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"Digital" Telescopes


beka
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This has of course been discussed a lot before but I would like to ask if anyone has used one of these Unistellar of Vaonis scopes for outreach, and if the reaction to them is comparable to more conventional scopes. I am questioning their value towards promoting science through astronomy. I keep thinkng of the Celestron Skyprodigy range which I believe are now discontinued. In one of their ads they claimed that to use these scopes "no knowledge of the night sky is required" and somebody quipped  "and also no interest in the night sky is required". I think this says quite a lot which probably is even more applicable to these products.

Happy New Year!

Edited by beka
typo
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  • 4 weeks later...

The local astronomy club has the Stallena as well as a dozen other scopes of all sizes and shapes.  Everyone spends the first half hour or so looking through the scopes....right up til the Stellina gets set up and running.  Then everyone seems to congregate around the tv screen and look at the images it has captured.  Based on the reactions of the people looking at the images, I would definitely say the digital telescopes are a very worthwhile investment for outreach.

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9 hours ago, Mike Q said:

The local astronomy club has the Stallena as well as a dozen other scopes of all sizes and shapes.  Everyone spends the first half hour or so looking through the scopes....right up til the Stellina gets set up and running.  Then everyone seems to congregate around the tv screen and look at the images it has captured.  Based on the reactions of the people looking at the images, I would definitely say the digital telescopes are a very worthwhile investment for outreach.

Of course, you don't even really need the telescope optics for this sort of operation. With GPS the mount could know where in the sky it is pointing and download images - it could even slowly 'enhance' the image over a minute or two to give the impression of stacking! Without the need for quality optics, camera or guiding imagine the profit margin if you could still sell for the same price!

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54 minutes ago, Shimrod said:

Of course, you don't even really need the telescope optics for this sort of operation. With GPS the mount could know where in the sky it is pointing and download images - it could even slowly 'enhance' the image over a minute or two to give the impression of stacking! Without the need for quality optics, camera or guiding imagine the profit margin if you could still sell for the same price!

It's been a while since they have had a night for outreach because as a general rule Ohio skies in the winter suck, and when they are decent it is generally too cold to be outside for too long lol.  When they use the digital they generally do images over short durations.  Say maybe 5 to 10 minutes, that way they can hit more then a couple of objects.  They do have files saved of longer duration exposures that they show while the images of what they are currently looking at are stacking.  All in all I believe it is a very good way to show the public what they can see and it always gets a Oh Wow.  The really cool thing is with software updates you could very well end up with a better piece of equipment then what you started with.  

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I’ve not used one, but I do think there’s a role for them…Very few objects appear ‘jaw dropping’ in a typical amateur scope when you first start in astronomy…The moon, Saturn and M13 were probably those objects that I remember thinking ‘wow’. As you grow in to the subject you come to appreciate the significance of what your seeing in the grey smudges…
 

I think these electronic telescopes increase the number of ‘oh wow!’ objects and could certainly keep more people sufficiently engaged in the hobby long enough that they get to a stage where the have a deeper appreciation of it.

That said- for me the Unistellar eVscope is a more interesting proposition- although the images are not as good as the Stellina. The ability to easily take part in citizen science project opens up a range of possibilities in a similar way to zooniverse and SETI that might appeal to those who want more than just a great visual image…

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Great for showing the night sky to the public or kids who want to be impressed. But I think they leave a lot of seasoned astronomers cold - those who love the hobby because of live views. 
I count myself in that latter group, but then I love night vision astronomy from my urban location, which itself divides opinion among keen observers. 
There’s a lot of technical debate about electronically enhanced astronomy and where the dividing lines should be. For me it’s something more instinctive. I react emotionally to live views, and not to stacked images, otherwise I’d be interested in digital scopes. But I can see why they are so absorbing as outreach tools. 

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I suppose one advantage of 'enhanced' viewing is that it can help to bridge the gap between the glossy astro photos in the media and the average experience at the eyepiece. The novice sees a continous transformation between the starting and finishing images (OK, it still won't be Hubble, but it will probably be recognizable). That may be attractive to some who would otherwise be put off, including the large number living in light polluted areas. If that brings more people into the hobby, I think it's goodness.

Some may question the purity, in the same way that some prefer to navigate only by star hopping. I do myself find something special about seeing photons that have travelled light years before they hit my retina, and I would prefer to see the resulting smudge over a more impressive image via another source. But that's one view, and astronomy is a broad church.

 

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A couple of local club members have them and they're supposedly quite popular at outreach events.  One is a newer version that can connect to 6 or 8 smart phones via WiFi.  I guess people are so conditioned to staring at their phones that this should be expected.  Also, we're in heavy light pollution so EAA is about the only way a novice is going to "see anything" aside from a gray fuzzy when observing DSOs.

I've not seen one in action - the last open house I was going to attend was clouded out.  Maybe later this Spring..

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For citizen science I can see the value of these electronic scopes - like the exoplanet detection by Unistellar.  But for outreach, I feel that to get a "connection" to the science of astronomy the experience of a regular telescope is necessary. Everyone has seen pictures of Saturn in a book or on their screens. But that does not create the kind of reaction they experience when first seeing it through a telescope (on one occasion when I was showing Saturn to some people, a lady said that this was the first time she realized that these things [planets]  were actually real). While this would not be the case for DSOs, for just  a "wow" factor, say a slideshow of Hubble images on a large screen might be even more effective that looking at a picture generated slowly from an electronic scope, and they can even do this without having to go outdoors! 

Cheers!

Edited by beka
Some additional thoughts...
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