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Hestia - Solar Observation Step-By-Step Guide

Updated: Mar 4


Hestia is Vaonis' latest innovation and is the smallest in their lineup of smart telescopes. One of its most exciting features is Hestia's solar observation capabilities. While it's not the first, it's certainly the lightest smart telescope capable of observing and photographing the Sun (at the time this post was written). Lightweight. Portable. Simple operation. It's almost too good to be true!


If you received Hestia and are eager to set it up, we've laid out step-by-step instructions with visuals to help you start observing the Sun (especially if you're reading this before the total solar eclipse!). We've included links to buy Hestia, things you should know, and our final thoughts.


Hestia Solar Tutorial


Steps for Solar Observation with Hestia

  1. Set down tripod

  2. Detach base plate

  3. Download Gravity app

  4. Place phone on Hestia

  5. Attach solar filter

  6. Point to the Sun

  7. Take a photo!


 

About the Hestia Smart Telescope


vaonis hestia solar observation
Hestia on Tripod for Solar Observation

Hestia was created by Vaonis, a French-based company setting out to make astronomy more accessible.


It is the newest, smallest, and lightest smart telescope of their product lineup. Vaonis announced Hestia on Kickstarter in 2023 and it garnered attention.


After reviewing their other smart telescopes, Stellina and Vespera, we were not surprised to experience firsthand how easy it was to use.


This post is primarily focused on Hestia's solar observation and quick setup. In the future, we will review Hestia's astrophotography capabilities.


 

Hestia Solar Observation Accessories


Hestia solar filter

It goes without saying - but we'll say it anyway! Looking at the Sun can cause severe eye damage.


The most critical part of solar observation is to use tools/equipment created for viewing the Sun. In most cases, this involves a solar filter, and this is the case for Hestia.


As part of their Kickstarter and Indiegogo for their newest smart telescope, Vaonis had several options that ranged from just the smart telescope to a full solar setup.


Folks who pre-ordered the Hestia Eclipse pack are set to receive the smart telescope in time for the total solar eclipse in 2024.


Hestia Eclipse Pack includes:

  • Hestia smart telescope

  • Tripod

  • Custom solar filter

  • Hard-carrying case


We received the eclipse pack which came with other small accessories. We will refer to the items in this article and include images in our step-by-step instructions.


Buy Hestia:



Note: The solar filter and tripod for Hestia are not standard sizes. It's worth investing in the eclipse pack if you would like to observe the Sun and avoid frustration.


 

Step-by-Step Instructions for Hestia Solar Observation


Below we'll walk you through how to set up Hestia to view the Sun with info and visuals to get you imaging as quickly as possible.


1. Set Down Tripod


hestia tripod

Take the tripod outside to a good spot away from trees and shade and prop the legs open. The tripod that comes with Hestia can extend its legs quite high!


This is great if you prefer to stand or if your movement is limited to a slight bend. You can also use it without extending and stay close to the ground. We found it comfortable!


 

2. Detach Base Plate


hestia remove base plate

The Hestia Eclipse pack comes with a tripod with a removable base plate. This allows you to screw the plate into Hestia with ease.


Detaching it is simple! Unscrew the knob as much as you can, then push the blue button on the side to release the clamp and lift to remove the base plate. The gif attached demonstrates the steps.


To those using an existing tripod to mount Hestia, ensure your tripod is pan and tilt fluid with a 3/8" thread.


 

3. Download the Gravity App


If you haven't already, download the app Gravity by Vaonis. You'll recognize it by the signature blue circle logo that looks similar to Vaonis' other app, Singularity. You can find the app available for download in the Apple and Google Play store.


underneath vaonis hestia

Don't attach the base plate to Hestia just yet! Keep the area clear as you continue following the steps outlined in the Gravity app.


Try not to jump ahead because you will eventually have to scan a QR code on the bottom of the smart telescope (white square). Placing the base plate prematurely will cover the QR code and you don't want to backtrack like we did!


Once you've completed that step, you can screw in the base plate and mount it to the tripod.


Read our Vespera + Sun post: A Guide to Solar Observation with Vespera.


 

4. Place Your Phone On Hestia


One of the final steps within the app is to line up the green circle on your phone's screen with the circle you see from Hestia's lens. To do so, you must place your phone on Hestia.


hestia magnetic holders

To secure your phone, use the two magnetic pieces stuck to the back of Hestia.


These two pieces cradle the phone and adjust to fit the size of any phone.


It also holds the phone in place to line up the two circles. The magnetic pieces are strong but easy to move and slide around.



As you line up the lenses, you can improve your view by adding the little rubber component (see above image) between your phone and Hestia. It is helpful with eliminating surrounding light and creating a dark tube similar to an eyepiece. While not in use, we like to clamp the rubber piece with the magnets so it won't roll away or get lost.


We used Dalia's phone on Hestia, an iPhone 14, and it had no problem lining up with the green circle. Find out which phones are compatible with Hestia.


Perhaps it's an unwritten rule, but we found it easier to secure the phone to Hestia by removing Dalia's magnetic phone grip to have a flat even surface. It's worth noting in case you have a hard time aligning your phone to the smart telescope.


Now that you're lined up, carefully lock your phone and leave it alone for the next part.


