Power and Simplicity…
Below is a detailed review of Stellina. Love her or loath her, she’ really opened my eyes as to what is achievable with a small telescope and small sensor camera. I have borrowed heavily from Stellina’s design to create my own cheaper travel rig which I think is currently the ultimate travel scope rig. You can check it out here. The one flaw in my ‘ulitamte’ design is that its not that easy to get it working. If your time is precious and you’ve got the money Stellina is the one to get…
Stellina by Vaonis
Some people think Stellina is a rip off. I’m not one of them because although Stellina is more expensive than the equivalent unautomated set up, I totally get why many folk, like his geniusness Riktenstein would not want to freeze their danglies off trying and failing to get their newly bought telescope to GOTO the stars rather than oscillating randomly between the fence and more embarrassingly the neighbour’s bedroom window.
You are not just paying extra for mechanical automation you are paying for post processing automation too. That means while regular nerds are taking calibration frames and stacking images, Stellina owners are sipping martini’s by the pool and drooling over their automatically and live stacked and graded deep space pic as it resolves itself on their smart phone.
- VERY VERY VERY easy to use
- 100% works
Automation is expensive
Below are some examples of the shots Stellina is able to take from a dark site.
The extra hardware and software needed for full automation includes a computer (with plate solving software, stacking software, telescope driving software, a database of targets and preferred exposure times, a data base of flats and darks at various temperatures and bias frames) an electronic focuser, an electronic filter changer, a camera rotator, an automatic dew heater, a gps sensor and of course a goto mount. I expect there is more too. The amount of extra stuff needed to replace a nerd explains why in my estimation Stellina costs about two grand more than the equivalent nerd driven set up. The extra two grand would be a rip off if Stellina was a bit hit and miss but she’s works pretty much flawlessly. As long as the skies are clear, she is level and her power source is good (I powered her with too low a voltage when I used an overly long 5m usb lead and she became erratic) then she works. She actually works!
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At first glance you’d think Stellina was deeply flawed. Alt Az, up down mounts are not good for long exposure astrophotography because even if the mount tracks well which is not a given with Alt Az mounts after about 30 seconds the picture is going to run into problems with field rotation.
In addition her short 80mm refractor scope may be a perfect size for many of the bigger deep space objects like Andromeda and the Orion nebula but most of the targets on her app are quite small and normally call on a telescope twice her size to image successfully.
Further more us nerds know that unless your willing to spend thousands on very fancy glass and optical flatteners fast refractors suffer from aberrations towards the edge of frame leading to ugly edged astro pictures. So its not looking good for Stellina.
But I have to say the final piece of the jigsaw turns this unpromising design into a work of potential genius. I think – note the I think – Stellina’s camera is using a sony imx178mc sensor. These sensors are normally used for planetary imaging (see here) but they also work extremely well for deep space work.
Bodes Nebula and the Cigar Galaxy shot with a sony imx178 sensor in a point grey camera back in 2016 through an old televue NP101
… about 5 years ago I tested an industrial camera with the imx178 sensor and a slighlty larger (100mm) scope on these two galaxies. The camera’s small pixels paired with a fast ED scope produced a tremendous amount of detail. And as the sensor was only ½ inch wide it was too small to have to worry about edge of frame aberrations. The small sensor also meant the small galaxies end up looking quite big. And best of all it was a very sensitive, very low read noise sensor which lends itself to short exposure astrophotography. And with short exposures you don’t need to worry about field rotation.
So Stellina’s choice of camera beautifully and breathtakingly gets around all the flaws mentioned above. I am now looking into using this sensor with fast refractors for the ultimate – not too expensive – travel rig. (link here)