Sunday, March 10, 2013

Astrophotography with Android

Even though I'm just scratching the surface of what's possible with astrophotography, it didn't take me long to learn that it can become somewhat arduous to setup all the hardware commonly associated with the process (not to mention dealing with power requirements and packing it all up after wrapping up a session).

The "full setup" for me would look something like this:
  • Telescope
  • Power
  • Camera + USB cable + T-ring / T-Adapter
  • Laptop (with BackyardEOS, Stellarium, Canon's EOS utility, etc). 
  • USB to Serial adapter
  • Serial to Nexstar/autoguide port adapter
  • A table or similar to setup on
Right now, I find it far more satisfying to be able to just go out and shoot with minimal setup. The auto-guiding built into the Nexstar mount is sufficient for me for the time being, so the only thing I'd need the laptop for focusing and image acquisition. Being a long-time Android fan, I was curious about what kind of software was out there that may act as surrogates for what I was running on my laptop.

It turns out there are a number of really great options - I've not yet played with all of them, and it may not be the best out there, but have been very happy with Helicon Remote. It between it's live view, exposure options, and burst mode, I've been able to leave my computer behind and use a simple USB OTG /host adapter to plug my camera into my phone. Interacting via the touchscreen is also far more intuitive and straight forward (for me, anyway) than the mouse and keyboard when it comes to adjusting camera settings. I believe there's a version for iOS, as well.

It's meant that I've gone from setup above to:
  • Telescope 
  • Power
  • Camera + USB cable + T-ring / T-Adapter
  • USB OTG adapter
  • My phone (which I don't really count as an additional item, as it's in my pocket anyway).
The three images of M42 I've posted in the past were all captured with this smaller setup. I love the ability to frame, focus, set exposure and tap "Burst," then set the phone on the telescope's base while images are collected. 

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