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Posts tagged ‘Smartphones’

At last, a Universal Smartphone Microscope Part 1

The fact that nearly everyone is carrying a Smartphone, and therefore a digital camera in their pockets lends itself to some wonderful solutions with just a bit of accesorizing. Lab equipment is being designed around the Smartphone and you can expect more such items in the future.

Now it stands to reason that the camera on your smartphone could be adapted to other optical systems to turn your Smartphone into a telescope or microscope camera.  Well, for telescoping the best that can be done so far is to develop ways to attach the phone to binoculars or telescopes, as they tend to require some hefty optics. But small microscopes are nothing new, so why not attach a microscope system to a Smartphone? Well this was also done, but previous designs did have some issues -namely that to hold the camera you needed to put the smartphone into a special case:



Testing out the Carson HookUpz IS-100 Universal Smartphone Optics Adapter

Carson Optics has introduced a new product to the world of Smartphones. The HookUpz Universal Smartphone Optics adapter. This is a device that hopes to make the now nearly ubiquitous Smartphones even more useful to hobby and industry as it is supposed to allow you to attach almost any Smartphone to almost any optical system (microscope, binocular, telescope).


But that brings the question: Does it work? We’ll we spent some time fiddling with one to find out!


Astronomy Tips: Astronomy Smart Phone Apps Part 2

OK, so in Part 1 we covered 4 different astronomy/telescope apps for your Smart Phone.  In part 2? Well, we’re going to pretty much do some more of that.



ZoomCalc is a simple program where you can input stats from your telescope to get some interesting optical information about your telescope. The program has 2 parts, 1 for your telescope and one for the eyepieces. The first you need to enter the aperture, focal length, and eyepiece size (1.25″ or 2″). ZoomCalc then presents a screen of information about what your telescope can deliver:


Sorry, the only screenshot we could find was in Cyrillic. But suffice it to say you are provided with 12 optical aspects of the telescope from Maximum magnification, aperture ratio, and many others. If you don’t know what the terms mean there is a handy pop-up button that gives you a definition. Mind you all of these results be be had with a calculator but its handy to get them all at one shot.

The eyepiece part is a bit useless. It just calculates magnification, something anyone should be able to do with a calculator or in their head. An app like this should have gone the extra step and figured out apparent fields of view and such. It would have been much more useful.

Verdict: Handy for experienced astronomer, but not critical

Next Up: Telescope Calculator Lite


This is a lot like Zoom Calc but does both more and less in the same time. With Telscope Calc Lite you enter your telescope’s aperture, focal length and the eyepeice’s focal length and apparent field. From this Telesceop Calc gives you some handy calculations:


There is more about fields of view and such with this app, but unlike ZoomCalc there is no explanation of the terms. The help pages gives some hints but not a true definition. This is designed for astronomers who already have knowledge of such terms and just would rather have an easy way of calculating rather than trying to remember the formula for true field.

Telescope Calc Lite has a nice night mode you can toggle from the menu. Handy.  The ‘Pro’ version of this app costs $0.99 and lets you save values you have entered.

Verdict: Handy for astronomers with some experience.

Next: Meteor Show App for Android


Meteor Shower App is pretty straight forward. You open it up and it shows you  a list of all the major meteor showers for this year and the dates they take place. So that you can settle bar bets the ones that have already passed are not removed from the year’s list:


Clicking on a shower listing gives you more handy details such as the phase of the Moon during the peak, more dates, hourly rate, and a few more details.

Note that there is a similar app for the iPhone that is actually a bit less crude looking than the android app:


The only things is that the Android app is free while the iPhone costs $0.99

Verdict: Good to have!

Next: Telescopes Demystified


This is available for the Android only.

This isn’t really an app, its more of a book about astronomy. A very limited book..and really probably not a very good book. We can start with the fact that the app is called telescopes demystified and then has Telescopes Mystery on the pic and ‘cover’.

