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baggywrinkle

LX850 First Light.....at last!

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One of the most frustrating things about astronomy in the UK is the total uncertainty of when you are going to get a clear night to carry out testing a new toy.

My LX850 12” arrived shortly after New Year and of course caused a massive bout of cloud cover in Deepest Darkest Norfolk.

I wrote about the unboxing and setting up shortly after the LX850 arrived.

While I was setting it up and getting the finder aligned with the OTA I found a very serious issue with the OTA focuser mechanism. I had followed instructions and taken out the locking nut before moving the focuser. It was over stiff, in fact it took a fully wrapped palm around it to move it., and at times it would not rotate.

Further, the OTA would not come to focus and there was a grey area in the centre of the FOV plus some kidney beaning.

I provided video and images of this to the Meade UK supplier, Opticstar in Manchester, and after a few exchanges of email agreed to replace the tube. That also involved me driving to and from Manchester to fetch it. It was another week delay until I could get time off to make the trip.

With OTA exchanged I put the tube back onto the mount which is on a pier originally supplied by Altair Astro for my ROR obsy. In the meantime, I had also reduced the height of the mounting plate to make it easier to mount the OTA and reduce wobble issues to a minimum. I was able to take it down by 80mm. The LX850 mount thread is  ½” UNC and I had to find a fully threaded bolt, most UNC bolts are only partially threaded. I originally had a 3” partially threaded bolt, now it is down to 2” but nearly inserted all the way.

I then added my own Altair 60mm RACI finder scope. The Meade one supplied is a straight through one and is a neck breaker. I also attached the provided electric focuser which allows for +/-1/4” around a focus set using the main 8:1 focuser. Plenty enough to get a sharp focus.

Then it was frustration time waiting for a clear night to do a mechanical followed by a full polar align on the whole set up.

The manual provided often differs from what is seen on the handset display. The manual is also all over the place and the sequence of events you should do are not always sequential in the manual. In short the manual is pretty rubbish ( I was going to use another term). Poorly written and presented and I don’t think written by a technical author, which for the money you pay for the LX850 is pretty disappointing.

The alignment, after a few false starts, went OK, there is still some room for improvement.

My first target was M42 of course, naked eye, easy to see. I used the supplied 25mm EP, which is of good quality. Pressed the GOTO button and the OTA duly rotated. This is a noisy mount, even when balanced. When it slews to target it does a quick rotation and settles, then I have found after 10 second more it does another wee shift and there in the centre of the EP was M42.

I was blown away. It filled the EP, the Trapezium stars easily all visible and the surrounding nebulosity very distinct with graduation and shape clearly seen. The Andromeda Galaxy also showed nice structure. This was definitely a step up from my 9.25SCT in terms of viewing.

The LX850 has two cameras which perform the Starlok function, one for narrow field one for wide field working together. Within 30 seconds of getting the M42 in the EP the Starlok showed a solid red LED which meant it had acquired a guide star was tracking. I left it for 30 mins and the M42 was still centred. This was one of the reasons that I laid out the money on the LX850, integrated cameras, no stuffing around with a pc and more cables. There was a period when some clouds crossed the line of site, the Starlok went into blinking mode which means it is trying to find a guide star, it does however then default to the mount settings and tracks unguided until  the cloud clears.

The clouds then rolled back in and I had to pack up for the night, so I just parked the OTA. I have a roll off roof obsy so unlike my old 9.25 SCT this big beast has to be put to rest facing to the west not up at Polaris.

Over the weekend I added an Altair 70mm F6 ED refractor to the side plate of the mount saddle, so I can now image with that and with the main OTA using Starlok for both. I have also acquired 0.62 reducer which make the F8 tube work at about F4.96

The reducer or ‘telecompressor’ as Optec Inc call them is used directly in front of the camera adapter for whatever camera adapter you are using. It works well with my Canon 650D, I have yet to try it with the Altair 186C Hypercam. I have added a pic of the camera and adapter. Telescope Service in Germany are distributors for Optec and provided a good service.

