Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DIY Homemade iPhone Telescope Attachment Adapter Mount

I love taking photos of the moon through my telescope with my iPhone, the camera is really small but sharp and high resolution. The hardest part is keeping the camera centered over the eyepiece. You can try snapping a pic handheld, or constantly adjusting a tripod pointing down through the eyepiece, but if you really want to get a good photo you need to have a mount attachment to keep the camera steady. There are retail iPhone telescope adapters available ($50 to $70), but making one out of junk can be fun too!

DIY Homemade iPhone Telescope Attachment Adapter Mount
DIY iPhone telescope attachment adapter mount thing!

I used the "random crap around the apartment" approach, so first I'll explain the components in basic terms so that you might find something suitable if you don't have exactly the same things lying around, and then I'll show you how I made mine.

You'll need:
  1. A platform - something about the size of your phone that is sturdy, flat, and light weight so that it can hold the phone up without bending. In my case, I used a plastic insert from an Apple mouse package. You could also use wood, other bits of plastic, or a long metal bolt.

  2. A cup or clamp - something to go over the eyepiece or clamp around the eyepiece that attaches to the platform. In my case, I used a plastic medicine bottle. You could also use a film container (if those still exist), a cap from a travel size shaving cream canister, or anything about the right diameter and long enough to go down the eyepiece a ways. 

  3. Adhesive - some way of attaching the cup to the platform. Hot glue would probably work best, but I used sticky dots and it worked just fine. iPhones don't weigh that much so it shouldn't be a huge deal.

  4. A hole - you'll need a way of cutting a hole in the cup. I used kitchen scissors and it was sloppy but fine. A drill would make it nice and neat, but do what you can.

  5. Snug-ification - you'll need a way to make the cup snug around the eyepiece so that it can hold the DIY mount onto the phone. If you're using a clamp instead of a cup, you'll need a way to tighten the clamp. If you're using a cup, you just need something with a little bit of give to go around the eyepiece. I used paper, you could also use foam, cotton, cardboard, or whatever.

  6. A seatbelt - you'll need some way of attaching the phone to the mount itself. My regular phone case has some silicone on it, so if my scope is relatively horizontal it can grip a little bit on its own. For more vertical angles, I use a bit of tape on the back of my phone and it's fine. You could also use a rubber band, a neoprene sleeve, a wire, or make the mount out of an old iPhone case itself.

DIY iPhone telescope
I found a plastic insert from an Apple mouse package, and a generic allergy medicine bottle about the size of my eyepiece

phone telescope adapter mount
I cut the medicine bottle in half and cut a hole in the bottom. I glued it into the corner of the Apple mouse package insert

phone telescope adapter mount
I made sure the hole was big enough to fine tune my iPhone placement with different eyepieces if needed

glue spots
I used glue dots, but any kind of strong glue will work. Don't get glue on your eyepiece!

phone telescope adapter mount
The bottle was almost the right size, but I stuck paper in the plastic cup for a snug fit

DIY iPhone telescope mount
The plastic cup is deep enough and snug enough to hold the iPhone out horizontal without bending

DIY iPhone telescope mount
I used some tape once I had the iPhone in the right position over the eyepiece

DIY iPhone telescope mount
And I used the Apple headphones as a shutter release for the default camera app in video mode

iPhone moon photo
Here is a screenshot of the video, not bad!

iPhone telescope moon photo
Here is the final product after stacking 15 sec of video in Registax (461 frames of AVI) punched up a little with a high pass layer in Photoshop

11 comments:

  1. Hi! thanx for your post, last week I had the chance to see bare eye the ISS crossing the sky, so, next time am planning to take some pictures of it, I have a telescope and your advice will be of great help building an adaptor for the iPhone, but I wonder, is there any need to do some correction because of the telescope when guiding with the help of a stellar map app like Star Walk? I remember from my basic physics course that what you see in a tube device like a telescope is kind of deviated by something like 7 degrees from what you see using your bare eye....

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  2. Hi Sergio! Let's see, let me try my best to comment. Tracking the ISS with a telescope is very difficult because it is moving so fast. Taking a video or photo of it through a telescope is no small task, very difficult - I have never done it so if you get it to work please let me know!

    As for guiding, are you talking about moving the scope by hand using Star Walk like a star chart as a reference? or are you talking about computerized guiding?

    There might be a small difference between the view in a spotting scope and your actual telescope based on their alignment, but in general objects won't have a deviated position just because you're looking through a telescope. I'm not sure where that number is coming from. (???) The stars appear to move 15° per hour because the Earth turns 360° in 24 hours. This movement is much more obvious looking through a telescope because the field of view is much narrower.

    I found this article that might help. (http://www.universetoday.com/93588/a-beginners-guide-to-photographing-the-international-space-station-iss/) I'd recommend photographing the station as a video to increase your chances of getting a good frame - or stack the frames in the free software Registax to try to clean them up.

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  3. Hi, thanx for your answer; I would use Star Walk as a guide to orient the telescope, as it has a path trace for the ISS, then I would start Fast Camera as an attempt to get a good frame, or stacking them in Registax for further processing, thanx for the tip!!

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  4. Thanks for this article, Eric. I bought my first telescope at the start of this year (a 114 mm Newtonian) and have loved taking some (admittedly terrible) photos through it with my iPhone 4. I was looking for an iPhone mount I could buy when I found this page and I love the idea of making one myself, so I'm going to see what I can do.


    Your site looks like it's going to be a fantastic resource for me as I learn more about amateur astrophotography. Thanks for sharing all of this stuff!

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  5. Hey Mark, thanks for your comment! Do you have a blog? I'd love to see what you come up with.

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  6. I do actually, I write at http://www.honestuniverse.com, although to date I haven't written that much about astronomy. Now that I've built myself an iPhone/telescope adapter and taken a few images I'm happy with I expect I'll do a write-up about that there quite soon.

    In the meantime, I generally put the images that excite me on Twitter (@HonestUniverse). Here's one I just put up that I took of Jupiter tonight: https://twitter.com/HonestUniverse/status/452723858584260608

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  7. Mark, I really like your blog! I've been listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast for years and I love the combination of skepticism and amateur astronomy on your blog. Keep up the good work, I'm gonna put a link to your site in my sidebar!

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  8. Thanks a lot!


    I'm a listener to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe as well, it's a great podcast. I'm pretty excited that the hosts are all coming to New Zealand in December this year as speakers for our annual Skeptics Conference so I'll hopefully get to meet them in person.

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  9. As an avid (amateur) iPhone-Photographer I've been thinking of ways to get this done. The mounts seem to a bit overpriced. Cannot wait to give this a shot tonight. Thank you very much!!

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  10. damn right is right

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