Review of Unistellar’s new eQuinox telescope

In 2017, Unistellar released the original eVscope as part of a Kickstarter. Now, Unistellar is releasing its next product, the eVscope eQuinox.

If you’d like to, you can skip straight to the specs, but I learned a lot through my experience with the eVscope eQuinox. I am very new to astronomy and astrophotography, and I have never owned a telescope before. I was impressed with the ease of use from the beginning. As you open the box you are greeted with a quick start guide and a user manual. Lift up one more piece of foam to see the telescope, legs, and a handy toolkit. I plugged in the telescope to ensure it was fully charged, then that night I took it outside to see what I could capture.

First Night Setup

The first night did not go quite as smoothly as I had hoped. I brought the telescope outside, set up and leveled the legs, and placed the telescope on top. After securing it in place with the thumbscrews, I powered on the telescope and connected it to my phone. I opened the Unistellar app and had to select whether I was in a city, suburb, or country. This allows the app to know what objects will be most visible based on background light levels. After accepting the terms and conditions, then granting location permissions, I was greeted by my first of many “you are not connected” messages. I went back to my settings to ensure my iPhone was connected to the telescope, and it still was. I closed and reopened the app only to see the “not connected” message again. After toggling my Wifi again, I was finally connected to the app.

I was greeted by text bubbles guiding me through the various sections of the app. I found this extremely helpful. I was prompted to take a dark frame. For a dark frame, you place the cap onto the telescope. It takes multiple dark photos, and based on the noise in those photos, is able to reduce the noise and artifacts on future photos of objects. I went to the My eVscope page and clicked on the “Take Dark Frame” button. A few seconds later I was presented with the message that an error occurred while creating the dark frame. Clicking okay and the app showed that I was disconnected from the eVscope eQuinox yet again. My wifi was still connected, so I closed and reopened the app yet again, but I could not control anything. I was connected in the “Watcher” mode rather than the “Operator” mode. The watcher mode is extremely useful in allowing up to ten people to view the telescope, without controlling it. There was a button to request control of the telescope, but since there wasn’t anyone connected as an operator I had to close and reopen the app.

From this point, things started working much better. I was in the app with control. I took a successful dark frame, then using the in-app controls, aimed the telescope at a star. To focus the telescope, you make use of a large knob at the back of the telescope. The slight delay between the telescope movement and the app, as well as the slow shutter speed, made this part a bit more difficult, but after a few minutes of adjustments, I was all set, and focusing wasn’t a problem after that.

The First Image

I clicked on the button to run Unistellar’s “Autonomous field detection”. The telescope identifies what objects it is looking at so that when you choose an object to view the telescope knows where to aim. I am very new to astronomy, so I did not know what objects I wanted to look at or take photos of. Thankfully, the apps explore section has an array of recommended options to look at.

That night, one of the top recommended objects was M63, the Sunflower Galaxy. After selecting the object, I just had to hit “Go To” and the telescope started moving on its own. When it reached where it thought M63 was, it paused for a second. Then the telescope determined what stars were in the frame where it was looking, before adjusting to align with M63 properly. This aiming process requires no input from the user and was extremely helpful in finding dim deep-sky objects. Once the eVscope eQuinox found M63, the scope continued to track it as the Earth turned. I selected the “Enhanced Vision” button.

eVscope Enhanced Vision

The “Enhanced Vision” function is Unistellar’s name for photo stacking. It continually takes photos of the object, layering the best ones together and ignoring the bad ones. This is also where the dark frames, taken earlier, do the most work. Photo stacking is nothing new, it is how all astrophotographers are able to create clean images of such dark deep sky objects. Even Live stacking, where you watch as the image slowly improves with each photo taken, has existed for many years. None of these compare to the ease of use of Unistellar’s eVscope eQuinox. The eQuinox relies on a smartphone connected over wifi, set up in minutes. These other live stacking techniques require a computer connected with a tracking telescope, while also connected to a camera on the telescope. In a setup with a standard telescope, there are all sorts of settings to adjust, from the camera settings to image rejection and alignment settings in the software. The eQuinox does all that automatically.

So, after enabling enhanced vision on M63 how did it turn out? Well, I was a little underwhelmed. I didn’t choose a great first object to view in just a few minutes, but thankfully there were many more (and brighter) objects.

More first night images

Unbothered by my lackluster first result, I decided to try out the Whirlpool Galaxy. Recognizing that I was in a rather light-polluted area, I planned on letting the Enhanced Vision function run for at least half an hour. A few minutes into capturing the Galaxy, my phone auto-locked, as I hadn’t been paying close attention to it. When I reopened the app, it was no longer capturing the Whirlpool Galaxy and there was no new photo in my gallery. I started the enhanced vision of the Whirlpool Galaxy again and was pleased with the image. At this point, I decided I wanted to bring the telescope to somewhere with much darker skies, so I decided to just capture one last image, and opted for M3.

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