Telescope design promises to revolutionize amateur astronomy

July 20, 2017
Unistellar’s telescope will be available in Fall 2017 for its presales crowdfunding campaign. Credit: SETI Institute

The SETI Institute and French startup Unistellar announced a partnership today to commercialize a new telescope that promises to deliver an unparalleled view of the cosmos to amateur astronomers, and provide the opportunity to contribute directly to cutting-edge science.

Unistellar's new eVscope leverages "Enhanced Vision" imaging technology and now provides three unique features never before offered in a compact mass-market instrument thanks to this partnership:

  • Enhanced Vision produces extremely sharp, detailed images of even faint astronomical objects by accumulating their light and projecting it into the 's eyepiece. Enhanced Vision technology mimics the light gathering capability of significantly larger reflector telescopes, thus delivering unprecedented views of night-sky objects previously inaccessible to .
  • Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) powered by GPS, enables the eVscope to pinpoint celestial objects of interest without complicated alignment procedures or expensive equatorial mounts. Thanks to AFD intelligent pointing and tracking, astronomers from novice to expert, can spend more time observing and always know precisely what they are looking at. This system is also able to name any the user is observing, thanks to a coordinates database of tens of millions of celestial objects.
  • Campaign Mode, a revolutionary and exciting feature developed at the SETI Institute, takes advantage of the telescope's advanced imaging technology and allows users around the world to participate in observing campaigns to image and collect data on objects of special interest to researchers. In Campaign Mode, image data is automatically sent to a data repository at the SETI Institute's headquarters in Silicon Valley. The international scientific community can then access unprecedented volumes of image data for specific objects, from thousands of telescopes around the world, at different dates and times. This in turn, can enable new discoveries and enhance our understanding of the universe around us.
From left to right: Franck Marchis (CSO and SETI Institute astronomer), Arnaud (Chairman and CTO), Laurent (CEO) and the demo prototype shown at Aix-en-Provence, France in June 2017. Credit: SETI Institute

"Classical high-end telescopes are wonderful tools for observing the four main planets. But they are generally disappointing for viewing fainter and more distant objects, which remain inaccessible to amateur astronomers," said Laurent Marfisi, Unistellar CEO. "Our telescope will revolutionize amateur astronomy by allowing people to see in real time, that until now have only been available as images in books or online. Our compact 4.5-inch telescope allows observers to see objects fainter than Pluto and achieve sensitivity equivalent to a one-meter telescope!"

"We are extremely excited to partner with Unistellar to bring advanced imaging technology to amateur astronomy and thus enable impactful new research through global citizen science," said SETI Institute President and CEO Bill Diamond. "Images collected from the worldwide network of telescopes will be automatically downloaded to our database and analyzed by researchers using the latest machine-learning algorithms to facilitate new discoveries and detect new events."

Franck Marchis, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute and Chief Science Officer at Unistellar, shares that excitement: "Unistellar's eVscope is a powerful new instrument that can generate important data about transient events of interest to astronomers, including supernovae, near-Earth asteroids, and comets. There is much to be gained from continuous observations of the night sky using telescopes spread around the globe, and by coordinating observations and sending alerts to users in order to study faint objects like comets or supernovae" said Marchis. "Another exciting feature of our Campaign Mode, is that our users will be able to witness the phenomena they are collecting data for, in real time," Added Marfisi.

A prototype of the Unistellar telescope has been delivered to the SETI Institute for testing and development of the Campaign Mode data network. Amateur astronomers will have a chance to help fund further development of the device by purchasing it for less than $1000 in a crowdfunding campaign set to launch in the Fall of 2017.

Observations of Dumbbell Nebula Messier 27, Whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 and the Eagle Nebula Messier 16 using a Unistellar telescope from Observatoire des Baronnies Provençales, France. This observation can be seen by the user directly in the lens and an image can later be generated for storage in the Unistellar database at the SETI Institute. Credit: SETI Institute

Demo of the Unistellar prototype at the Observatoire de Marseille on July 1 2017. Credit: SETI Institute

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antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2017
I wonder if the images taken in Campaign mode would be suitable for simulating an extremely large telescope (like in astronomical optical interferometry)?

