I’d been thinking about buying a bigger scope for a while when I finally crasked and ordered it last Friday. It’s another Meade, this time an 8″ LX90. I oredered it through Telecsope House as they had a good price and the service they displayed was good. I asked them to dispatch it on Wednesday, with the aim being that next day delivery would fall on Thursday and I’d be home. Amazingly enough – it worked! They dispatched it and it arrived exactly as planned. Given their use of CityLink this really was a minor miracle.
The package included the tripod so it arrived as 2 packages. Unpacking took a little while as they used the standard “staples” through the outer cardboard. Removing all these takes a little while, but it worth the effort to avoid the scratches and cuts that can otherwise ensue.
Assembling the tripod wa sthe first order of business, and once again the instructions were OK but not as easy to follow as they could have been. The tripod is heavy and the “lower” spreader is quite flimsy, meaning you need to be careful spreading the legs to get the head level.
The actual scope box was the usual meade color scheme (which looks a little outdated).
The internal packaging was good and the scope was fine.
The smartfinder cable fell out of it’s port almost straight away! When I trie dto reattach I found that the port and plug don’t quite mate correctly and the small “lug” that usually holds the plug in doesn’t – which is mildly annoying but the plug fit is neat enough that it doesn’t fall out without a gentle pull. (This proved not to be a problem during my initial session).
The battery packs take 8 ‘C’ cells rather than the ‘AA’ cells of the ETX, so I had to go buy some. The dual battery packs store away neatly and inserting the batteries was easy thanks to the clear markings on the packs.
With the ETX I’ve left the scope attached to the tripod and carried them outdoors as a single unit, but the LX90 weighs considerably more and my patio doors aren’t as swide as some, so I think I’ll end up having to remove the scope for transport. Given this, the GPS and auto-alignment should prove to be very useful!
The sky was clear of clouds last night so I went out for an initial session, though as the viewfinders hadn’t been aligned (it was dark by the time I’d gotten it assembled) I wasn’t aiming to do much more than get used to the scope. Switching on brought me directly to the alignment menu. I was expecting to be asked for my location as it was the first use, but that didn’t happen and so I just selected “Automatic” for the alignment and waited. Initial impressions are that the scope is faster and quieter than the ETX – by a long way! It seemed happy to align itself and then moved to point at it’s first alignment star. (The automatic alignment uses the builtin GPS to find it’s location and time, then it points at 2 bright stars which you centre in the viewfinder to refine the location.) This was where I had my initial moment of doubt as the patch of sky had no bright stars in it! reviewing the data in the scope the date was correct but the time wasn’t, so I corrected the time and tried again. This time it seemed better, but still the alignment wasn’t as good as I expected. After trying a few different stars I decided to switch it off and re-read the manual!
Gleaning no new information I tried again. Still the time seemed to be a long way off. As the minutes were correct I wondered if the difference was due to time zones. I had assumed that the scope would use the latitude to determine the correct time zone from the UTC GPS time it obtains, but it may not be that smart or that may not be sufficiently accurate for it.
As I was getting cold and didn’t plan on being out long (I’d already been up 24 hours by this point) I decided to simply manually point the scope at the moon. The views were far better than through the ETX and focussing seemed easier. Trying the LPI showed just how much better things were with sharper images and easier focussing. The pictures are here.
The plan for this morning is to align the smartfinder and conventional viewfinder ready for my next session.
Some pictures of the scope can eb seen here