Perhaps you have seen it on Instagram, or Twitter, or in a well-meaning Snapchat.
Perhaps you have even made one yourself.
It is a photograph of the Moon, taken with an iPhone. You need only witness one of these to know that the Moon, in an iPhone photo, does not look like the Moon. It looks like a yellow, ovular blur.
Unless it looks like the photo above.
That’s the work of Andrew Symes, a Canadian astronomer who has mastered astronomical iPhone photography. I recently exchanged emails with him about his technique. And if you’re looking for more of a how-to—including the specific tools that Symes uses—he recently detailed his process on his website.
Robinson Meyer: What inspired you to try to take astronomy images with your iPhone? Had you experimented with astrophotography before?
Andrew Symes: Since acquiring my first telescope in 1997, I had tried (and largely failed) to take images through the telescope by holding various point-and-shoot cameras and video cameras up to the eyepiece. It was very difficult to hold the camera steady enough and very time consuming to try to get even one decent image in the span of a half hour, so I largely stopped trying.
Around 2011, I discovered that an astronomer I followed on Twitter, Mike Weasner, was taking some excellent images through his telescope with an iPhone and posting them to his Cassiopeia Observatory website. I'd just bought my first iPhone, so I decided to give it a shot. I soon learned that I needed an adapter to keep the iPhone steady as it was also difficult to keep the phone stable and focused when handheld. Luckily, a custom adapter had recently appeared on the market and I purchased one online.
Meyer: Have you played around with any other unusual iPhone camera uses?