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SETI Institute- Unistellar Partnership Promises to Revolutionise Amateur Astronomy

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Smithysteve

Yes Neil, that is interesting. 

Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) powered by GPS, looks very accurate and useful. Enhanced vision where light is accumulated and projected onto the the eyepiece sounds like a mixture of photography and real seeing, I am sure the views would be greatly enhanced, and would appeal to a lot of people. Not sure if die hard visual monkeys would take to this, but if it encourages more people into astronomy then it would be a good thing.

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Tweedledee

Well, if it shows things just like the video, then I'd like one. Will keep an eye on this and see how it develops. :)

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stash

IMHO Other than the GPS positioning I dont buy it - the pictures were taken from a very dark spot high up in the mountains. Don't see the point of bending over to look into an small electronic eye piece when I can see it on a screen. The devil is in the detail and all companies will "tart" up their new product. Forgive me if I missed it but what price?    I can see why "visual monkeys" wouldn't like it. 

AFD I bet is "just" Plate Solving using AZ mount - it doesn't say how accurate or for how long it tracks - unless I missed some detail.  

 

What's it like in ordinary UK conditions - light pollution etc.

 

Sorry but lets see the detail not the PR. :ph34r:

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Tweedledee

Searching online, I have gleaned a bit more info which may, or may not all be fact.

 

I read that it is a 4.5" reflector with an internal colour video camera with a 10 second integration time. The fixed, and only, eyepiece just shows the image from a small internal colour LCD screen. It has other tricks like GPS, simple tracking, goto and the on-screen object info from a built in database, which will appeal to many. The beauty of it is that it needs little or no setting up, no wires apart from mains power or battery. One source suggested that it will be available for under £1000. Just as Clive said above, I'm not sure how the system would stand up in light polluted skies, and that video does make it look superb, but I've never seen astrovideo imagery looking as good as that even when it cost much more money just for the camera and is being used under pristine skies. There seems to be no method of capturing the images, unless you poke a camera into the eyepiece and snap it. I'm sure that this will have an important place in simplifying visual astronomy for the masses and allowing people to easily see more of DSO's, if it even works half as well as the video shows, but I can't believe it could ever perform as good as the video. If it does perform as good, then fantastic, I'll get one. :)

 

Otherwise, I would have thought that attaching something like a £300 Revolution Imager R2 Astro Video camera or similar to a larger scope should give far better results than this small 4.5" scope, because I can't believe the video. Of course you may then have to lose some of the other bells and whistles and  put up with wires but would have the bonus of a bigger screen. I really can't see it giving such nice crisp, detailed images as shown in the video, but hope I'm wrong. The video is either hype or the kit really is a miracle. Looking forward to seeing a proper first light report on this from an independent astronomer. 

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Tweedledee

 

Perhaps I should just flog my treasured eyepieces before this Unistellar makes them worthless, and not bother wasting anymore time on the big dob project. :o

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Smithysteve

You must finish the 20" then you you can sell it to me! I prefer looking at grey fuzzies to colour HD images... ??

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stash

One must remember that the brain is easy to trick and looking at a very small screen through an eye piece (i.e. a Microscope ??) the resolution the eye see's may give the impression the picture is brilliant.  But for £1000 I can have no wires(except power) on my present set up using one of the newish I7 Quad core micro pcs (6 x 4 X 1inch - sorrow old school). Granted as a portable or for beginners(easy set up ?) maybe but i would put the £1000 towards a decent mount - as I was well warned to do when I first joined EMS:notworthy:.

 

As for video - it makes know difference really as to live stacking by software or hardware integration - there will be a time lag as the image is built. I don't have a problem with that as I do that but some might. But thinking about it everyone will have to throw away all there nice expensive £3000 camera's if there quality was true - Totally agree with Pete's conclusion .

 

Reminds me of that wonder astro camera(Tiny1) that was crowd source last year - I never heard of it since  - may have just missed any new info !

 

I watch with interest but not holding my breathe !:wacko::blink:

Edited by stash

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tuckstar
14 hours ago, Tweedledee said:

 

Perhaps I should just flog my treasured eyepieces before this Unistellar makes them worthless, and not bother wasting anymore time on the big dob project. :o

I'll give you a tenner for those old eyepieces if your not going to need them anymore Pete :2thumbsup:

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Tweedledee

And another thing...

 

If you look at the text below the three circular images on the web page and click "download full size image", you will find that the circles are only 364 pixels in diameter. Yes, I had my ruler on it. :D 

 

That is not very detailed even by astrovideo chip resolution standards, and when looking at it close up, you would expect to see some very big pixels.

 

It is effectively only giving a 0.1 megapixel image!!! :rolleyes:

 

 

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tuckstar

Found this review on cloudy nights. Blatantly stolen!

Feidb11 Jan 2017

Well, I survived a night of sub-freezing out at Blue Diamond, a site southwest of Las Vegas with the Unistellar guys. It was an interesting night and a couple of LVAS members stopped by as well. Some of us call this particular location the "Blue Diamond" site because it's on the Blue Diamond Road, or the south road to Pahrump, as they say, "over the hump to Pahrump. As a matter of fact, just a few miles further up the road is the Mt. Potosi site where the Las Vegas Astronomical Society (LVAS) has our observatory.

 

The site isn't an ideal dark site, to say the least. It has a fairly dark view to the south and southwest, but to the east and northeast, you have the Las Vegas light dome. In fact, you can actually see the Strip, including the Luxor light! Yeah, that kind of place but it's a lot darker than anywhere in town. Also, that night, there were high thin cirrus clouds around so transparency was not going to be ideal, plus a quarter moon. To top it off, as you'll see, we had clouds moving in. In essence, this was perfect conditions to try out this enhanced EP.

