April 2024 – Graham Cluer: Smart Telescopes
April 2024 – Graham Cluer: Smart Telescopes

April 2024 – Graham Cluer: Smart Telescopes

Report by Andrew Ramsay

Graham Cluer was an early adopter. Cheerfully admitting his inability to
recognise more than a few asterisms, he found the early GoTo telescope
mounts a boon. Despite established amateur astronomers looking down on
colleagues who hadn’t even ground their own mirrors, the ease of setting up
GoTo mounts eventually persuaded the majority that this was the way

Graham thus introduced his enthusiasm for the new generation of “smart
telescopes”, recognising that “traditional astronomers” were cynical about
their use. Graham showed us the earliest of these – the French
manufacturer’s Unistellar eV. He demonstrated the experience of using it
through a series of slides and videos. In essence its 114 mm reflector
bundled most of the chores involved in preparing an astronomical telescope
for viewing or photography into a simple press of a button. Especially
effective was the plate solving process (Graham called this “field
identification”). The telescope automatically cycled through a series of
adjustments to centre a chosen object in the eyepiece. The eyepiece itself
was a tiny screen.

Despite the initial expense, these telescopes rapidly gained popularity,
especially once it was realised that they could “stack” images to create
credible astrophotography.

Graham then introduced many of the successors, each addressing issues of
cost, resolution, access to stacked frames for further processing, portability,
and so on.

His conclusion was that the smart telescopes were here to stay, and that
manufacturers would continue to develop better and more effective models.
(A copy of his slides is accessible on Recent Notices for Members.)