When will the iPhone 14 be announced? Will it have an always-on display? how about a version called the iPhone 14 Max? At the time of writing all of that remains to be seen, but I already know what the best new iPhone 14 accessory is because I’ve been using it for an entire month—and it’s out of this world.
Welcome to the Vanois Vespera, the most affordable and most travel-friendly “smart telescope” yet with a definite Apple aesthetic. This 2” refractor telescope is white, it’s curvy and it weighs just 11 lbs./5 kg. Sure, at $2,499/£2,170 it’s not exactly cheap (blame inflation supply chains, which has seen the price jump by about a third in recent weeks), but what it does with an iPhone under urban skies is incredible.
Able to cut through light pollution like it wasn’t there, this tiny portable and autonomous telescope can be operated solely by an app called Singularity.
Here’s how it works and what kinds of images it produces:
A night’s observing using the Vespera is nothing like using a “proper” telescope. It goes something like this:
- Charge up the Vespera using a USB-C cable, screw-in its three tiny tripod legs and place it in your backyard. Light pollution is no problem.
- Switch it on, attach your iPhone (or, yes, any smartphone) to its Wi-Fi network and then open the Singularity app.
- The Vespera then uses its clever plate-solving AI tech to take a look at the stars and align with its planetarium software. It uses the GPS chip in your iPhone to get its latitude and longitude. Five minutes later it’s ready.
- Choose a target in the Singularity app (from a list customized in real-time to your exact location)—perhaps the “Double Cluster” in Perseus, the stunning Andromeda Galaxy or the colorful “Dumbbell Nebula.” Thanks to its motorized mount the Vespera will move to the object within a minute and start taking photographs.
- As you stand beside the Vespera with the Singularity app open on your iPhone or iPad (or, whisper it, sit inside watching TV) the object will slowly be revealed. That’s because the Vespera is indulging in a live image-stacking, an advanced astrophotography technique that otherwise requires complicated set-ups and a lot of both knowledge and spare time.
- Once you’ve let the Vespera image an object for between 10 minutes and an hour you’re left with an incredibly bright, colorful image of the kinds of faint deep sky astronomical objects (think galaxies, nebulae and globular clusters) that no backyard telescope will find in any kind of light pollution.
- You can then share the image on social media, download it on to your iPhone’s camera roll or even attach a laptop/computer to the Vespera’s WiFi to access lossless raw TIFF and FITS files if you fancy having a go at post-processing yourself (though you absolutely don’t need to).
You may have noticed that in all of that there is no talk about an eyepiece. That’s because on smart telescopes like the Vespera light is focused solely onto a Sony image sensor, in this case the IMX462. Nor can the Vespera observe planets. It makes only a rudimentary stab at the Moon. This is for deep sky only.
A whole host of extra features are also available, from a well-made backpack for transporting it to the very darkest of skies—where, undoubtably, it will perform at its very best—to a larger tripod (recommended) and various filters for light pollution, nebula-viewing and solar viewing.
The Vespera isn’t the last word in smart telescopes. Its images are HD—just two megapixels—and are a touch soft. In that way it’s not quite as advanced as its big sister the Vanois Stellina ($3,999/£3,460) nor rival brand Unistellar’s eVscope 2 ($4,899/£4,199) or eVscope eQuinox ($1,999/£1,749). Its battery lasts for only four hours.
However, stupidly easy to use, maintain and travel with is the Vanois Vespera that it has to go down as one of the best iPhone accessories for urban dwellers with designs on the cosmos.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.