 

5. Attach Solar Filter


At this point, we haven't needed to use the solar filter. The reason for that is that the above steps must be completed first before attaching it and especially before pointing Hestia to the Sun.


hestia solar filter

If you continue to do solar observation with Hestia, know you won't have to repeat these steps each time. After the first will be a plug-and-play situation. Now, onto the filter!


The solar filter that comes with Hestia was created just for the smart telescope. If you ordered the Eclipse pack, you will find it in a small clear box with foam protection inside.


Remove the filter and be careful not to leave fingerprints or smudges. The solar filter should screw in easily on Hestia's imaging lens.


Quick tip: While attaching the filter, be sure to have a firm grip on the focuser as it may move.


Again, this solar filter is not a standard size and was created for the smart telescope. If you're considering solar observation - purchase the Hestia Eclipse Pack.


 

6. Pointing Toward The Sun


So, big question: how do you know you're aiming at the Sun without staring at it?


hestia sun finder

Thankfully, Vaonis thought of this and included a sun finder, which also came with the Eclipse pack. This little tool snaps onto Hestia's side by way of two holes and is the same concept as a pinhole projector.


Sunlight will shine through the pinhole at the top and a dot will appear on the other end. Your goal is to line up the dots.


A rudimentary yet clever way to know you're lined up - and best of all, no batteries! Just sunshine.


Adjust the knobs on the tripod to help you align the sunfinder on the smart telescope. Once you've got the dots lined up, lock the knobs to keep it in place. Because this smart telescope isn't motorized, you will have to adjust it periodically to ensure the sun is centered in the frame.


 

7. Tap Sun Mode & Observe!


hestia solar observation mode

Now, the exciting part! Unlock your phone to get back into the app and you'll be in the Gravity dashboard. Here, you'll find today's date, time, location, and info on the Moon.


At the top of the screen, tap "Sun" next to the word "Moon" to trigger the correct mode and it will reveal info about the Sun.


Tap the button "Observe The Sun" at the bottom of that screen and it will activate your camera! There are options for you to adjust what you can see to bring out the best of your visual of the Sun.


Does the app work better than your normal phone camera? Find out further below!


Tap the shutter button and congrats! You've just taken your first Sun photo with Hestia!



Our Hestia Results:

This was our first-ever image of the Sun taken with an iPhone 14 and Hestia!


hestia sun photo

 

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Things You Should Know About Hestia


  • What's better? Phone camera or the app?

    • We tested this out and found the app view offers a better visual of the Sun than your normal camera lens. The results with the app have a sort of filter that helps you view the sun better. The normal camera lens was totally blown out.

    • We didn't mess with the normal camera settings, but you might be able to figure it out through testing. We will stick to using the app for the best-quality images.

  • Video is not available in the Gravity app (at the moment).

    • If you are planning to take a time-lapse of the total solar eclipse - you may have to manually photograph it OR find a way to record video without it being washed out. See our YouTube video for a visual of this experiment. Vaonis seems to be working on this at the moment.

  • If using an existing tripod for Hestia, make sure it is compatible! Hestia accessories (solar filter and tripod) are not standard sizes so be wary.

You do not have to level Hestia before initializing, or at least it's not as crucial (flat surfaces suffice).

  • Unwritten helpful rule: Lay phones flat against Hestia for optimal use. AKA remove items from the back of the phone (phone grips, wallets, etc.) to reduce wiggling.

  • Practice, practice, practice - know your favorite presets if you're trying to capture the eclipse.



 

Final Thoughts


We were delightfully surprised with Hestia! What stood out to us the most was how small and lightweight it was. We can see Hestia being the smart telescope you take out for fun with friends, a companion on work trips to dark skies, or when traveling to star parties - especially if you just want to have fun. Although we haven't seen its capabilities at night, we can speak on Hestia's solar observation abilities and we admit we're impressed.


Hestia imaging the Sun

We say "impressed" because of the innovation it took to create a piece of tech that allows the small computer in your pocket to take photos of the Sun. Our whole lives we've been told not to look at our nearest star - so to take a little smart telescope out, put your phone on it, and snap a decent photo of the Sun... That alone is worthy of praise.


It is also great that you will never need to upgrade Hestia, as the sensor you image with is your phone's and will upgrade when you buy a new one with improved quality!


The image produced with our iPhone 14 was great, although it's less impressive than what Vespera or Stellina can achieve especially when zooming in. The great thing is that the Hestia "telescope" will work for years to come, and images produced with this instrument will only improve with future generations of phones surpassing what we achieved now!


Truthfully, we didn't expect Hestia to be "better" than its predecessors. This smart telescope serves a different purpose. It was meant to be versatile (phone compatibility) and extend your phone's capabilities without becoming obsolete. It can be used by anyone. That's Hestia's best quality.


It's refreshing that Hestia isn't going in the same route that smart telescopes (as inventions) have evolved over the past few years (i.e. getting smaller and better quality). That's not the point and Vaonis saw that. It's about ease of use and accessibility. Impressive indeed.


hestia solar observation mode

So overall, Hestia is a neat smart telescope that produces good images of the Sun. We like how versatile it is and love how simple and quick the setup is (the fastest and least complicated in our experience). We would recommend this smart telescope as an option for newbies and long-time enthusiasts who don't want to invest in tons of gear.


Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter



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