Trying the Astrophotograpy Mode on my Pixel Phone

I haven’t upgraded to the Pixel 4 yet, but one of its star attractions for the camera, the “astrophotography mode,” debuted on the Pixel 3 last week. I got up at a ridiculously early hour this morning for other reasons (i.e., cat woke me up), and the stars were visible for the first time in a while, so I figured what the heck. Here’s what I’ve got. Right click on the images to have them pop up in a new tab if you want a closer look:

From a camera phone, y’all. That’s pretty impressive. Whatever Google’s doing with their computational photography, they should keep at it. I’ll take some more shots when the Pixel 4 finally shows up. I’m looking forward to it.

11 Comments on “Trying the Astrophotograpy Mode on my Pixel Phone”

  1. Way cool! With a regular camera one uses a long exposure to get enough photons, and a tripod to prevent camera shaking during the exposure. To get these images their software had to compensate for camera motion. Which it did, quite impressively.

    I presume what their software does is basically what professional astronomers have been doing for a long time: capture a large number of very short exposures, then stack them up with an algorithm that shifts and rotates each image for the best alignment. Professional astronomers use such stacking to compensate for the atmospheric variations that make stars “twinkle” so as to get better resolution than would normally be possible from an earth-based scope. Here of course the camera resolution isn’t comparable to a telescope, so the image stacking allows compensating for camera movement.

  2. I live in the Dayton area now and the light polution is high. I was raised and my late mother lived about 2 miles from you. When I visited her maybe ten years ago, the night time sky was alive with the ‘heavenly bodies’ since the level of light polution was so much less. The night sky difference was amazing. That’s one of the things that I miss from living in that area. Although all of the modern living conveniences from shopping, entertainment to medical care are much closer than a drive to Piqua or Greenvile!

  3. That’s actually pretty frickin’ awesome. Room I’m in is too bright at the moment(work), but I can tell in lower light those are amazing. An android user myself so will have to remember this as a ‘next phone.’ Awesome.

  4. Hey, you made me clean a year’s worth of dust off of my screen!

    So has anyone loaded the Apollo astro navigation software to that phone yet? I gather it would have more than enough computer power to get you to the Moon and back.

  5. Computationally assisted photography must mean it searches google for a professional photograph taken at nearly the same angle, time, and weather conditions that you’re taking the photo at.


  6. That’s absolutely breathtaking. Getting the Pleiades that sharp with a handheld phone is amazing.

  7. Great pictures. My iPhone 6 Plus is on its last legs and I have been considering switching to the Pixel 4. I am very interested in the astrophotography mode and these pictures are making the case for the Pixel. Thanks

  8. Holy cow. Pleione and Atlas (the handle of the little dipper) are clearly separated, and I’d swear there’s visible elongation in Asterope (above the ‘rim”) from the two components of the double star. That’s resolution way below five arcseconds from a lens smaller than my smallest fingernail. I’m not completely sure I can see that much detail with my bare eyes any more.

    Did you attach it to a tripod somehow? Even if so, I’m amazed by what it can do. If not, and it did that even compensating for hand movement, I’m completely astounded.

    Now you’ve got me wondering what it could do held to an eyepiece.

    That’s really remarkable. Thanks for sharing it.

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