I did have one issue with the Starlok, I noticed that in the Canon live view the stars were making tiny circles. I quickly identified the cause was the Starlok by turning it off and on again. I then went through the manual and saw I should have done a PEC training on setting up. I did one which is easy to do as it is menu driven from the handset and the problem seems to have gone away. But again, it shows the manual to be an issue. If there are functions to be performed on first start up why not list them?

The LX850 is a lovely set up and one that will take me a while to learn, it is only let down by silly issues which can be got around. I would not have normally been able to afford this setup but for a bequest in my late fathers will, so every time it is used I will remember him.

Likes:

Solidly built

Good optics, sharp stars right out to the edges of the mirror.

Accurate GOTO even after starting up from parked position

Room to add smaller OTA/Cameras for astrophotography on the saddle plate

Starlok system works very well

 

Dislikes:

Handset cable is too short. If you are viewing an object to the south from the UK you are pulling the cable around to be near the viewing position which is on the north side of the mount and it does not stretch far enough.

I have ordered a longer cable from ScopeStuff in the US…(great service)

The manual: Possibly one of the worst I have seen, poorly copied on low grade paper. Misleading and badly written.

Balancing: Both axes are stiffer than I would like, but I now have a work around, this involves uses a suitcase scale and then pulling and measuring the pull in each direction when rotating it around the DEC axis. The RA axis though stiff does move.

Noisy compared to my experience with SW EQ-AZ6 and Celestron AVX mounts

 

The Horse Head was 17x2 min ISO1600 shots +5 darks using the Canon 650D with the AA70mm

The overblown M42 12" OTA + Canon 650D without the telecompressor, I just wanted to see what cloud detail would be revealed.

M35JPG 17 x 2 min ISO 1600 Canon 650+ telecompressor

Second M35 Single 2 min sub using AA70mm and Canon 650 (last night and then the clouds rolled back)

I hope this month the skies will cooperate and I can target the Moon and see what the 12" OTA can do.

IMG_2344.JPG

IMG_2348.JPG

IMG_2350.JPG

HH 2 PS.jpg

M35 .JPG

M35 070219.jpg

M42_ps.jpg

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Very Well Done and a nice report too, Congratulations 🙂

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Glad you managed a final first light,
none too surprised you had a few wrinkles to work out to get going though.

Look forward to the Lunar images soon.

Out of interest, your observatory still looks substantial around that larger scope,
how big is your observatory?

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23 hours ago, Alan White said:

Glad you managed a final first light,
none too surprised you had a few wrinkles to work out to get going though.

Look forward to the Lunar images soon.

Out of interest, your observatory still looks substantial around that larger scope,
how big is your observatory?

It is 3m x 3m. Built by Home Observatories who did a fantastic job. It is 4 years old this March.

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The starlok sounds great! I'm a bit annoyed on your behalf with you having to drive to Manchester and back to change the OTA, and the manual sounds almost worthless. On the other hand what a setup! Noisy but amazing, and I'm sure you'll be able to observe and image some amazing sights other the years. What a wonderful thing to remember you dad by :) 

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That's a fantastic looking setup and the Starlock sounds superb, really pleased it works well. A FL of 1500cms @ F5 should open up an interesting world of imaging opportunities.

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Looks a great set-up and a lovely memory of your late father.

Really sorry to hear about the quality problems - Meade doesn't seem to help itself! Hopefully it will be plain sailing from now on.

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Nice set up hope it works as advertised, Meade had a few hiccups when this system was launched, hopefully it's sorted now.

Meade manuals have always been rubbish with vital information omitted, most glaring being the fact that once on a target you held down the enter key for 3 sec's to sync on it, no mention of this in the manual, the menu system on the handset is a maze unless they've altered it with things you use regularly buried under things you'd never use.

Noisy as hell as you say, my fork mounted Meade starts dogs barking in the middle of the night :grin:

Good luck and hopefully some clear skies are on the way this week.

Dave

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