The Vaonis Stellina represents a pioneering advance in astronomy technology for enthusiasts that delivers spectacular views of space from virtually anywhere on Earth. This in-depth look at the history and capabilities of the Stellina reveals how it is redefining consumer telescopes.
The Stellina smart telescope from French startup Vaonis ispurpose-built for highly advanced astrophotography. Rather than peering through an eyepiece, users rely on the integrated high-tech imaging system and artificial intelligence to capture incredible photos of nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, and more.
I had the opportunity to speak directly with Vaonis founder and CEO Cyril Dupuy to learn the genesis of the Stellina. Dupuy has long held passions for both astronomy and engineering, earning degrees in aerospace, astronautical, and optical engineering. While consumer telescopes have traditionally lagged behind professional observatories, Dupuy saw an opportunity to deliver radically improved views to enthusiasts by incorporating advanced sensors and computation.
"We created Stellina to be the perfect automated astronomical companion for anyone who is passionate about the science of astronomy or simply loves gazing into deep space from their own backyard," said Dupuy.
The Stellina sets itself apart from other consumer telescopes in three key ways:
Advanced Imaging System – Uses a large format Sony CMOS sensor rather than a tiny electronic detector, enabling far greater resolution and light gathering capability.
AI-Assisted Tracking – Onboard artificial intelligence recognizes and automatically points at celestial objects, providing effortless views.
Robotic Operation – Fully computer-controlled, motorized mount moves the telescope to track objects across the night sky.
Let‘s explore the technical details and capabilities that make the Stellina a new breed of smart telescope.
Optical Excellence: How Stellina Achieves Superb Image Quality
At the heart of the Stellina is an apochromatic 80mm refractor telescope paired with a state-of-the-art CMOS sensor. This combination delivers vastly improved resolution and image quality compared to small telephoto lenses or electronic light detectors.
The Advantages of a Refractor Design
Refractor telescopes use a glass lens at the front to collect, focus, and transmit light to the sensor. The benefits include:
- Sharper images edge-to-edge without chromatic aberration (color fringing)
- Compact, portable design ideal for astrophotography
- Durable and requires little maintenance over years of use
Large Aperture for More Light Gathering
The 80mm lens gathers over 2X more light than a typical beginner telescope. More light means the ability to detect fainter objects and resolve finer details.
Paired with an Advanced CMOS Sensor
Rather than using an electronic light detector, the Stellina incorporates a large Sony IMX178 CMOS sensor with 6.4 megapixel resolution. This provides two key advantages:
- Much higher resolution – able to distinguish finer details vs a few hundred pixels from other sensors
- Sensitivity to a broad visual spectrum – captures vivid color images
The end result is the ability to take breathtaking shots of nebulas, star clusters, and galaxies that reveal far more detail and color than pequipped with tiny electronic detectors. It‘s like upgrading from a basic webcam to a high-end mirrorless camera.
AI-Assisted Tracking for Effortless Operation
Setting up a manual telescope to locate and track objects across the sky can be tedious and complex. The Stellina simplifies the entire process through artificial intelligence.
An onboard database contains over 200 of the most spectacular celestial objects – stars, nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. Once aligned, the AI recognizes the star field and cross-references with the database to identify points of interest.
Rather than manually adjusting altitude and azimuth to follow an object, the computer-controlled motors silently do all the work. Users can take hours-long exposure images on galaxies and nebulae without any adjustments.
Over-the-air software updates add enhanced recognition capabilities and expanded celestial databases. Vaonis aims to provide an increasingly intuitive and intelligent user experience.
By the Numbers: Key Facts and Figures
The Stellina packs an impressive array of capabilities into a portable 29 pound package. Here are some key facts and figures revealing just how powerful this telescope is:
- 6.4 megapixel JPEG images
- 546 megapixel panoramic stitching
- 80mm aperture
- 400mm focal length
- f/5 focal ratio
- 60 x 42 arcminute field of view
- Computer-controlled alt-az mount
- Built-in GPS for alignment
- Automatic night tracking
- WiFi networking
- Links up to 20 mobile devices simultaneously
- 10,000 mAh battery
- 5 hours continuous runtime
- Hard travel case
- Gitzo systematic carbon fiber tripod
- All necessary cables
Opening Up New Possibilities for Consumers
Speaking with astronomy enthusiasts who have experience using the Stellina reveals just how much of a game changer its capabilities are. While a high-quality beginner telescope may cost a few hundred dollars, it simply cannot match the views and convenience offered by the Stellina.
Advanced hobbyists are finding that the Stellina provides views comparable to far more expensive and complex equipment. The combination of aperture, tracking, and imaging allows users to see incredible details even from light-polluted city locations.
Its portable design also enables easily transporting it to ideal dark sky locations. One user told me of his experience taking the Stellina on backpacking trips in the mountains. Setting up at high altitudes under pristine dark skies allowed him to take publication-quality images.
While the Stellina does not come cheap at a $3,999 retail price, it provides an experience that cannot be matched by smaller telescopes. For those who develop a passion for astronomy, the capabilities make it well worth the investment.
What Does the Future Hold?
In my conversation with CEO Cyril Dupuy, he hinted at enhancements in future iterations of the Stellina:
- Larger apertures to gather more light and resolution
- Upgraded sensors with higher megapixel counts
- Faster electronics and algorithms to improve processing
- Additional accessories like filters and camera lenses
While consumer expectation is that electronics get cheaper over time, telescopes are very mechanically complex. However, by leveraging continuing improvements in sensor and computer technology, Vaonis aims to deliver ever more powerful performance and features.
Ten years from now, Cyril envisions that astrophotography will reach a far wider audience thanks to smart telescopes. The automated tools will allow anyone to enjoy the wonders of the universe from their own home.
In reviewing the origins and capabilities of the Vaonis Stellina, it becomes clear this is more than an incremental improvement to consumer astronomical equipment. It represents a disruptive leap that foregrounds technology like high-res imaging and artificial intelligence to open up new vistas of the cosmos. For myself and fellow astronomy enthusiasts, we can only eagerly anticipate what innovations Vaonis has in store for the future. The stars await!