James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LXD75 SN6 First Light

Mount: Meade LXD75 with Autostar
OTA: Meade 6 inch f/5 Schmidt Newtonian

The telescope arrived early in the day and I had plenty of time to set it up since I am on vacation for a bit. Carefully unpacking the mount first, setting it up was intuitive. I had read the manual that I downloaded a few times and that made it easier. One thing that would be nice is if the telescope came with a DVD demonstrating assembly, alignment, correct optical placement of the tube, various accessories, etc. It's time to think modern, if a carb can come packaged with one surely to goodness something as worthy as a telescope should. It might create less phone calls to Meade down the line for troubleshooting issues as well. I took it outside and aligned the finder on a distant object just to have it ready for nightfall.

About 10 mins before sunset I set it out on the pad that I had built just for it to let it thermally adjust. As the sky darkened enough to see polaris, I went through the motions of using the built in polar alignment tool, and I really like the fine adjustments to the equitorial head in altitude and azimuth, it makes it very simple. I also marked the pad where my legs sat so setting up again should be a breeze.

At 10 PM, well before astronomical twilight I began. I did the easy alignment with the Autostar, and carefully adjusted the objects by leaving them defocused to allow for better centering. Regulus was behind a tree, but a simple scroll let me find a star that was visible, and the mount was ready. I told the scope to move to M13. Here was the big test to see how accurate it could be. Right in the center - call it beginners luck. I'd been down this road before on the LX90 and after two targets you were on your own. Seeing as how I was viewing in a blue sky still, I thought I'd try a few more just to check alignment. M92 - dead on. Let's try M4, it's half a sky away, dead on - I can see the bar, then off to M57, holy smoke rings, there it is. It's not even 10:30, and the sky still has some blue left. So I did what any amateur would do, I came inside, baked a pizza and made a list of things to check out. I thought I had made a pretty good list with 12 objects on it, including M39, M29, NGC 7000, M51, M3, M5 M14, M10, M12, M71, M8 and M81/82. If I could see all of those, that would be a miracle. But time after time, and without impediment, this mount slewed to each one of those selections and put them dead in the eyepiece. Having completed that list, I did the Tonite's Best Tour and checked out Albireo, Altair, the Butterfly Cluster, the Lagoon Nebula, M15, M27, the Trifid Nebula, the Swan Nebula, M11 and M5 before coming inside at 1 AM. My papers were soaked in dew and I felt damp, even though the scope was still dry. I am very impressed with the LXD75 mount to say the least. It's accuracy and alignment, even without training the drive was rewarding and I will never look backwards again. The electronics in it and the Autostar make astronomy a joy because you can focus on the things you want to see and less on getting there. You can also learn from the ? command while you are at the eyepiece, and that is very nice. The ONLY thing I would love to see Meade add to the Autostar is a LOG button that would save the object you were viewing and the time so it could be downloaded to a computer for later cataloging.

Optically the SN6 is a nice scope. For only 6 inches, it can still show you a lot. The views are crisp edge to edge and the fields are wide. I used it at 29X with the enclosed 26mm Plossl, and also with my older University Optics 18mm orthoscopic delivering about 42x. It resolves clusters well, and does the job on all the rest. On my old scope it would take me a summer of clear nights to see all that I saw in 2 hours tonite. And the consistent performance of the combination of the LXD75 and the SN6 is a winner. For a beginner, this is a substantial investment, and the technology may be a little intimidating, but two hours of training with a seasoned amateur at a club would be more than enough to get you on a lifetime of enjoyment. It's too bad we couldn't buy things like this when we were kids because I would have saved every penny I made to own a telescope like this.

Things I like
- the size of the tube
- the weight of the tube/cradle
- the weight of the mount
- the electronics
- the soundness of the mount and OTA - love the LXD75, love the SN6, together or apart.
- the battery pack - D cells are the way to go if you need a small portable source. I also ordered the cigarette lighter adapter for it.

Things I wish they would improve/add
- add a DVD
- put that LOG button onto the Autostar
- small red led in the base to see the eyepiece tray
- velcro strap to hold the Autostar on the leg, trivial but helpful

1 comment:

  1. Man, why didn't I buy an SN6. Oh wait I did. :)