On a designer/engineering note: Since the images are available in digital form - is there still a need to keep the eyepiece attached to the rest of the telescope (i.e. why does the user still have to put him/herself in an akward pose to view the image)?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2017
Something to talk about at Stellafane this weekend.
designer/engineering note: Since the images are available in digital form - is there still a need to keep the eyepiece attached to the rest of the telescope (i.e. why does the user still have to put him/herself in an akward pose to view the image)?
And yes, people still want to LOOK at those wonderful objects in the sky. Something spiritual about ancient photons hitting retinas-
RichManJoe
5 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
"Enhanced Vision produces extremely sharp, detailed images of even faint astronomical objects by accumulating their light and projecting it into the telescope's eyepiece. Enhanced Vision technology mimics the light gathering capability of significantly larger reflector telescopes, thus delivering unprecedented views of night-sky objects previously inaccessible to amateur astronomers."

I can understand how this would work on image brightness, but would like to understand how they are able to surpass the lambda/D limits on image resolution.
434a
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2017


On a designer/engineering note: Since the images are available in digital form - is there still a need to keep the eyepiece attached to the rest of the telescope (i.e. why does the user still have to put him/herself in an akward pose to view the image)?


I still get the goosebumps when I see something through the eyepiece that I don't get when I see it on a screen, so possibly it's there for no technical reason.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
I still get the goosebumps when I see something through the eyepiece that I don't get when I see it on a screen, so possibly it's there for no technical reason.

Still, wouldn't it be a feature to don a VR headset* and couple the head tracking to the motion controls on a telescope?

*or an AR headset. Maybe integrate live feeds with other hobby astronomers. I think there could be some cool applications there.

In the end I really want something like this on a galactic scale:
https://xkcd.com/941/
434a
5 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
I still get the goosebumps when I see something through the eyepiece that I don't get when I see it on a screen, so possibly it's there for no technical reason.

Still, wouldn't it be a feature to don a VR headset* and couple the head tracking to the motion controls on a telescope?

*or an AR headset. Maybe integrate live feeds with other hobby astronomers. I think there could be some cool applications there.

In the end I really want something like this on a galactic scale:
https://xkcd.com/941/


Sure it would, but I don't think they need to be mutually exclusive :)
wiyosaya
4 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
If you look at the front of the scope, there are two slits. To me, this suggests that there is some sort of interferometry.

The info on their web site www.unistellaroptics.com/en/ suggest both image intensification and integration...

We do know the laws of physics cannot be broken, therefore, I would expect that the images that can be obtained are limited by the primary mirror size, i.e., limiting magnitude and resolution.
Ojorf
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2017
I still get the goosebumps when I see something through the eyepiece that I don't get when I see it on a screen, so possibly it's there for no technical reason.


Not sure, but it seems this scope has a digital eyepiece, so you won't be seeing a direct view anyway.
With Light Amp on it takes a number of exposures and then projects the combined image into the eyepiece. How is the image projected?
Also, from the site: "... it can take from a few seconds to several tens of seconds for you to start seeing the beautiful colors and shapes of galaxies and nebulae normally invisible directly through the eyepiece"
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
Not sure, but it seems this scope has a digital eyepiece, so you won't be seeing a direct view anyway.
With Light Amp on it takes a number of exposures and then projects the combined image into the eyepiece. How is the image projected?

Projector - LCD/OLED or something - my opinion anyway.
Also, from the site: "... it can take from a few seconds to several tens of seconds for you to start seeing the beautiful colors and shapes of galaxies and nebulae normally invisible directly through the eyepiece"

Intensification and integration.

434a
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2017
I still get the goosebumps when I see something through the eyepiece that I don't get when I see it on a screen, so possibly it's there for no technical reason.


Not sure, but it seems this scope has a digital eyepiece, so you won't be seeing a direct view anyway.
With Light Amp on it takes a number of exposures and then projects the combined image into the eyepiece. How is the image projected?
Also, from the site: "... it can take from a few seconds to several tens of seconds for you to start seeing the beautiful colors and shapes of galaxies and nebulae normally invisible directly through the eyepiece"


In which case I agree with AA it's of benefit for contortionists only :(
wiyosaya
5 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
I wonder if the images taken in Campaign mode would be suitable for simulating an extremely large telescope (like in astronomical optical interferometry)?

