I just got started with EAA myself. I did it with borrowed equipment, so I didn't have much choice regarding what I started with. Needless to say it was hard. If I had a do-over and was buying equipment from scratch, this is what I would do.
Celestron Nexstar Evolution 8 ($1700)
Starizona Night Owl 0.4x focal reducer ($300)
ZWO ASI183MC color camera ($550)
Zwo T-thread spacer - 21mm ($18)
Celestron StarSense ($390)
Astrozap dew heater ($52)
Astrozap heater cigarette plug cable ($41)
RS-232 cable ($19)
USB to RS-232 converter cable ($23)
SharpCap Pro ($15/year)
Total = $3108
Celestron makes hardware and software that work well together to minimize the "fiddle factor". This lets you spend more time observing and less time tweaking. I also like the versatility of the Schmidt Cassegrain (SCT) optics. An 8 inch SCT has enough aperture to keep you busy for many years. It is good for both planets and deep sky. Their alt-az mounts are easy to work with and produce good EAA results for members on the forum.
The focal reducer is essential. I can't emphasize that enough. It increases the field of view, so you can see where you are relative to reference stars, and it increases the speed of the optics to help the "film" develop faster. Everything gets easier with shorter focal lengths and faster f/ratio. The challenge with scopes that naturally have short focal lengths and fast optics, like a refractor or a Newtonian, is they are either very small and expensive (APO Refractor) or they are very big and heavy (Newtonian). Big scopes require big expensive mounts to keep them steady.
Bigger camera sensors also improve the field of view. I recommend a ZWO camera. I have one, and it has been very "turnkey" for me. You want a sensor big enough to frame the full Moon when using the reducer. That's enough field of view to put objects on the sensor reliably with any of Celestron's goto mounts. A ZWO ASI183 will do this with the Night Owl reducer, and it has smaller pixels for better resolution allowing you to zoom in on the computer more before things look blocky and pixelated. The T-thread spacer on the list places the camera at the correct distance from the reducer. The online tool at the following link will help you experiment with different scope, reducer, and camera combinations. Don't get sucked into the huge targets like the North American Nebula or Andromeda Galaxy. For every one of those, there are many more small to medium sized targets that are just as interesting, if not more interesting.
Take advantage of technology to make life easier. Especially if your wife has impaired vision. Celestron's StarSense alignment camera will make alignment much easier than trying to center stars in a finder, eyepiece, or crosshairs on a computer screen. It also has the ability to correct the position of the scope if you are slightly off target after a goto (StarSense Help button). Since you need a computer to run the camera, you might as well take advantage of their CPWI software. It replaces the clunky hand controller, gives you a sky map to find objects, and it works with StarSense. For image capture and live stacking, I only know SharpCap, but it fits the "turnkey" theme. It was very easy to get working once I had a focal reducer.
A dew heater for the scope is another must. You may even want one for the StarSense and ASI183. That caught me by surprise. I don't use the controller, but if you have three heaters, you might want it. The adapter cable with the cigarette lighter plug is the minimum needed for 1 or 2 heaters.
How you power everything depends on where you want to use the scope. At home, I prefer AC power with AC/DC converter bricks (e.g. like a laptop power cord). If you want to use the scope away from home, you will need batteries. The Evolution has a built in battery, but you may need another battery for the dew heater (I didn't include that in the list). I don't think the USB power port on the EVO has enough capacity to power the heater.
For the money, this is a very capable EAA system that is as "turnkey" and "easy" as I can find. Throw in 4K UHD computer graphics and monitors (or a TV) and you are ready to use everything the high res ASI183 can deliver.
Best of luck whichever way you go!
Edited by dcweaver, 10 February 2021 - 02:44 AM.