September 16, 2021, Mountain View, CA and Marseille, France – Thanks to a financial grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the SETI Institute and Unistellar are providing eVscope telescopes, training workshops for students and educators and network collaboration opportunities to 25 community colleges throughout the United States, as well as to Chabot Space & Science Center’s Galaxy Explorer program for high school students.

 “Using the power of the digital technology in astronomy, we bring the wonder of the universe and the joy of scientific discoveries to homes and classrooms,” said Franck Marchis, a Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar. “The classroom and the instructors will be part of the Unistellar network, bringing their energy, ideas and commitment to the SETI Institute-led campaigns. They’ll also design their own scientific investigations. The universe is vast, with the possibility of countless future discoveries.”

The Unistellar eVscope is an easy to use and powerful telescope with image enhancement capability that gives access to 200 times more targets than conventional telescopes, including galaxies, nebulae and supernovae, even in light-polluted urban environments. Portable, easy to operate, it is a perfect teaching tool to introduce students to the night sky under conditions where conventional small telescopes are inadequate for all but the brightest sources.

The SETI Institute is well-poised to implement eVscopes in community college settings, including workshops, training, curriculum and program evaluation. The colleges were chosen by virtue of being pilot participants in a significant NASA-funded initiative run by the SETI Institute, the NASA Community College Network, bringing cutting-edge NASA space science to community college teachers and students.   While the two programs are separate, having a group of participating community college instructors in place for eVscope distribution and testing will provide national coverage and a way to examine the impact of this new technology across a diversity of student demographics. This project will examine the eVscope’s impact on student learning and student attitudes toward technology.

“Due to limited resources, many community colleges cannot offer the facilities to engage students with observing the night sky,” said Dr. Simon Steel of the SETI Institute and Principal Investigator for the NASA Community College Network. “Without access to an observatory, often located in urban areas with high levels of light pollution, students face an unfair disadvantage when learning about the universe, not to mention being deprived of the inspiration and excitement of an authentic observing experience.  The Unistellar eVscope program brings an extra dimension to community college astronomy education and complements perfectly the aspirations of the NASA Community College Network.”

“I was invited to test the eVscope and incorporate it into my teaching at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska,” said Dr. Kendra Sibbernsen who teaches Physics and Astronomy. “I started by observing in my backyard. Even though I had light polluted skies, after a few minutes observing some favorite deep sky objects, I had the best live views I have ever seen of them. My community college astronomy students will be able to participate in real scientific studies, such as with asteroid occultations or exoplanet transits. I will also be able to share images I take with my online students easily. If we have a star party and the students connect to the telescope with their own mobile devices, they will be able to save their own images and share them widely.”

“Since 1883, Chabot has offered accessible telescope viewings to the public,” said Sara Stone, Vice President of Teaching and Learning at Chabot Space & Science Center. “Now, we’re able to expand on that legacy with teen-lead telescope viewings across Oakland. Putting the eVscope in the hands of Chabot’s Galaxy Explorer students turns them into teachers, observers and explorers as they engage with younger students, inspiring them both in the process.”

In addition to providing telescopes and training to community colleges, this program will also distribute several eVscopes to the Galaxy Explorer youth development program at Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA. With a 20-year legacy of providing learning and leadership opportunities for local high school students, the Galaxy Explorer program offers  hands-on community service work, jobs skills development, increased STEM knowledge and enhanced public speaking. Continuing Chabot’s “Learning Everywhere” initiative, students will integrate eVscope observations into their community engagement activities. The eVscopes will fuel accessible STEAM experiences for younger children, peers and families at Oakland’s schools, libraries, fairs and community centers.

Distribution of the eVscopes to community colleges is already underway, with training and other activities throughout the academic year.

About the SETI Institute

Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multidisciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to lead humanity’s quest to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the universe and share that knowledge with the world. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages expertise in data analytics, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia and government agencies, including NASA and NSF.

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Gordon and Betty Moore established the foundation to create positive outcomes for future generations. In pursuit of that vision, we foster path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

About Unistellar 

Unistellar is the start-up behind the eVscope 2 and the eVscope eQuinox, the world’s most powerful and simple-to-operate digital telescopes that bring the wonders of the universe to life in seconds—even in light- polluted urban settings. Thanks to a partnership with the SETI Institute, these game-changing consumer telescopes allow users to become citizen scientists and contribute to cutting-edge research on exoplanet transits, asteroid occultations, comets, and much more.

Unistellar’s previous flagship telescope, named eVscope, received a CES Innovation Award in 2018 in the Tech for a Better World category and was nominated for a SXSW 2019 Innovation Award. More than 5,000 Unistellar digital telescopes are now operating in Europe, Japan, and North America, and their users are participating in an unprecedented observing experience.

Contact Information:

Rebecca McDonald

Director of Communications

SETI Institute