by Tom (tmohr)
Receiving the LX80 Attachment 32381
There was no damage to the boxes during shipping, but there were some issues that I ran into. The Lens Cap to the 8x50 finder was cracked. No damage to the finder objective that I could see and no scuffed paint. Not too big of an issue, but hey, it IS new, right?
A tripod foot fell off sometime during its travels. The screw used to secure the foot to the tripod leg was a good size larger in diameter and would not thread into the appropriate hole on the tripod leg. I'm sure turning the box around during shipment with loosened tripod leg locks allowed the foot to tap off over time. I'll have to hit up the hardware store to find the correct screw.
One of the Tripod Leg Lock Knobs is gone completely. I'm not sure if it was ever there. It's not that the knob was snapped off the bolt. The hole for this lock is clean and clear. I did verify that the hole isn't stripped out by screwing another lock knob into it. I’ll just need to get that last one from Meade.
The last thing on my list of issues: I don't have a way to mount the hand control on the unit at all. It's not there and looking through the Manual, I don't see it listed anywhere either. If, in fact, Meade did not make one, I'll have to fashion something because setting it on the tripod leg spreader won't cut it. I know it will fall off eventually. Meade LX80 Tripod
It's very robust, hefty and stable. It is leaps and bounds better than the LS-8. It is very similar to my CGEM or the Atlas EQ-G that I've seen. The lock knobs might cause some troubles in colder climates. For someone to use them with gloves on, they might be a bit too smooth. I'm still not convinced the tripod weighs 31.5 pounds. I'll have to weigh it later to confirm. This tripod has fine leveling adjustments built in. They don't adjust the tripod's level very much, but they do work quite well and smooth. The tripod is a wee bit (3 inches maybe) taller than the CGEM without the legs extended. I don’t know if they are equal at full extension. Mount LX80 Overview
Ok, this thing is hefty though not as awkward as the CGEM. The handles on the sides are placed nicely for ease of lifting and moving. These handles made it easy to adjust side to side to mate the tabs on the mount bottom to the tripod top plate. It looks and feels well constructed. The multi-function hex head tool used to loosen the latitude locks and adjust azimuth/latitude is one of the items that worry me. It does store securely and easily in its slot. I just wonder how many times I'll set this thing down somewhere rather than putting it back in the proper spot. The adjustment tool’s use was simple and smooth. I think even a gloved hand would not have difficulties using it. Once I had all items installed, balancing was pretty simple. I must admit, I searched for the Dec lock and finally ended up looking back through the manual. The Dec lock is the silvery, knurled knob where the counterweight rod screws in. While balancing or moving in Dec clockwise, the Dec Lock will tighten a little, so make sure you loosen this lock enough to allow for the rotation. Not really an issue, but I noted that the Dec lock rotated with the motion of the counterweight rod.
I didn't have a lot of time to apply power and slew the thing around. It did slew just fine for the time I had power applied. Both motors work fine. No issues there. The motors were louder than the CGEM but on par with the LS-8. Of course this was inside, so a better determination will be made once I get a chance to go outside with it. From what I can tell the power connection is the same as my LS-8,but I will have to fashion a way to secure the cable. For my LS-8, I use a 90 degree plug. For the LX80, I’ll have to use a straight connection otherwise the cable comes out quite easy as the RA rotates. Maybe I need a larger Outer Diameter plug to make it more secure. I’ll know more with testing. The battery compartment, to me, is very flimsy and useless. I plan to install batteries to hold alignment in the event I lose power. I did the same with the Celestron 6SE I had last October. Doing so saved me some realignment time. I think this would prove positive for the LX80 mount as well. Just before I hurried off to work today, I was able to lift the full set up and move it to the side of the room. Meade and the math say it weighs 91.6 pounds with one Counterweight. I think that is over stated as it seems less to me. Attachment 32383 Optical Tube Assembly
Standard Meade OTA came with this setup. So the paperwork and web postings say anyway. It looks wonderful, but night time usage will tell if collimation has suffered from shipping or if any other issues present themselves. The box it came in clearly states SC, which led me to believe that I have the normal non-Advance Coma Free with UHTC. Careful inspection of the Corrector plate holder ring, hints to a different story. The holder ring clearly states: Advanced Coma Free. I don’t have a clue how to tell the difference or if I would be able to tell. Maybe someone here can pass a couple hints my way. This may be just “luck of the draw” or a simple factory error. Either way, I’ll be happy with the optics. A sharper image to the edge than standard, I guess. The OTA weighs about 14lbs and presented no problems installing on the mount. With the 8x50 finder installed though, the OTA tends to “lean” to the finder direction when I loosened the dovetail lock knobs while balancing. Keep a hand on the OTA just in case. I’d hate to “bounce check” all that glass.
