eVscope the First Plug & Play Telescope
We have tested the eVscope in the field under relatively good skies (Bortle 4) and without any direct light pollution. Before we go further into the details of the test, let’s have a look at the technical data sheet.
The eVscope is a Newtonian telescope on an azimuthal mount. The secondary mirror is replaced by a 1,304 * 976 pixel camera sensor.
|Main mirror:||114 mm (4.50 inches)|
|Focal length:||450 mm|
|Aperture ratio (F/D):||4|
|Included battery duration:||10 hours|
The instrument itself fits in a backpack and takes five minutes to set up. Literally five minutes. Once deployed and positioned with the built-in spirit level, the unique button turns up the WiFi and allows the operator to connect their smartphone—the eVscope has an app for both Android and iOS. It takes anything from a few seconds to a couple of minutes for the telescope to identify the portion of the sky it is pointing at and to be ready. It does that by taking a photo of the sky and by comparing it against a database of sky charts, a technique known as astrometry. This is also how you make the telescope point at a specific celestial body through your smartphone. When you select the object, the telescope slews towards the designated target and adjusts its position by taking pictures and running them through its astrometry algorithm until the object is centered into the field of view.
Multiple smartphones can connect to the telescope through its ad hoc WiFi network, but only one will act as the telescope’s operator. Once a target is in the field of view, it takes only a few seconds for it to appear on the screen. Then, the quality of the images increases dramatically during the first seconds as more photographs accrue.
The operator can adjust the exposure time of the individual shots up to four minutes. It is worth noting that under heavy light polluted skies, shorter exposures work better. While the eVscope definitely allows observing the deep sky objects that would be otherwise impossible to see with an optical telescope in urbanized areas, images will still be sharper under dark skies.
Observing the Moon is possible, but you may need to finish the pointing by hand with the manual slewing options on the app, because the Moon’s brightness may prevent the astrometry from identifying the stars.
And what about the planets? Well, forget the planets. They are too luminous and too small in the field of view for the eVscope. The only thing you can expect to see is saturated patches of light.
The eVscope is also a tool for participating into citizen science. Users may receive e-mails prompting them to record certain portions of the sky and to upload the results back through the app for astronomers to work on them. Science projects often revolve around the search of exoplanets (by occultation), of asteroids or of comets.
Setting up the eVscope is really a breeze and you can start observing within minutes. A smartphone with a decent screen will show beautiful images and you can invite others to connect their smartphones to the telescope and share your session. The integrated WiFi works very well provided that observers remain within few feet around the telescope.
Looking into the eyepiece on the tube was less impressing, though. It’s basically a lens over an OLED screen. You don’t get the immersive experience the eyepiece of an optical instrument provides. The image is … flat, you know you’re looking at a screen and not through a real eyepiece. In contrast, seeing the images form and the details emerge on a smartphone as the eVscope adds more and more light is really fascinating. For sure it’s not astrophotography, not really, it’s Electronically Assisted Astronomy as they call it. EAA enhances your vision with the help of digital cameras and computer algorithms. People have been doing EAA for some time now, with ordinary telescopes, cameras and a good dose of DIY work. This is the first time, though, that an EEA capable turnkey telescope hits the market. The level of integration and the simplicity of use are remarkable. The eVscope is not a purely optical instrument and the feeling is different, but it gives people living in strongly light polluted areas access to deep sky objects that would be otherwise totally out of reach.