Taking Star Photos with my iPhone

I’ve been fascinated with taking star pictures for decades. I never thought I’d be able to do so with my iPhone, at least not without a big telescope in front of it. My iPhone 11 Pro will probably be eclipsed by something else before you know it, but the ease of using this one is addicting.

The photo above is a crop (because of Word Press limitations) of a photo that I took a couple of nights ago. I aimed the camera up at the Summer Triangle. The bright star in the upper left is Vega. I had it on a tripod because I wanted to see how much better the night mode was vs the 3 – 10 second hand-held star photos I’d taken before (Yes, you can do that).

With a tripod, the camera allows me to set a thirty-second time exposure, with the camera’s smarts taking care of tracking all the star images. The initial image has far too much sky glow for the esthetics, so I used the built-in editor to slide the black-point over to the edge which made the background mostly black. The end result is a nice star field I can use to make a catalog of constellations when I feel energetic enough to add some lines.

Now, if you zoom in, the pretty little stars are blocky, but by comparing the bitmap with a star reference guide, I can reliably pick out stars down to seventh magnitude. Which is pretty amazing for a cell phone camera.