History (where did you start astronomy from)
First inspired during a visit to the USA in the same week as Apollo 11. 40 years later, retired early, found enough time and bought my first telescope. Hooked ever since.
Where did you hear about EAA?
Cloudy Nights, but only after wasting three years and ££££’s on visual astronomy and long exposures in poor conditions. My urban location suffers almost perma-cloud, aircraft/satellite trails and light and air pollution. Frankly, EAA is the only viable route.
What are your expectations?
Limited, due to poor local sky conditions. But I enjoy about a dozen quality sessions per annum. Need fast set-up and tear down in between cloud cover.
What do you already have?
- Celestron 8″ Evolution, StarSense, 9×50 RACI Finderscope,
- MKIT20/Feathertouch Motorised Focuser, HyperStar (plus boxes of now unused eyepieces and kit that I never really needed given my final destination).
Budget (cost of starting kit, cost of current kit)
Given my now redundant eyepieces and discarded wedge etc, I have spent at least £12,000. Cost of current kit £6,000+ (if we include cameras and my two x Intel NUCs for a wholly wireless Windows 10 Pro remote desktop set-up).
How much is too much?
I reckon if you spend much more than £6,000 you are wasting your money on things you probably don’t need. However, we all fall down that same rabbit hole (e.g., starting with visual, then dabbling with AP, until we rein back and discover EAA).
Having had a 4″ and 8″ SCT, larger aperture definitely rules. If an SCT, make sure FASTAR is compatible as HyperStar is awesome. Have no experience with other types of OTA so cannot comment beyond this.
Alt-Az is fine for EAA, and an Evolution is far superior to an SE. But don’ t waste time on a wedge (too tedious). But if you have any thought of long exposures, buy a GEM at the outset!
Camera(s) and preferred targets and techniques.
ASI294mc (uncooled) Atik Horizon OSC (cooled). I image at both f/2 (HyperStar) and f/6.3 (Focal Reducer). Obstructions (my house etc) mean I am limited to Southern (from West to East) direction and fairly high-level targets. Very short exposures; longer integration times to compensate.
What don’t you like about EAA?
Cloud Forecast APPs. Most are wholly unreliable at my location. If we get clear (no cloud) skies they are often blighted by air and light pollution. Three + years ago it wasn’t like this, but conditions are definitely deteriorating. It is a very satisfactory hobby when successful, but can be horrible when not. Most times I find myself packing up after merely an hour or so as clouds roll back in. Sadly, South East England is no longer an ideal location for astronomy, even EAA. However, I have learned sufficient computing, networking, and like skills to survive as an older member in the modern digital age.