The Moon – On a Budget

The Moon – On a Budget

CosmoQuest has been doing these Virtual Star Parties on Google+. They get a few folks to stream video from their telescopes, and a couple astronomers to explain what we’re looking at. Most of those telescope setups cost thousands of dollars, from what I can tell. That got me wondering how cheap you could make a networked telescope. Turns out, pretty cheap.

I had a few things lying around the house: a Galileoscope, an old smartphone and a cheap camera tripod. So, mount the telescope on the tripod and point the camera at the eyepiece. I had to pick up some angle brackets to hold the camera steady but everything else I already had.

I mounted the phone so there’s about a half-inch gap between the camera and the eyepiece. That seemed to get me the biggest image without too much distortion.

 

The phone is running an app called IP Webcam that turns it into an wireless camera. On my PC, I can connect to the phone and either stream live video or capture a high-res still frame.

 

Here’s a still frame I captured of the Moon. It was a bit hazy and the sky wasn’t quite dark but it came out OK. It was originally 2560×1920, scaled down to fit here. The circle shows how much of the view is taken up by the eyepiece. I don’t know why it’s bumpy. Hey, it’s a $50 telescope with plastic lenses in it. Can’t be too picky.

 

I cropped the image and cleaned it up a bit. Nice, huh? Remember, this is an image taken using my old phone strapped to a plastic telescope.

 

And here’s a movie streamed from the telescope. It was originally about 2 minutes long but I sped it up a bit so you can see the Moon drifting across the view as the Earth turns under it. It was really hazy by the time I recorded this; you can see wisps of cloud drifting by.

If I wanted to use this in a G+ hangout, I’d stream to a window on my screen and then share that window in the hangout. A little convoluted but workable.

 
I also got a shot of Mars while I was at it. Not much more than an orange blob, really. I was going to try a shot of Saturn too but a thunderstorm rolled in and spoiled the view.

Steve consists of approximately 60% water and 40% organic molecules, arranged in a configuration that is, among over things, capable of describing itself in this manner.

3 Comments

  1. Your resourcefulness never ceases to amaze. That moon photo is awesome!

  2. That’s fantastic Steve, nice work. You could easily stream that into a hangout. You should join us some night.

  3. This makes me furiously happy!

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