Modern smart telescopes have made stargazing more convenient than ever, with their onboard computers and extensive database of celestial objects allowing you to easily find nearly any visible object from space. Problem is, smart telescopes aren’t the most affordable toys (Vaonis’ own “budget” telescope Vespera costs $2,500), making it a tough purchase for people who just casually want to check out the views from space every now and then. That’s why the Vaonis Hestia just might be the best way to bring the joys of the cosmos to a larger group of people.
Billed as a “smartphone-based telescope,” the book-shaped device is designed to work with your smartphone to let you see a magnified view of celestial bodies. And it does that without any complex setup and with no extensive knowledge of astronomy required, essentially bringing the stargazing convenience of smart telescopes in a more accessible package.
The Vaonis Hestia consists of a boxy device that houses a series of optical elements to amplify all the dazzling views from space. Specifically, it uses six lenses in three groups to collect and focus the light, offering a 1.8-degree field of view, five times greater detail resolution, and 25 times greater low light sensitivity. Yes, that all doesn’t sound much, but the outfit claims it’s enough to let you see the moon, the sun, and various bright objects in space, such as the Orion Nebula, the Hercules Cluster, and the Pleiades open cluster. Basically, it’s an entry-level smart telescope that casual stargazers, rather than astronomy enthusiasts, should be able to appreciate.
While it does have an ocular, you’re not meant to stick your eye on it like a conventional telescope. Instead, you’re supposed to line up your phone’s main camera right on top of the ocular, so that the companion app can pick up what the optics are seeing. It uses a system of removable magnets to mount and secure your phone in place, so it should be able to accommodate most current and future smartphones.
The Vaonis Hestia is designed to work with the outfit’s Gravity by Vaonis app, which keeps a database of celestial objects viewable using the setup and can give you detailed instructions on how to align the telescope to see them. An interactive sky map lets you choose any object you want from space, after which you just follow instructions to correctly align everything until you get the object in frame. According to the outfit, the app actually combines and aligns multiple short-exposure images it captures using the smartphone, so you get an enhanced image of whatever you’re observing at all times. Plus, since you’re using your phone, you can save photos of any object you observe from space, allowing you to have a personal collection of your own stargazing moments.
The device measures 9.5 x 6.7 x 2.2 inches (depth x width x thickness), so it’s small enough to slip inside a backpack’s external pocket for easily bringing outdoors. Do note, you’ll have to set this up on a tripod with a pan and tilt fluid head to get a stable setup in place, which you can also order from the outfit if you don’t have one yet.
A Kickstarter campaign is currently running for the Vaonis Hestia. You can reserve a unit for pledges starting at $149.