The book is divided in to chapters and there is not much rhyme or reason to how they are laid out. Radio telescopes are mentioned, some odd reviews of telescope that made me go ‘really?!’. Only some limited info about actually using your telescope and some chapters just seem like outright ads for telescope models and companies. I tried to evaluate this for someone who was brand new to astronomy and all I can say is: you can do better. Hordes of websites from amateur astronomers do a better job, our own telescope buyer’s guide does a better job. You can get a lot more info than this ‘book’ from wikipedia. I just was not impressed overall.

Verdict: Don’t Bother








Astronomy Tips – Using & reviewing astronomy apps on your smart phone Part 1

So you got yourself a telescope. Great! But you couldn’t afford all those computerized doo-dads that everyone else has on their telescopes and like you see on that one telescope shown in the SkyMall catalog. Boo..wait, you don’t need that! You’ve got a Smart Phone!


Now Smart phones are no substitute for experience with a telescope, but they can make your life a little easier during an observing session.

First up is the 800 lb gorilla of astronomy phone smart apps: Google Sky Map


This app is very straightforward: you point your phone at the sky, and based off your location (determined by GPS or other methods) it shows what is in the sky in the direction the phone is facing:


This is great for identifying what is in the night sky, for finding out where deep sky objects will be in comparison to stars you can actually see and so on.

It is not perfect, nor is it a substitute for a Star Map or Planisphere – for one thing it can only show a small portion of the sky (even when using a larger screened Pad. Another problem is accuracy – the Sky Map seems to often be off by an hour or so and it is not certain why.  It may just be the physical limits of the orientation of the phone. Nontheless, it is invaluable as an app

Verdict: Strongly Recommended.

Next up: SkEye


SkEye is very much like Google Sky Map except it has a few other features, main that it has the potential to act with your telescope as an object finder!

On the surface, it starts as another planetarium program:


It is somewhat less intuitive that Google Sky Map, starting off with the Red light setting on (astronomers use red light to night disturb their night vision). Some of the setup is a little bit more involved, and we can’t see. It also is not automatically set up to follow your path as you move it around.

On the plus side, at least for more experienced astronomers, you can use SkEye to turn your telescope into a push-to telescope. The process involves ‘attaching the phone to your telescope’, which is a bit on the vague side.

A pro version is available which has fainter stars and shows satellites. The cost is $9.00

Verdict: Better than Google Sky Map for Advanced astronomers – casual users should stick with Sky Map

Telescope Simulator by SUPANOVA


Telescope simulator is not free. It costs $1.39 as of this writing. Its purpose is to give you a realistic idea of what you will see through any telescope. You can adjust the aperture, eyepiece size or pick from 50 popular designs.

The reason for this app is so you can see why there are differences in telescopes. As we like to tell folks buying a telescope: Any telescope will let you see Saturn’s Rings, but the question is how good do they look? This app hopes to answer that question.

By our own tests the appearances were accurate. Of course any such app will lack the real life effects of turbulence, floaters in your eye, and other unpredictable effects, but this is only a simulation, after all.

The major disadvantage is that there are a limited number of objects to view in the app.

Verdict: Planning on buying a telescope? Probably worth it. Otherwise not needed.

Telescope Flashlight


There are actually quite a few apps like this, but this seems to be the most popular one.

Red flashlights are used by astronomers to preserve their night vision. What this flashlight does (unlike regular flashlight apps) is instead of using the flashbulb LED, it simply turns your screen red:


That’s pretty much what it does.

You can adjust the brightness of the light by using the volume buttons on your phone as even a red light that is too bright. It seems to work well.

The bad stuff: Ok, so if it is just a flashlight app, why does it need to access so much stuff on my phone? Does having access to my contact list make it a better flashlight? This stuff is a concern.

Verdict: Works as advertised, but be wary of its intrusive nature. There are other red flashlight apps out there.

Part 2 coming soon!