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Canberra teacher captures Saturn with camera phone

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Henry Belot

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Occultation  of Saturn, captured with a camera phone on May 14.

Occultation of Saturn, captured with a camera phone on May 14. Photo: Paul Floyd

A Canberra science teacher has captured a rare occultation of Saturn using just a camera phone and personal telescope. 

Paul Floyd, who has been an amateur astronomer for 30 years and teaches science at Giralang Primary School, was standing on the balcony of his Gowrie home in Canberra's south with his wife when he took the picture with his Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

"We were lucky because it was a crystal clear sky which was great news for amateur astronomers," he said.  

Lunar eclipse of Saturn on May 14.

Lunar eclipse of Saturn on May 14. Photo: Paul Floyd

"I used an eight-inch telescope lens and just held my camera phone up to the lens. It was really just a matter of having the phone placed parallel to the eye piece and making sure the exposure level was right."

Mr Floyd said occultations of Saturn were rare and usually occur every couple of years in cycles, although Canberrans would have another opportunity to capture the event on August 4.

"I've seen an occultation of Jupiter before but not of Saturn so it was great to see this as its a very rare occurrence," he said.

Mr Floyd described an occultation as a planet being temporarily blocked from view. 

Mr Floyd said improvements in mobile phone technology was allowing astronomers to share their interests with those who may not be as excited about astronomy, especially young students.

"It's an emotional engagement which people can share with those they care about," he said.

Mr Floyd said an increasing number of photos taken by amateur astronomers are appearing on social media as people realise how easy it is to use their camera phones and a telescope.

"Many people are taking pictures of the moon because that's an easy one to capture. You can actually just use binoculars with your mobile phone and see craters of the moon," he said.