From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_interferometer
At the shorter wavelengths used in infrared astronomy and optical astronomy it is more difficult to combine the light from separate telescopes, because the light must be kept coherent within a fraction of a wavelength over long optical paths, requiring very precise optics. Practical infrared and optical astronomical interferometers have only recently been developed, and are at the cutting edge of astronomical research. At optical wavelengths, aperture synthesis allows the atmospheric seeing resolution limit to be overcome, allowing the angular resolution to reach the diffraction limit of the optics.
Likely not as the overriding factor would be the need to maintain coherence between scopes.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) Jul 20, 2017
You can't get blood from a stone, and you can't separate a double that is diffraction limited without a bigger mirror. That said, quite a few spectacular nebulae are quite large in angular size, and intensification and image stacking will give you a good look at things you can't see with a standard 'scope, and it's always true that even a pretty big OTA (1 meter) will still not show colors for nebulae.

What I want to know is the total details of the OTA, and the specs on the eyepiece, and whether I can swap out eyepieces. None of this is available on their web site.
hbrunet181
5 / 5 (6) Jul 20, 2017
This is nothing new at all.............It's been around for almost 2 decades...They make it sound like it's all exclusive...Its not. Its called EAA, look it up. Tons of folks ( Me included) have custom setups that does exactly all with they claim and it can be done right here right now for less than 1000 USD they are asking. The only new ''novelty'' is that they added that ''projection eyepiece''. Personaly, in EAA I prefer to project my images on a 130 inch Projector screen XD. You can even outclass their system if you by used parts and put em together. And what they dont say, you will have limited resolution due the physics of the small 4.5 inch mirror.
barakn
5 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2017
If you look at the front of the scope, there are two slits. To me, this suggests that there is some sort of interferometry. -wiyosaya

It's the two sides of a handle on the cover.
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Jul 22, 2017
Or if your really smart, you can tape a light bulb to the eye piece and beam death rays at asteroids, and deflect them from their earth impacting orbits.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2017
This system is also able to name any object the user is observing


I for one would appreciate having this feature. For example, I have tried to observe Pluto during its opposition (July 9th this year) and have not been able to distinguish it from faint background stars. Worse still, even a slight misalignment of the telescope means Pluto is not even in the field of view.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2017
I wonder if the images taken in Campaign mode would be suitable for simulating an extremely large telescope (like in astronomical optical interferometry)?


In general, I believe that would require adaptive optics at short, visible wavelengths. However, I could imagine that brief moments of randomly clear imaging could be combined, but I am not sure if this would actually produce much useful imaging given the low amount of light collection and brief time periods this might work.
Soundgardener
5 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2017
BREAKING: Trump declares State of Emergency in Amateur Astronomy Revolution.
National Guard* on high alert.
Intelligence agencies issue urgent call for translators fluent in Klingon.
Steven Greer livestreaming Hopi Summoning ritual from Nevada desert ($19 / min)|
- Source: Not much yet, thought we saw a Chupacabra but probably just a stray.

* Brian, ex- amateur astronomer. Favourite planet: Pluto.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Jul 24, 2017
Source: Not much yet, thought we saw a Chupacabra but probably just a stray
@Soundgardener
my friend lost his chupacabra last week
if you can find a goat or a catholic to trap the chupacabra with, please do

distinguishing features : long teeth, bad breath, smell, and a small tattoo just under the left ear of yoda strangling a klingon with wonder woman's lasso while riding on a flying fish

oh, and a puerto rican flag collar often mistaken for a texas flag

if you find him, please call: 1-877-goatsucker and ask for father tim

thanks
AlCollins
not rated yet Jul 24, 2017
[Moderators didn't like the link in my previous post; modified here]

This appears to be a 4.5" Schmidt-Cassegrain newtonian on a goto mount, coupled with an astro-imaging video cam and inline stacking software.

It's likely it will offer nice views and potentially an easier experience for beginners, but hardly revolutionary. It's nice to have the cam and stacking out of the box, as that can be tricky to set up.

As others have noted, there are other good options already out there. Google the Celestron Nexstar 127 for a similar telescope and mount setup for about half the price.

Adding the camera and stacking software can be done for a few hundred dollars and a bit of trial-and-error. Of course, that isn't for everybody.

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