The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the long-lived Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have been providing amazing images to earthbound viewers for some time now. Along with other instruments, these telescopes have fueled a new enthusiasm for state-of-the-art astronomical images. Capturing your own portraits of the cosmos has also become easier over the last decade. And another big step has now arrived: The new Unistellar eQuinox 2 will turn you into a pro in no time. The eQuinox 2 is the newest iteration after the first eQuinox telescope, introduced in 2020. The new version is a dedicated imaging device for astrophotography that is not designed for visual observing.
Unistellar was founded in 2015 and is based in Marseille, France. The company is dedicated to providing instruments that can be used by anyone to capture the wonders of the heavens, even in light-polluted urban areas. Unistellar also promotes citizen science projects that participate in diverse fields of research, such as exoplanets, comets, and more.
I was excited to see the Unistellar eQuionox 2. The telescope arrived in a well-designed box with plenty of protection. The scope is supplied with a sturdy tripod which allows the scope to be raised from 18 inches (45 centimeters) to 51 inches (130 cm) depending on your needs. A charging adapter is included with multiple plug configurations for international use; next to the charging port is a USB port. There is also a small toolkit of wrenches for the tripod assembly.
Easy breezy setup
The setup felt like a breeze. The telescope easily mounts to the tripod and is locked into place and secured with manual screws. Then it is just a matter of charging the battery. When fully charged, the battery will last at least eight hours for a full night of observations. The charging adapter has a standard plug that fits into the bottom of the telescope, where there is also a USB port next to the charging port. Since both are not easy to see, ensure that the charger is properly seated in the correct port. I laid the scope across a hassock so I could see both ports and then set the scope back into the upright position. One thing to note is that the tube cannot be manually moved on the single fork arm, but can only be moved when the scope is operational.
As with most automated telescopes, Unistellar has developed a comprehensive app to operate the eQuinox 2 scope. The app can be downloaded on any smartphone or tablet from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You can download the app to any smartphone or tablet. I prefer using a large format iPad which makes the app easy to see and use under any conditions. Linking the telescope with your smart device is extremely simple. There is only one button needed to power up the telescope. Press and hold the button for two seconds until it flashes with a purple glow. Once the power button stops flashing the scope is ready to go. Next, go into the settings on your device and choose the eQuinox2-aie4mc Wi-Fi to link with the scope’s built-in Wi-Fi, and away you go.
After opening the app, a catalog page will appear. In the lower right corner is a small telescope icon, tap this to access the operation mode. At the bottom of the new screen tap “move” which will allow the scope to be set manually. You can also open the settings and go to the “My Telescope” section to see information such as battery charge and image storage.
There is a small bubble level embedded in the base of the telescope. The scope must be carefully leveled before observing, or else the orientation and tracking will not function properly. The eQuinox 2 is a modified optical digital hybrid Newtonian reflector with a 4.5-inch mirror which may need to be focused. Once the dust cap is removed, a little surprise of the tool needed to focus will be waiting for you. Underneath the cap is a plastic Bahtinov mask — developed by a Russian amateur astronomer in 2005. To focus the scope, choose a bright star from the catalog and move the scope to the target. Once the star is centered on your screen, place the Bahtinov mask on the telescope. This will produce an X- pattern on the tablet screen which can be aligned using a focusing knob on the bottom of the telescope tube. I was quite impressed by this feature which allowed me to achieve very sharp images of diffuse objects such as nebulae and galaxies.
Through the eyes of Unistellar’s eQuinox 2 telescope
Once I finished setting up the eQuinox 2 telescope in my backyard, I sat in a chair with my tablet and contemplated what I would photograph first. The Unistellar catalog contains thousands of objects to choose from. The catalog is divided into numerous categories: asteroids, comets, star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, planets, stars, etc. These objects can be personally filtered. After you choose a category, the listing will display what is best positioned for observing at your local time and location.
To start, I decided on the Ring Nebula (M57). I simply tapped the image of the Ring on the screen, oriented the scope, hit “GoTo,” and watched the eQuinox2 swing into action. You can see the progress on the screen of your device as the scope moves to find the target. Once the Ring was located, the scope centered it perfectly in the field of view. However, I could see the focus was a little off on the tablet screen. Fortunately, the Bahtinov mask brought the image into sharp focus. I then started the exposure.
The optical system scans and stacks the image of the target and also processes the image in real-time using the scope’s Enhanced Vision Technology. The folks at Unistellar have also developed Deep Dark Technology for observers stuck in the middle of urban light pollution. This system processes out unwanted light pollution, providing amazing detail in the final image. Within a few hours of using the scope, I had captured a wonderful collection of celestial objects that were directly downloaded to the app and my tablet’s photo album.
The app’s catalog contains a huge selection of stars. I swung the scope over to the colorful double star Albireo. This was the only slight disappointment I had with the eQuinox2. This little scope has a fast f/4 optical system and a short focal length of 17.7-inches, effectively making it a rich-field system. I was unable to split Albireo, even by trying to adjust the length of the exposure. I sought advice from one of the company’s representatives, who suggested turning off the Auto function and adjusting the gain, which did help with the image.
Being a visual observer all my life, I’ve always loved putting my eye to the telescope and the challenge of experiencing an outstanding real-time connection with the universe that comes along with it. Nonetheless, I truly loved using the eQuinox 2 to capture and preserve the objects I was observing using the convenient app. Unistellar is dedicated to developing an instrument that can give both urban dwellers and rural observers like me an amazing experience under any sky conditions. The eQuinox 2 is a great addition to any arsenal of equipment for capturing the beauty of the universe, and I highly recommend it.