the Moon's glare.

But do worry about "seeing": a turbulent atmosphere will ruin your shots. The best photos are taken through cold still air.

Finally, keep at it. Remember, you aren't going to get that perfect shot on your first night.

Great work, Adam!