Unistellar is releasing two new smart telescopes that are designed to make astronomy easier and clearer for people living in cities.
The Unistellar Odyssey and Odyssey Pro are smart telescopes that work in conjunction with a mobile app that points the telescope toward objects of interest in the sky and displays the captured images on smartphones and tablets. In fact, only the Odyssey Pro has a traditional eyepiece – the regular Odyssey only lets you view images on your mobile device.
This new generation of devices, which is being launched at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, is specifically designed with people living in light-polluted inner city areas in mind.
“Typical telescopes have two big problems,” said Laurent Marfisi, CEO and co-founder of Unistellar. “First of all, you can’t see much in a telescope except the Moon and the main planets [Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars],
“So, we built a telescope that could actually see yonder, the galaxies, and especially the hundreds of comets hidden in the sky.”
Skywatchers will typically need different telescopes to view nearby objects like planets as well as deep sky objects like nebulae. However, Marfisi claims that the Odyssey range will let you see both, even from lightly polluted areas. This is thanks to a patented pixel-binning technology – similar to that used in smartphone cameras – that allows the telescope’s sensor to be used in two different modes.
The first mode uses the full resolution of the sensor to capture nearby objects such as planets, which are very bright but much smaller than galaxies and nebulae. “When you look at Jupiter, it looks like a bright star in the sky,” Marfisi said. “That’s because it’s quite small. To see that you need as much determination as you can get.”
When attempting to view galaxies or nebulae, the problem is their lack of brightness. So here the telescope uses pixel binning to capture more light, at the expense of some detail. “To give you an example, if the Andromeda galaxy were as bright as the Moon, you would see an object that was about three times as large as the galaxy [full] The moon in the sky,” Marfisi said. “These are very large objects, and so we group the pixels together in groups of four, which increases the size of the pixels at the receptor, allowing much more photons per square pixel to be detected.”
making astronomy easier
The other big problem with traditional telescopes that Marfisi mentioned above is ease of use – people are struggling to find interesting objects in the sky.
That’s where the accompanying app comes in, which automatically points the telescope towards events in the sky at the right time. The app now not only highlights key objects to look for that particular evening, but it also provides relevant information about the object in the sky. For example, it could explain that a nebula exploded thousands of years ago and that the atoms that formed from that explosion could form future planets or stars. “Each time, we’re giving a small story that’s part of the grand scheme of how the universe works,” Marfisi said.
Another ease-of-use advantage in the new binoculars is a new high-performance optical tube developed with Nikon. The problem with telescopic mirrors is that they need to be re-aligned from time to time, and this is no easy task for a novice.
Marfisi said, “We worked with Nikon to develop the first optical tube that has mirrors that do not require manual adjustment.” “This allows us to solve this dilemma of power versus convenience in optics.”
Marfisi claims that, combined with a new autofocus system, as found in digital cameras, should deliver sharp images of sky objects every time.
The Odyssey telescope without an eyepiece will cost $2,499, while adding an eyepiece to the Odyssey Pro brings its price to $3,999. There will also be a sleek red version of the Pro Telescope priced at $4,499.