A few years ago I attended a local Classic Cars Show. On display for the first time were examples of Elon Musk’s Tesla cars. They looked impressive and I thought: ‘Expensive, but that won’t last – I have seen the future of the motor car!’
Yesterday I came across an article about the Veonis Stellina (Sky News, Nov/Dec 2020 pp.21-23), one of a new generation of Electronically Assisted telescopes combining optics with digital enhancement technology. I had the same thought as when I saw the Tesla car – ‘Expensive, but that won’t last – I have seen the future of amateur astronomy!’
Those catalogue pages of OTAs, EQ mounts, tripods, camera attachments, controls, drives, etc. all suddenly looked like the past, antiquated relics of a former age soon to be consigned to the museum of Astronomy. Now we have an integrated unit – optics, mount, controls, computer, etc – and not before time to my mind. And they can only get bigger, better, more sophisticated and cheaper.
Is this the future?
(Note: I do not own an EA instrument and have no connection with Veonis, Unistellar, etc!)
At the consumer / beginner level I suspect that the EA telescopes are the future, in the same way that smart phones became the future of the Polaroid Instamatic.
Those who wish to play with the big boys and girls are very likely to have diffraction-limited adaptive optics, automatic plate-solving, DSS charts (or their successors), the Gaia DR4 astrometric and photometric catalogue, and multiple photometric filters with associated analysis data & software built into their scopes as standard. I suspect that cameras which image in the main near-IR atmospheric windows will also become mainstream at an amateur level.