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Paper: Star Parties in Deep Space: Smart Telescopes for Education
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 411
Authors: Sweitzer, J.
Abstract: In the past couple of years a new type of amateur telescope has become available. Called a "smart telescope," it is capable of accurately finding its way around the sky, swiftly homing in on countless objects, and then rapidly stacking a succession of snap shots to deliver an image that used to only be visible via large aperture telescopes at dark sky locations. The computing that makes this scope "smart" is done by an onboard computer. It's controlled simply via smart phone or tablet. The images can be viewed through an eyepiece-like monitor, shared instantaneously over the internet, or reflected to other smart phones and tablets within wifi range. The result is deep sky observing "on demand" and ideally suited to socially distanced programs. This paper will report in detail on my explorations of one such smart telescope, called an eVscope (manufactured by Unistellar), during the 2020 COVID quarantine. The performance of the eVscope is remarkable. It weighs 20 pounds, fits in a backpack and can be set up and able to track objects within minutes. Although only 114 mm aperture, it can image readily down to 18th magnitude stars in a light polluted sky. Deep sky images in the Messier Catalog are easy game and show good signal to noise either on the smart device or through the eyepiece within a couple minutes. The eVscope will be ideal for astronomy education, outreach and citizen science projects. The last part of this talk will describe the opportunities for its use in star parties. In particular, traditional star parties had to rely upon favorable lunar phases or planets like Jupiter and Saturn. The eVscope can deliver numerous, intriguing deep sky images no matter the time of night or date. All one needs is a clear night and reasonable shadowing from street lights. The challenges for the educator/user now is that they must be able to readily interpret galaxies and nebulae. We look forward to addressing that challenges when we can once again attend star parties.
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