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This clever telescope can locate stars and avoid light pollution

The moon, some stars, and maybe even a brilliant planet are all things you may see if you gaze up into the sky at night. To put it another way, you won’t be able to see the billions of stars and galaxies that populate the cosmos alongside the brighter objects. That’s because research shows that 80% of the world’s population lives in areas with high levels of light pollution. The smart telescope that Unistellar is showcasing at CES 2023 appears to be able to block out the sun’s rays and make the cosmos accessible to anybody.

The new eQuinox 2 is a 400x telescope – updated from the first model with a better picture sensor and a broader field of vision – that contains no obvious knobs or user controls. It was on the first press night at CES that I first noticed the grey, slim optical instrument. The two-foot-long device is definitely designed for stargazing, but its absence of tangible controls may throw you off. As a rule, that shouldn’t happen.

Unistellar taught me how to operate the motorised telescope by means of the corresponding app on a mobile device. Choose the Orion Nebula on your tablet, and the smart telescope will utilise your phone’s GPS to figure out where on Earth to put the optics. I watched as they touched a virtual star and the eQuinox 2 spun around to look at the Nebula.

Unistellar was unable to give me a live demo of their magic sauce due to the convention centre setting, so instead they took me through a simulation.

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An iPad was used to choose the Whirlpool Galaxy, and the telescope discreetly rotated to the correct spot. A picture appeared on the screen after a while, but there was no galaxy. Now comes the exciting part. Because of light pollution, conventional telescopes can, unless you journey to the most distant places, struggle to view many celestial objects.

eQuinox 2 features Smart Light Pollution Reduction, an AI and algorithmically based solution that digitally corrects the photos to reduce the impacts of light pollution. The Unistellar agent pushed a button and then I saw the on-screen image resolve until we could see the gorgeous, small swirly galaxy millions of kilometres distant from us.

A representative from Unistellar explained, “It wasn’t that it wasn’t there; it was that we needed to clean it using an algorithm to make it available.” Light pollution, he said, was a factor, but the object’s obscurity was partly due to its inherent dimmerness. What’s not totally obvious is how much of what eQuinox 2 displays you with the Smart Light Pollution Reduction is optical and what is a digital concoction of the algorithm based on what it knows the galaxy looks like.

The software comes pre-loaded with 500 celestial objects and ideas for discovering more, but you will not be hand-adjusting the telescope to find them. eQuinox 2 is 100% app driven. As a result, it’s probably best suited for amateur astronomers, but not for those with intermediate or professional experience.

eQuinox 2 is available on pre-order for $2,499 (€2,499 in Europe) and delivers in early 2023.