Luke Gruenert ’13 Captures Stunning Photo of the Moon


* This article was adapted from the original CNET article by Amanda Kooser.

Luke Gruenert ’13 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 for his Senior Project at The Bay School.

“The thought of looking at objects in space with depth perception sounded incredible…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.

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, Bay parent Gary Bengier,  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 most daunting thing was making the mirrors 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.

The telescope was built in The Bay School’s Project Center taking advantage of all the equipment and resources there including Project Center Brad Niven’s wisdom and experience as well inspiration from former Bay School Astrophysics teacher Miles Chen.

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