Check out this stunning new deep sky panorama and a new lightweight “Smartscope” courtesy of Vaonis.
Smartscopes come into their own as a viable and exciting new facet of amateur astronomy. We recently reviewed the evScope from Unistellar and the Stellina telescope from Vaonis. Both are compact, smartphone-controlled telescopes that allow the user to capture simple deep sky images.
Now Vaonis is improving their game. The company recently gave a sneak peek into a new upgrade of Stellina's features and a new kickstarter for a compact, lightweight version of the telescope called the Vespera.
The first release is a deep sky mosaic made with Stellina. This 550 million pixel mosaic covers 10 x 7 degrees of the southern sky and takes over 208,000 photos to create. The mosaic project was conceived by Vaonis' technical director, Gilles Krebs, and carried out over 336 hours of cumulative exposure time over many, many nights.
A Stellarium comparison of the Stellina mosaic field. Photo credit: Dave Dickinson / Stellarium.
Explore the mosaic
The panorama is focused on the vast Carina Nebula Complex, a star-forming region 8,500 light years (2,600 parsecs) away. The Carina Nebula Complex extends over the sprawling constellation Carina the Keel and is embedded in the Carina Sagittarius arm, which is located in the next spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy from our own inward towards the galactic core. The panoramic panorama includes such remarkable sights of the southern sky as the Homunculus Nebula, the massive hyper-giant star Eta Carinae, and the Running Chicken Nebula. Here you can explore the high resolution version of the mosaic.
Astrophotographers who have created deep sky panoramas can confirm the man-hours required to uncover images and guide the telescope, as well as the complex post-processing workflow required to create such an image. Vaonis now wants to automate the process with its new "mosaic mode", which will soon be available to existing users in an app update for 2021.
We introduce … Vespera. Image credit: Vaonis.
A new kick starter for an innovative telescope
With the popularity of Stellina, Vaonis also wants to expand its line. The company recently announced a new Kickstarter for Vespera, a small ultra-portable smartscope. In just over a week, the Kickstarter hit $ 905,000 – well above its humble target of $ 10,000 (!) – with the super early bird deals of $ 999 (there's still $ 1,099 up) Early Bird Classics and $ 1,199 Classic Specials). At over $ 1 million, the project would be within reach of the top 20 Kickstarters of all time.
Astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts are also promoting the new Vespera telescope.
Presentation of Vespera
Vespera offers a 1: 4 refractor with an aperture of 50 mm (2 inches) as the heart of its optical system (compared to the 80 mm 1: 5 system from Stellina) and weighs 5 kg. Temperature control is at the heart of Stellina and Vespera and enables thermal dispersion and focus adjustment during cooling to eliminate hot sensor pixels. Vespera creates a 1.6 x 0.9 degree field of view, which is ideal for deep sky imaging. In conjunction with the new mosaic mode, Vespera becomes a portable but powerful deep sky imager.
Like Stellina, Vespera has a sleek, futuristic look that is more like a small server blade or a weapon from the gaming portal than a telescope. However, Vespera works on a single swing arm and a short but sturdy chicken foot stand.
The Vespera system will also come with built-in white light solar and light pollution filters in time for the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 in North America (assuming travel restrictions are lifted). The battery life for Vespera is four hours, and the first units will be shipping in just over a year in December 2021.
A really portable smartscope
Like the evScope, the Vespera telescope is also supplied with an optional backpack. This would also meet the travel restrictions on hand luggage and make a complete, lightweight travel package.
We put the new generation of smartscopes through their paces during the 2020 pandemic and can confirm their usefulness. The best telescope is the one you use the most. Stellina was quick to set up and deploy, providing deep sky images even within easy reach of our light-polluted rooftop car park in downtown Norfolk, Virginia.
Stellina ready for a night of observation from downtown Norfolk. Photo credit: Dave Dickinson
The most common objection to smartscopes is price. Yes, for $ 3,000 you could have a top-notch DSLR, auto-guider, large aperture telescope, and the works … and maybe after a steep learning curve you could produce amazing images that are better than what you are on your smartphone screen. But if all you want to do is explore the universe, an uninitiated user can instantly map Nebula with Stellina tonight … even if you can't find anything more than the Big Dipper or the Orion Nebula.
Here's a useful analogy: should you buy or make a pizza for dinner tonight? For the princely sum of $ 8 you could find and put the ingredients together and make a pizza from scratch … and it will likely be a better pizza, with exactly what you crave … or you could just $ 10 Spending dollars on a takeaway pizza. Now gourmet chefs still make their own pizza … but guess which one most people choose?
Smartscopes are there to stay, and the latest innovations from Vaonis are a clue of what a brave new world of backyard astronomy awaits in the next decade.
Main image: An amazing sky mosaic captured with a Stellina telescope. Photo credit: Vaonis / Stellina.