I’ve covered pretty much everything I can think of at this time. If you have questions or want me to elaborate on something, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer.
I’m excited about getting this mount out under the stars. Of course as I write this from work, it is crystal clear. My luck the clouds will roll in Saturday Night when I get off at midnight and will accompany me through my weekend. I promise a proper first light will come real soon.
Attached are some pictures I took early this morning. I’m very open to taking more detailed pictures for our users here. Let me know what you’d like to have “a closer look at”.
I posted on Meade4M forum last night about the Hand control holder..Response: It doesn't have one I'll make something to save me from dropping it on the ground. I just need some time off work. Maybe a plastic hook or something so I can hang it on one of the handles...? Pictures and explanation to follow when I've decided. Initial Impressions of the Meade LX80
This morning I switched to Alt/Az mode, giving the single OTA and dual OTA mounting options a try.
I didn't make any changes to how the OTA is balanced or to the weight attached in alt/az single ota mode. I simply returned the latitude back to 90 degrees, placed the mount in Alt/Az home position, selected Telescope type LX80 Alt/Az in AudioStar's menu, and proceeded to follow the easy align option. I didn't expect this, but the scope slewed in a direction nowhere near the alignment star it chose (Vega). Not wanting to cause any damage, I opted to cycle power and start over. The second attempt went much better. This time the telescope slewed to the approximate location of the alignment stars it chose (Vega, Capella). Conclusion: When changing telescope types, it seems one should power cycle before beginning alignment. Fine by me, now I know. No real time lost.
In Dual OTA mode, I removed two sections of Counterweight rod and the counterweight. I then attached the secondary Vixen dovetail adapter (supplied by the manufacturer) and attached my SV102ED to it. I eyeballed the angle to match the main OTA. Flicked the switch on and followed the easy align procedure. No change in drive sound from polar mode or single ota alt/az. Neither axis exhibited any strain. I'll note here that my refractor weighs about the same as a single counterweight possibly a little more. I've never used a setup like this, but I can easlily see how good it would be for outreach and sharing with my family & friends. Bob G. expressed interest here. Bob, do you have additional questions or actions I should test for you? I'm still testing inside, so I don't know how far off I was with the Main OTA. When I get it outside, we'll see what kind of adjustments will be needed to center on the same target.
I'm quickly learning the menu structure. It's just a matter of time until I know the buttons need to get to the menu items I'll use most. Same with the LS-8 and CGEM. The Menu structure has some "deep" areas where you navigate "down" a few levels, but this doesn't deter from its use. There are no dedicated buttons for Messier, NGC, Planets, Stars...etc. These are found by selecting objects menu and navigating to them. The number buttons select slew rate unless you're entering data into the hand control.
I've set the Audio play setting to "on demand". Now if I want to hear about the object selected, it's just a button press to call it up. I did this with my LS-8 as well. I still like this feature, I prefer to call it up when I want to.
I'm still grinning "EAR to EAR"! No major issues thus far.
As to the issues I described during my initial "unboxing". I'm excited to say OPT and Meade are working diligently to correct them all.
I was finally able to get the telescope/mount outside last night. Initially around 7pm. It wasn’t dark, but sundown was quickly approaching.
