Deep Space Photography with the VAONIS Stellina

This article covers Deep Space Photography using the VAONIS Stellina smart telescope.

Since the invention of the telescope over 400 years ago, mankind has been fascinated with the cosmos. Whilst stargazing is now accessible to anyone and only requires a modest investment into a telescope, photographing deep space requires technical know-how, and specialized equipment. The earth rotates around the sun at 30km/s (67,000mph). The surface of the earth also rotates around its axis moving at a speed of 460m/s (1000mph). Most objects in deep space are invisible to the naked eye, and light-years from earth.

To successfully photograph deep space, you need to be able to identify where to point the telescope, how to track, and how to focus. For this reason, deep-space/astrophotography has long been the exclusive domain of enthusiasts and specialists. The introduction of the VAONIS Stellina in 2019 changed this and brought deep space photography to the masses. Here is an introductory video from VAONIS.

Using the Stellina

Setting up and using the Stellina is child's play. Rather than looking through a telescope, the human interface is through an app on your phone or tablet. After leveling Stellina on its tripod, you initiate the device by switching it on. Initiation takes about 10 minutes, and you then choose a target that you are interested in from the app, Stellina then takes care of everything including pointing, tracking, focussing. You can then view the object on your device live, or share it.

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Here is another short video from VAONIS demonstrating just how easy the Stellina is to use.

Vaonis Stellina

As far as what the app enables you to explore, you can view nebulas, galaxies, clusters of stars, planets, and even our own moon. In theory, you can set the telescope up outside and then tether it to your phone or tablet inside in the comfort of your home. In practice, you need to be relatively close to the unit or you will lose signal. Losing the signal is not a big issue, but it does mean that you need to reinitialize the unit again. 

The app gives you personalized recommendations on what to observe based upon your geolocation, the astronomical calendar, and notes about the secrets of the Cosmos. So there really is no guesswork. Regarding geolocation, the Stellina uses the signal from your phone to determine this. This system does work very accurately in practice, albeit it does take around 5 minutes.

Stellina Technical Aspects

The stills images are only 6.4Mp, which compared to what we have become used to with digital cameras does not seem a lot. The utility of the Stellina though is not in a single stills photo, but rather that you can stack images. For instance, this picture of the Carina region is a massive 550Mp stacked image. This starts to give you an idea of the capability of this device, and the quality of what you can achieve.

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Regarding size and weight, the unit is 12.5kg including its tripod, and is 49x39x13cm; which is packable in a backpack for transportation. The unit runs for around 5 hours on one 10,000mAh battery, so if you are on the road you may want to consider taking two or more batteries with you.

The Stellina optics consist of a refractor telescope with a 400mm focal length and 80mm aperture and 50x optical magnification. The CMOS sensor behind the glass can output processed JPEGs, or you can choose to download RAW (TIFF) images which you can process yourself in a standard image post-processing software.

In terms of key features, as well as autofocus pointing and tracking which we have already mentioned, the Stellina includes a dew heater to ensure the optics are always in optimal conditions and a light pollution filter. The light pollution filter is a game-changer, as it allows you to take images of the cosmos wherever you are in the world, even in a city.

if you are interested in all the technical specs:

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Where To Buy

Purchase of the Stellina is directly from the VAONIS website accessible here, and costs €4000 at the time of writing. This sounds expensive until you consider that it is about the same as a decent digital camera and prime lens combo. The unit comes with a 2-year warranty and free delivery.

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Closing Thoughts

The Stellina is an outstanding telescope and can take some unique images of the cosmos, regardless of your location.

Here are some images from Vaonis taken using the Stellina.

Vaonis Stellina Photography

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