 

Now a couple of caveats before we get going.

 

#1 This is something I'd never use personally because I'm a strict visual observer in that I prefer live photons, not Memorex. Also, if conditions are bad enough I need something like this, I'm just not going to observe.

 

#2 This device requires an automated telescope. Period. It will not work on a Dobsonian or any un-driven telescope. It's just not made for that. 

 

#3 This device has the potential to be a boon for those that can't get out to ideal skies and those looking to enhance their views even under ideal skies, if they choose.

 

Now, back to the story.

 

Laurent and company finally got their scope and eyepiece in but alas, part of it never made it. In fact, part of it was stolen, the part that allows communication with the outside world and also the labeling within the image, so while we could see the images, we could not see the labeling that showed up in the images on the web site. The scope operator, Arnaud Malvache was there first with the scope set up and he told me something about a police report because apparently, from what I gather, those pieces were part of the package and they were taken out of it when it went through customs. Oh well...

 

Arnaud and I had a great talk about the scope and the other guys joined us and we stayed pretty much in Orion or nearby. The views through the scope on M42/43 were actually comparable to my 16-inch.

 

Now, to repeat myself a bit, about sky conditions. The Blue Diamond site, which is the bicycle/hiking trail parking lot about five miles from the Potosi observatory on the Blue Diamond road isn't exactly a pristine location under the best of circumstances. In this case, a quarter moon or so was out. Plus the transparency was mush and clouds were starting to move in. However, we had a few holes. Does this sound like the "average" circumstances to which a lot of amateurs might take advantage of this technology? As you'll see in a moment, maybe so.

 

What I did notice about the EP was that the view was square, or actually rectangular and not round. Not a perfect rectangle either. That was the nature of the prototype, so I had no real issue with that. Another thing was that when he shifted to a different object, he had to put a cap on the end of the telescope tube to do a dark frame. Arnaud said the final version will do this automatically so people won't have to do that.

 

Now, the need for a drive was definitely there because it took a good minute at least to integrate. When he set it on the object, just like the Mallincam, you don't get an instant view. It takes time to develop, like film, at least in my view. However, once it does, the image clarifies. I will say though that I never did see any color. Maybe it was the particular unit or maybe it was the deplorable sky conditions.

 

At first, I had M42 at 102X in my scope but I wanted to try my new big honkin 30mm Explore Scientific 82 degree EP I got for Christmas. At 63X, that actually more matched the view they were getting in the smaller scope, so I kept that EP in there.

 

On brighter objects, the views pretty well matched.

 

While we were waiting for Laurent and the media to show up, Antonin Borot, the other part of the team (the one with glasses) showed up with a Spanish media guy and Antonin and I had a great chat. This was about the time the two LVAS guys left.

 

While Jerry was still there, I suggested a couple of other objects like the Horsehead. First we started with the flame, NGC-2024. Now, this was where the little scope really shined. As it turns out, it could not pull in the Horsehead. However, the flame, once the eyepiece integrated, showed up plain as day.

 

In my scope? With a UHC filter, it was so dim, I could just barely tell something was in the background but not enough to really call it an observation. Without a filter, it was completely invisible. This is a case where the image intensified eyepiece had a clear advantage over my scope.

 

Now, after we thoroughly explored that avenue, I asked him to try NGC-2022, a small planetary in the shoulders of Orion. It was very dim but still visible in my scope at 102X. Though he got the right area in the image intensified scope, no dice. The object was too small. It turns out, Arnaud told me that objects much smaller than the Ring Nebula are not cut for this device, especially in a smaller scope because the magnification is just too low. That's something I talked to them about Sunday in our final get-together critique. I said they need to do something about magnification. If that's wholly dependent on scope size, that would really limit the objects this device would work on. They talked about listing objects for different size scopes. I find that limiting, especially if one wants to pull in faint fuzzies like NGC galaxies, many of which would be too small to see.

 

For our final experiment before the rest arrived, we tried the Rosetta Nebula. Though the cluster appeared and the small scope showed a few more stars than mine did, neither of us saw even a hint of nebulosity.

 

So, back to the Orion Nebula.

 

For the media, when they finally showed up, his scope failed! The batteries died and he had a bad connection. Oh boy...

 

In the meantime, I showed them Orion and chatted with the Spaniards from Madrid. It seems we had something in common since I lived there for 10 years.

 

Things got a bit tense for the team because clouds moved in and completely obscured Orion, but finally, just in the nick of time, batteries changed, connection fixed, Arnaud ran through the whole setup again, got everything tweaked and the clouds moved over just enough to do the demo. The reporters got to see the Orion Nebula through both scopes then we went to the Flame Nebula and they saw it fine in the little scope and absolutely nothing in mine.

 

Whew!

 

That was pretty much it. We were all popsicles by then and packed up. My Gatorade I'd been nursing was almost frozen. I never did finish it.

 

I took three photos but have never been successful attaching images here at Cloudy Nights without sending them to the moderator. So, I'll say you're not missing much! They're not the greatest since I took them in the dark and couldn't see what I was shooting.

 

So, that's it for now.

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tuckstar
1 hour ago, Tweedledee said:

Interesting report, thanks Andy. :thumbsup:

 

Looks like it needs a bit of work still.

This review is from January. Looks like it was the prototype so I would think it's been polished up by know.

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