Tripod setup was simple. The feet are rubberized, which I didn’t notice when it was set up inside on the carpet. I do not know if this is standard for Meade’s large tripods, but I found it very nice. They acted like vibration pads I suspect. Leveling the tripod before putting the mount on top was simple, using the built-in bubble level in the center. The leg levelers worked as described. I had to adjust the legs to get closer to level. The levelers have limited travel and on one leg, there wasn’t quite enough travel. It was a simple process. Placing the mount on top using the mount’s built in handles was a breeze. It’s built in bubble level also showed I was spot on with no adjustment needed. I didn’t use an actual level, but I will tonight just to verify.
Last night was polar mode night so this is the only configuration I used. I did 8 to 10 alignments. I opted to use easy (two star) and the three star alignments. Moving from the CGEM to this mount, I have somewhat of a “tainted” understanding of polar alignment. I moved the tripod several times during the night to zero in on the pole star. My house blocks North view. The hand controller displays where the pole is after completing an alignment. I don’t know if other Meade mounts display this data so I’ll explain.
After completing alignment, the display shows: The pole is (on first line). On the second line it displays numbers and pointer characters showing the direction to the pole. Like this 123’ ^ 191’>. In this example the pole is 123 minutes up latitude and 191 minutes right azimuth. I found that I could make corrections to these errors by using the latitude/azimuth adjustments, power cycle and re-align. I eventually got my polar alignment down to hand controller reported 9’v (down) and 11’< (left). I think I could have foregone the power cycle, but practice makes perfect, right? Gotos were way off at the beginning of my alignment series. Arcturus was more than 15 degrees off (fist at arm’s length measured) initially, but as my polar alignment improved it was finally in the finder scope at the end of the night. When the first alignment star was way off, the second star was also off considerably. Attachment 32382
Expectedly, the gotos did not bring the chosen object into the eyepiece, even the moon. By the end of the night, gotos were putting the chosen object in the eyepiece FOV. M13, M57, M27, Moon, M104, Saturn, Spica, Mars….you get the picture.
Some things to note: The DEC gearing has bad “slop” right now. I don’t know if train drives or backlash adjustment will correct this. I will see what can be done about it. I checked the Dovetail adapter (saddle?) and it is as tight as it can be. As I rocked the telescope from side to side, the movement was quite obvious at 78x magnification (even more so at 176x) and deterred from finding fine focus. This problem wasn’t apparent as the telescope slewed while centering alignment stars or precisely centering the object in the eyepiece. I deal with vibration problems on my LS-8, but the DEC movement was worse. Vibration on the LX80 wasn’t much of an issue. Dampening time was down to a second or so. One last thing to note: When the slewing to the other side of the sky (meridian flip) the mount would stop (pause) for about 3 seconds as it calculated the best telescope position for the transition to keep the telescope and accessories from striking the tripod leg. The pause was enough to make me suspect a goto problem, something to get used to, I guess. It seems to me, the pause might be reduced with better coding, but I’m not a software programmer so maybe these calculation pauses are necessary.
RA gearing is solid and there were no issues with it at all. The drives were reported as “loud” by my better half when I left the door open during a couple slews. The neighbors didn’t complain and I was more intent on testing rather than listening.
Tonight is Alt/Az mode trials. I’ll be using the 8 inch and the 4” refractor for dual OTA mode. Stay tuned for more updates as long as the clear skies hold out. My Astro Panel android app shows the clouds moving in as the sun goes down, but no precipitation. If I get clouded out, tomorrow and Wednesday are showing clear.
To the issue: No Hand control holder. I used the tripod spreader center rod and the supplied level/compass as a makeshift holder. I found the gap between where the compass sat in an eyepiece slot of the spreader and the center rod perfect to hold the hand control securely during slews. I’m leaning toward a Velcro solution to this, though.
I’ve probably only “skimmed the surface” of topics you’d like to see discussed. Please, if you have any questions, ask!