Telescopes have been flying off the shelves during the pandemic, but a new ‘smartscope’ could have a unique appeal to anyone thinking of trying out astrophotography.
The Unistellar eVscope eQuinox, a second-generation attempt at a ‘smart telescope’, has just been announced – but it has no eyepiece.
If you’ve ever looked through a telescope at objects in the ‘deep sky’ then you’ll know that astronomy is all about the art of collecting light. It’s also about standing around and taking your turn to look through an eyepiece.
So what if you built a telescope around a camera sensor that produced a clearer, brighter image of a galaxy, nebula, star cluster or supernova remnant the longer you pointed your telescope at it? And then let up to 10 people attach to that telescope by WiFi to view the ever-improving image on their smartphone or tablet?
That’s the idea behind the eVscope eQuinox, which is available on pre-order from today for €2,799 (approximately US$3,336 or £2,411) with the first devices expected to be delivered in May 2021.
Essentially an astrophotography set-up ‘in a box’, the eVscope eQuinox is the follow-up to the original Unistellar eVscope (opens in new tab), and a rival to the rival smart telescope, the Vaonis Stellina (opens in new tab), but it comes with improvements.
Like the original Unistellar eVscope the eVscope eQuinox is built around a Sony Exmoor IMX224 imaging sensor. Its 65cm tube is mounted on a motorized alt-azimuth arm and motor. It’s also fitted with the same 114mm/4.5 inch diameter mirror as the original so has an identical focal length of 450mm, and a focal ratio of f4.
However, whereas the original’s lithium-ion battery was only good for nine hours, the eVscope eQuinox’s is said to keep going for 12 hours – because there's no longer an eyepiece. It recharges via a USB-C slot, which can also be used the other way to recharge a smartphone or tablet.
That longer battery, says Unistellar, makes the eQuinox easier to use to make longer observations. That’s crucial if you want to use it to join in with ‘citizen science’ missions with some of the nearly 5,000 owners of the first-gen version across Europe, Japan and North America.
Unistellar runs various projects in conjunction with the SETI Institute (opens in new tab), a recent success being the capturing of Apophis Asteroid by a community of amateur astronomers using the original Unistellar eVscope. As well as detecting hazardous asteroid it’s possible to use the eVscope eQuinox to discover and confirm the existence of ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanets around distant stars and study comets and supernovae.
Just as critical is that the eVscope eQuinox is easy to set-up. Its ‘autonomous field detection’ software means it recognizes stars, so the alignment procedure is fully automated and takes just 10 seconds, according to Unistellar.
Using the connected smartphone as its point of reference, the eVscope eQuinox then uses its built-in catalogue of 5,400 objects to recommend targets based on the time, date and location of your smartphone.
“With the eVscope eQuinox you can be that Earth-saving scientist from an action movie – you can travel distant galaxies and hunt for new worlds,” says Laurent Marfisi, Unistellar’s chief executive officer. “Best of all, you are not alone on your space adventure. You have got 5,000 crew-members in the Unistellar network, right by your side.”
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