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When I wrote about upscale amateur astronomy in How To Spend It 15 years ago it was a hobby that, if done wholeheartedly, required an investment of tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds, an intimidating level of learning, and a willingness to do all-nighters outside. Also, crucially, it was hopeless to even try in light-polluted cities and suburbs.
But this powerful new reflector telescope from a Marseille company changes all that and makes serious astronomy brilliantly simple. Apart from the 114mm-diameter mirror reflector that does the magnifying, it is wholly electronic and you don’t even peer directly into it; a phone or tablet serves in place of an eyepiece.
Superb, sharp, colourful live images from light years away appearing, in my case, on an 11in iPad Pro’s eye-crossingly sharp screen, is a revelation. You can easily see galaxies and nebulae invisible to a lot of conventional telescopes. And it goes without saying that you can save and share everything you view – or have as many as nine other people viewing live on their own tablets and phones.
But Unistellar’s eVscope eQuinox has three other, well, stellar features. Firstly, the software will compensate for light pollution from human sources, or from the Moon, which, when big and boisterous, can mess with the view from more distant objects. This is a huge plus. Secondly, from the accompanying app, you can point the motorised telescope at any one of 5,400 pre-programmed celestial bodies. Just touch where you want to go, and it obligingly whirs into the exact position, as well as giving you information on what you are observing. Such automated telescopes have been around for a decade, but the app for this one is in a different league.
Both these features lead to the killer for me: you can do your stargazing from indoors for sessions of up to 12 hours per charge. Set the eQuinox up on a balcony, rooftop or in a garden and it will transmit all it sees wirelessly to you from up to 10m away.
If you’ve seen the whole of Netflix these past 18 months, what better show to watch in bed than one that’s been on since the Big Bang?
Unistellar eVscope eQuinox, €2,799 plus €59 shipping, unistellaroptics.com