The Unistellar eVscope 2 Telescope
A telescope that will leave even city slickers with stars in their eyes
In the last Landing Gear column, we featured the Weber Lumin, an outdoor electric grill for urbanites to barbecue the evening away on an apartment balcony without smoking out the neighbors.
Continuing the summer-nights-in-the-city theme, this week we bring you an excellent digital telescope from a niche maker in Marseilles, France, called Unistellar. All their telescopes come with a new software package, Deep Dark Technology, that reduces light pollution, but we think Unistellar’s star attraction is their top model, the eVscope 2, with the optional Nikon eyepiece.
Anyone who’s tried astronomy in the heart of a city—or even the suburbs—will know light pollution ruins the view, making heavenly bodies milky, lacking in color and contrast, if they’re visible at all. Serious astronomers and amateur stargazers alike know the heart of the country, preferably atop a mountain, is where you need to be.
The Deep Dark software, however, effectively turns the sky almost as black as if you were observing from a rural vantage. The inky blackness of the sky makes it possible to view colorful phenomena, such as many diffused nebulae and some galaxies, as they should be. It’s sort of the visual equivalent of noise-canceling headphones. Deep Dark doesn’t provide full-on Hubble vision, but it’s truly startling to see such pure images millions of light-years away while in earshot of the neighborhood police sirens.
So, onto the question of whether to go for Unistellar’s best model, with the optical eyepiece. A digital telescope typically doesn’t have an eyepiece. Light hits the wide reflector, and the resultant image is then digitized to be viewed on a smartphone or iPad. A lot of people find this lacks the authenticity of traditional telescopes.
When your columnist was testing an earlier Unistellar model, someone made the point that you might as well Google whatever astronomical feature was in view. Not only does the digital image seem more like data than reality to some, the extreme user-friendliness of the brand is such that you only have to select the feature you want to see on the phone app and the telescope whirs to life, points itself precisely at that feature, and tracks it as the Earth moves.
It’s all, for the purist, a tad too easy. But a proper analog eyepiece means you can assure yourself that whatever you’re observing really is there—that the smart telescope hasn’t just found an image of it online.
By the way, telescopes are going to be hot over the course of the next year. On April 8, 2024, there will be a rare, full solar eclipse turning day into night for an unusually long time—up to around four minutes, at some points—along a quite broad corridor from Texas to the northeastern U.S. and into Canada.
To be ready for this, Unistellar will launch a new, $249 solar filter for their telescopes in September that makes it safe to point your scope directly at the Sun. We should add that these telescopes collapse down into an airline-friendly rucksack in case you want to fly, Icarus-like (but more successfully), to see the Sun on the big day.
A Generic Neck Fan
Being on the go no longer means losing your cool
On average, this column gets few of its ideas from elderly ladies on city buses. But one particularly sweaty day last month, on London’s excellent but un-air-conditioned 65 bus, your columnist saw a woman looking cool and comfortable, with an unusual pair of white over-ear headphones slung casually round her neck.
Closer inspection showed the device was not headphones, but a neck fan. Looking on Amazon later, I found dozens of versions of these made by various unknown Chinese brands, and we bought one for less than $20. It absolutely works, and even scored the approbation of the 21-year-old stepdaughter, who said approvingly, “Those are all over TikTok” and promptly “borrowed” it on a thus-far permanent basis.
Head fans are a bit of an outlandish gadget, but it now seems there’s a breed of supposedly superior models, such as the $229 Torras Coolify2S. We’re all for the “for a dollar extra you can travel first class” school of thought round here, but for something you will likely lose within a week—or that’ll go out of fashion and no longer be all over TikTok—cheaper options are wiser.
The Neatgear Nighthawk M6 5G WiFi 6 Mobile Hotspot Router
Stay online wherever you are with the most powerful portable router to date
“Boring but important” (although quite excitingly named) would sum up this unadorned, four-inch-by-four-inch box from networking-meisters Netgear.
Their Nighthawk M6 is a 4G/5G mobile hot-spot router that will seek out even a trace of local signal and connect it to as many as 32 devices in your vacation home, hotel suite, or, in this writer’s case, new garden office, which is just a little too far from the home Wi-Fi to use it.
While the garden office is a palatial 94 square feet, the Nighthawk will service a space of up to 2,000 square feet and, although your local 5G is unlikely to be that fast yet, will radiate out juicy, delicious wireless Internet at up to 3.6 Gbps, which is almost 7,000 times faster than the wired D.S.L. Internet we were obliged to pay a fortune for just 20 years ago.
The Nighthawk can be used fully portable for up to 13 hours (realistically, 10 or 11) with one battery charge, or it can be plugged into an outlet, which may increase the speed a little. Not that you are likely to notice. It’s terrific, un-showy technology that works with AT&T and T-Mobile SIM cards, in 125 countries. If you are in a really fringe network area, the $55 Mimo external antenna may be useful.
The OneWorld 100 Adapter
Stop traveling with every power brick imaginable and take this all-in-one instead
A year ago, we introduced the OneWorld 65 international adapter, from Hong Kong’s OneAdaptr. It seemed to be the answer to all the travel power requirements one could have, as it meant you could leave all your other adapters at home, including the bulky, white MacBook power unit.
The one thing we didn’t get a chance to do was take the $69 device on a trip. Well, now it has a big brother—the even more powerful 100-watt OneWorld 100—and we’ve tried it on three trips. It takes some courage to leave home on business without the official MacBook charger, but we can confidently report that the $89 OneWorld 100 is a minor miracle, as advertised.
Plugged into one hotel-room outlet, it powered two MacBooks, an iPad, two iPhones, and an Apple Watch and still left space to plug in regular appliances such as a hair dryer or straightening iron.
Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s Tech Columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer at the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology