Incredible moon photo snapped with HTC One, homemade telescope

A homemade binocular telescope, an HTC One, and 700 hours of work went into taking a single, spectacular moon shot. The photographer shares his secrets.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Moon photo from HTC One
This impressive photo was captured on a smartphone. Luke Gruenert

Luke Gruenert took a photo of the moon using his HTC One . He is probably not the first person to try this, but, unlike everyone else in the world, he spent 700 hours preparing to take the shot of a lifetime. Gruenert's image of the moon is rendered in spectacular detail, showing the shadows of the surface, the crater marks, and the luminosity of the lunar surface. All he had to do was build a binocular telescope first.

It took 700 hours of development and construction to build the complex scope, a much more challenging project than a regular monocular scope. "The thought of looking at objects in space with depth perception sounded incredible, so I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it. In essence, both my love for astronomy and my desire to do something incredible and different motivated me most," Gruenert tells CNET.

Gruenert could have saved himself 300 hours of work and just built a monocular telescope, but he says the binocular build was totally worth the extra effort. Looking through the scope creates an optical illusion that makes it appear that the moon is popping out in 3D. The moon photo was captured through the left eyepiece of the scope using his smartphone.

"I have been frustrated with the picture quality, to be honest, but this time it snapped a great one," he says.

For those wondering why Gruenert chose a smartphone rather than a regular camera, it was because the smartphone camera could fit into the eyepiece of the telescope, he explained on Reddit.

Initially, the telescope was supposed to be a senior project for high school, but it turned into much more. Gruenert's journey started with a visit to a privately owned observatory in Groveland, Calif. The observatory's owner became Gruenert's mentor for the project.

Gruenert shared details of the telescope project on Reddit, describing everything from creating the basic design to grinding the mirrors and building the mount. He also offers a shopping list for building your own scope. You'll need Pyrex mirror blanks, silicon carbide grit, a tile tool, and tar pitch, for starters.

The telescope project was Gruenert's very first attempt at building a scope. It was ambitious and people thought he was crazy, but he pulled it off. "The most daunting thing was making the lenses identical. Essentially, the mirrors have to be identical to at least 1/1,000,000 of an inch or your brain will get confused when looking through both eyepieces as [the images] produced by each mirror will be slightly different from one another," he says.

Gruenert says any determined person can follow in his footsteps. "I came into this project knowing nothing except that I have a passion for astronomy and physics. With proficient mentorship, patience, and dedication I believe anyone can do it," he says.

Luke Gruenert poses with his telescope. Picasa