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HornJS (Jeff)

History (where did you start astronomy from)

I starting this hobby in 2019 when comet Neowise came around.  Family and I started with some binoculars out in the driveway every night.  We added a telescope right after that.  Targets were difficult for us to see through the eyepiece, so I quickly discovered EAA and added a camera.  I was hooked from there.

Where did you hear about EAA?

The forums on cloudynights.com of course!

What are your expectations?

Quick setup and tear down.  Ease & accuracy of targeting, tracking.  Target acquisition < 10 min.  Many targets in an evening.

I also like to learn a bit about the targets I am shooting.  I tend to run sky safari while I do eaa so that I can learn about object stats and interesting facts.

What do you already have?

  • Scopes: I have an Esprit120 refractor and an edge8HD SCT.  This gives me a wide range of focal lengths to use depending on the targets I want to see (I now have focal lengths of 386, 645, 840, 1422, 2032).  They are used interchangeably for EAA and AP.
  • Controller:  I run both rigs with an Asi Air device streamed to my ipad, or to my laptop inside.  I LOVE the simplicity of the Asi device.  I can do EAA with live stacking and can add calibration frames if I wish.  Has been a very easy system to learn how to use.
  • Mounts:  I have an eq6r mount, and recently added an iOptron CEM70.
  • Cameras: I have a zwo 294mc and mm; zwo 290 mini and 174 mini guide cams
  • Bits:  I have a dual band IDAS NBZ filter for the OSC, and a filter wheel with Antlia NB and RGB filters for the mono.
  • I have a guide scope for the esprit, and an OAG for the sct.

Budget (cost of starting kit, cost of current kit)

I may not be the best example of “budget.”  Spent way too much on this hobby already.  I am in the buy once cry once camp instead of endless upgrades.

That being said, I started with an evolution mount, edge8hd, zwo 294mc pro.  Added a reducer shortly thereafter.   When I started the hobby, the pandemic was in full swing, so supply chain was an issue, and everybody was stuck at home so astronomy became very popular.  Weren’t a whole lot of “budget” options available.

How much is too much?

The sky is the limit.  Observatories, planewaves, remote dark sites, etc.  I think Doug has a great setup with the observatory now, because he just has to turn on the pc, and retract the roof.  I would love to eliminate the setup and breakdown time of the rigs.  The only thing that can’t be purchased is clear sky.

OTA (advice)

I think EAA is well suited to an SCT with a reducer and hyperstar.  You can use it for galaxy season at long focal lengths, but also get fast widefield with the hyperstar (and nebulas really pop with the addition of a dual band filter such as the NBZ).   It’s amazing how many people get really good results in EAA using a wide variety of scopes.

Downside of an sct is long cool down periods (if bringing it from inside with large temp changes), and collimation.  Most scope require some collimation, I think the SCT has been ok to learn how.

Mount (advice)

As stated above I started with the evolution mount, but moved to an eq6r from sky-watcher.  Never had to hook up the hand controller.  Its run through the Asi Air app.  Other than its weight and having to lug it from my garage to the yard, it’s been great.

It was not a terrible price point when I purchased it, but has gone up quite a bit this last 6 months (as with everything else).  I think it has gone from $1650  to $2050.

The CEM70 from ioptron has been a great addition.  It is more of the AP mount for me.  I love the cable management, weight capacity of this mount.  I haven’t quite gotten the guiding where I want it yet, but that matters not for EAA.

Camera(s) and preferred targets and techniques.

I have had good luck with zwo cameras, esp the 294 lineup.  Every camera has its ups / downs.  The 294 can be a bit finicky if you are doing flats (calibration files) with your EAA.  People don’t like the amp glow on the 294s but mine corrects well with dark frame application.

Preferred targets depend on the season obviously.  I enjoy the monthly observing challenges posted in the EAA forum.  I really enjoy the obscure targets, as well as supernova.  The time frame of light travel on those objects blows my mind.

What don’t you like about EAA?

That I can’t do it every night.   Depends on weather and work schedule.  I’d be out every night if it was clear.

There can be a steep learning curve unless you stumble onto cloudynights and realize all the great help from people who have “been there, done that.” Lots of equipment to learn and there can also be some software headaches depending on whether you use a laptop with all the individual programs, or stand alone devices such as the Asi Air.

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