Backyard Observatory

This New Smart Telescope Lets You Take High-Def Photos of Space

It's called the Vespera, and it's unlike any telescope you've seen before.

the Vespera space camera and telescope by Vaonis
Courtesy of Vaonis

Maybe I'm incompetent, but my life experiences thus far have led me to the conclusion that telescopes are very difficult to use. Somehow, no matter what I do, all I see is darkness when I look into the eyepiece. This isn't a plea for help (though it admittedly felt good to get that off my chest), but rather a note of optimism that technology is advancing and soon enough, decently well-off people will not only be able to see space, but take photos of it too.

How, you ask?

This relatively new technology is found in smart telescopes, and as soon as the market prices take a dip, I'll be all over them. Space tech start-up Vaonis first introduced smart telescopes in 2018, when it unveiled a gadget named Stellina: a fully automated and motorized telescope that also captured images and came with an accompanying educational app. If you've never heard of the Stellina, it's probably because it costs $3,999 and most of us aren't Jeff Bezos.

So, why am I telling you about it? Because this month, Vaonis launched a Kickstarter for a smaller, (slightly) less expensive smart telescope cosigned by former NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts. It's called the Vespera.

Unlike its big sister, the Vespera -- Latin for "evening" -- is all about convenience and accessibility. It weighs significantly less, fits more easily into backpacks and travel bags, and will eventually retail for $1,499 -- a full $2.5K cheaper.

Of course, that's not cheap, but considering its high-tech features, it's a reasonable start. More access to technology like this will allow astronomy novices to connect with the universe to a degree that, until recently, wasn't fathomable. And if you haven't figured out by now, we at Thrillist kind of geek out on the whole astronomy-for-beginners thing.

The Vespera is compact and easy to carry.
The Vespera is compact and easy to carry. | Courtesy of Vaonis

The Vespera's specs are inferior in comparison to the Stellina, but still impressive -- and plenty adequate for most consumers:

  • Weight: 11 pounds
  • Height: 15 inches
  • Width: 8 inches
  • Depth: 3.5 inches
  • Aperture: 50mm
  • Focal length: 200mm
  • Focal ratio: F/4
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (2MP)
  • File formats: JPEG, TIFF, FITS
  • Battery life: 4 hours
  • Other features: Auto focus, water resistance, integrated battery, app-enabled, supports up to five users

Vespera image of the Orion Nebula
The Orion Nebula, captured by the Vespera with an exposure time of 200x10s (33 minutes). | Courtesy of Vaonis

At publication time, the Vespera's Kickstarter campaign had 816 backers. Discounts of up to $400 are still available for preorders to early bird funders with an estimated delivery date of December 2021.

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.