This article covers Deep Space Photography using the VAONIS Stellina smart telescope.
Since the invention of the telescope over 400 years ago, mankind has been fascinated with the cosmos. Whilst stargazing is now accessible to anyone and only requires a modest investment into a telescope, photographing deep space requires technical know-how, and specialised equipment.
The earth rotates around the sun at 30km/s (67,000mph). The surface of the earth also rotates around its axis moving at a speed of 460m/s (1000mph). Most objects in deep space are invisible to the naked eye, and light-years from earth. To successfully photograph deep space, you need to be able to identify where to point the telescope, how to track, and how to focus.
For this reason, deep-space/astrophotography has long been the exclusive domain of enthusiasts and specialists. The introduction of the VAONIS Stellina in 2019 changed this and brought deep space photography to the masses. Here is an introductory video by VAONIS.
Using the Stellina
Setting up and using the Stellina is child’s play. Rather than looking through a telescope, the human interface is through an app on your phone or tablet. After levelling Stellina on its tripod, you initiate the device by switching it on. Initiation takes about 10 minutes, and you then choose a target that you are interested on the app, Stellina then takes care of everything including pointing, tracking, focussing. You can then view the object on your device live, or share it.
Here is another short video from VAONIS demonstrating just how easy the Stellina is to use.
As far as what the app enables you to explore, you can view nebulas, galaxies, clusters of stars, planets, and even our own moon. In theory you can set the telescope up outside and then tether to your phone or tablet inside in the comfort of your home. In practice, you need to be relatively close to the unit or you will lose signal. Losing signal is not a big issue, but it does mean that you need to reinitialise the unit again.
The app gives you personalised recommendations on what to observe based upon your geolocation, the astronomical calendar, and notes about the secrets of the Cosmos. So there really is no guesswork. Regarding geolocation, the Stellina uses the signal from your phone to determine this. This system does work very accurately in practice, albeit it does take around 5 minutes.
Stellina Technical Aspects
The stills images are only 6.4Mp, which compared to what we have become used to with digital cameras does not seem a lot. The utility of the Stellina though is not in a single stills photo, but rather that you can stack images. For instance, this picture of the Carina region is a massive 550Mp stacked image. This starts to give you an idea of the capability of this device, and the quality of what you can achieve.
Regarding size and weight, the unit is 12.5kg including its tripod and is 49x39x13cm; which is packable in a backpack for transportation. The unit runs for around 5 hours on one 10,000mAh battery, so if you are on the road you may want to consider taking two or more batteries with you.
The Stellina optics consist of a refractor telescope with a 400mm focal length and 80mm aperture and 50x optical magnification.
The CMOS sensor behind the glass can output processed JPEGs, or you can choose to download RAW (TIFF) images which you can process yourself in a standard image post-processing software.
In terms of key features, as well as autofocus pointing and tracking which we have already mentioned, the Stellina includes a dew heater to ensure the optics are always in optimal conditions and a light pollution filter.
The light pollution filter is a game changer, as it allows you to take images of the cosmos wherever you are in the world, even in a city.
Click here if you are interested in all the technical specs.For all the Tech Specs - Click Here -
Doublet ED doublet
with lanthanum glass
JPEG ; TIFF ; FITS (16-bit raw images)
Mechanical and automated
Included with purchase:
Tripod Gitzo (1,3kg/2.2lb),
10 000mAh portable
80 mm (3.15in)
1/1.8″ CMOS Sony
Field of View:
1° x 0.7°
with star field recognition
– Adapted to each object
– Real time image stacking
400 mm (15.75in)
1/1.8″ CMOS Sony
Light pollution – City Light Supression (CLS)
Where to buy
Purchase of the Stellina is directly from the VAONIS website accessible here, and costs €4000. This sounds expensive until you consider that it is about the same as a decent digital camera and prime lens combo. The unit comes with a 2 year warranty, and free delivery.
Deep Space Photography with Stellina – Conclusions
The Stellina is an outstanding telescope and can take some unique images of the cosmos, regardless of your location.
If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other articles and how-to guides.
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