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LX80 Mount: Initial impressions


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#1 TCampbell

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 10:30 AM

My mount was just delivered yesterday. I've got it all together and working, though I haven't yet taken it out for some real observing yet. I thought I'd share some initial impressions.

Tripod Spreader bar: While setting up the tripod, I noticed that the "spreader bar" is really molded plastic. I was a bit surprised because everything ELSE on the LX80 mount actually appears to be very substantial. My advice: "snug" it on for stability, but don't reef on it. I'm pretty sure it can't take the stress.

Tripod Legs: The legs each have telescoping legs to level the scope -- like just about every other mount, and the tripod has a built-in bubble level. But when I level any of my other scopes, I have to kneel down to adjust the leg height which makes it hard to see the bubble in the level. Meade allows you to get the scope "close" to level, and the TOP of each tripod leg has a cuff that rotates. This allows you to fine-adjust the height of each leg (but at the top of the leg... not the bottom.) It makes getting a good level much easier. That was a nice touch!

The mount head attaches to the base in a way which is "keyed" to make sure it's aligned correctly, and the bolts which secure it are "captive" bolts (meaning when you completely unthread them from the base, they don't actually fall out -- they remain dangling on the bottom of the tripod. That's also a nice touch as I've dropped mounting bolts before and it's fun finding them in the dark grass without turning on any lights to annoy other nearby astronomers at star parties. Another nice touch.

Head: There are a number of adjustment points on the head which all use an allen wrench to adjust them. Meade has conveniently included the allen-tool necessary (they all use the same size). You'll see a black knob in the lower corner of the base... unscrew it because it's actually the allen tool. You can then use that tool to find adjust the azimuth for true-north, or adjust the latitude (also the lock bolts that allow the head to pivot use the same size.) When you're done, just screw the tool back into it's keeper position in the lower corner of the base. Anoter nice touch that I don't have to run to the tool box.

Counter balance: The counterbalance arm is segmented. You could just install a single weight on the shortest arm if your scope doesn't weigh much, or add segments (three in all) or weights to balance the mount. This is nicer than other mounts I've had. The bar is beefier and I expected the segmented bar to flex more than it does -- but it is quite solid. I like that I can use less weight and just put that weight at a greater distance to achieve balance. This seems to be a well-though out design.

Dual mount: The scope DOES INCLUDE a 2nd Vixen-style saddle. Each segmented bar on the counter-balance has a groover located about 1/2" in from the end (I didn't measure -- that's a guess). The saddle slips on over the end of the bar and has two allen-head bolts to tighten it down. They tighten on that "groove" near the end of the bar so that if for some reason they came slightly loose, they'd catch rather than just slide off the end.

Setting Circles: There is NO setting circle for the RA axis (when in polar mode -- aka azimuth axis if in alt/az mode). Just a couple of arrows to align to the home position. There is a coarse setting circle on the Dec axis... but here's a surprise, the setting circle is permanently affixed to the Vixen-style saddle plate (to which you'd mount the scope) and cannot be turned. On my scope, the setting circle (which appears to have been glued on) is off by about 5º and there appears to be no way to correct this (apparently I have to call Meade and ask them to send me a replacement saddle with a permanently affixed setting circle which is properly aligned.) Why they didn't choose to use a rotating collar (like every other scope has - including pretty much every other Meade scope -- ESPECIALLY at the price they charge for this mount-only) is beyond me. They could have including a set-screw to keep it from spinning.

There is no holder for the Audiostar handbox. I also own an LX-200, it came with a holder -- so I know Meade makes them. It would have been pretty trivial to adapt a holder for the Audiostar.

Noise: Just as noisy as every other Meade motorized goto scope. About as loud as a coffee grinder. I'm starting to believe Meade does this on purpose. At a star party, everyone knows where the Meade scopes are. I guess it makes it easier to find your way back to your scope in the dark.

Audiostar (speaking of noise): The Audiostar will start rattling off information about whatever object you select (assuming it has info in it's list of audio tracks). I expected there would be some button to press to ASK it to speak. If the scope is slewing, it will not respond to input, so you can't mute it or turn down the volume. The only way I've found to silence it is to turn the volume level to 0 (maybe I'll find another way). The default volume level was surprisingly loud... I'd be embarrassed at a star party. Turn it down in advance. I did set to volume 1 (the lowest volume where you can actually hear it). At that volume it's about as loud as a phone -- e.g. you could hold the Audiostar speaker to your ear to hear it. The motors are pretty loud though so it might be hard to hear over the sound of the motors.

And here's something that DOES come as a surprise (not in a good way, but it's easily fixed): Meade actually sells this mount with the Coronado Ha Solar scopes. ...and yet... the Audiostar REFUSES to point at the Sun. It's not in the database. Now maybe it's just me, but I feel that if you buy an Ha Solar scope, it's kind of an important feature to be able to point the scope at the sun. Celestron's mounts also refuse to look at the sun... but only as a factory "default". You can go into their utilities menu and enable looking at the sun (and you get a warning about sun safety every time you ask it to point at the sun. I'm fine with that.) I'm wondering if I should expect a firmware update for this.

In any case, there's a fix for the Sun. See this article on Mike Weasner's ETX site: http://www.weasner.c...tar/as_sun.html

Overall quality seems pretty high. The build seems solid. I haven't taken this out for a real test yet, I've just been playing with it inside the house.

I'm very disappointed about the setting circle and hope Meade can send me a corrected one soon without giving me too much static. I really wish it would have been a rotating collar with maybe a set-screw (e.g. with a knurled end so I can use my fingers). But that's probably the only real downside I've come across so far. I can build a bracket to hold the Audiostar and if I really want, I could easily replace the spreader bar (I probably wont.)

#2 TCampbell

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 10:08 AM

I've now had the mount out for a spin. All went well. A few updates.

Meade is still "getting back to me" on that mount problem (They've never phoned me back, nor emailed, nor acknowledged that I've contacted them for support. Basically if you don't hound Meade, you wont get support. I'm not very pleased about that.) They really just need to drop a replacement dovetail in the mail with a properly aligned setting circle and be done with it.

As for the Autostar and the Sun. I've confirmed the Sun isn't in the database.

You can add the Sun to the database. See this article for info on how that works: http://www.weasner.c...tar/as_sun.html

In essence, what they've learned is that you can't just add an anchor object in the center of the solar system for the Sun. That's been tried and has problems. But you can add an Asteroid which shares Earth's orbit (essentially the same orbital ephemerides as the Earth -- except 180º around to the backside of the Sun.) The scope will calculate and point to such an object and, since the object is always "behind" the Sun and the Autostar doesn't actually know anything about the Sun, effectively your scope will point to the Sun after all.

I tried to update this via the AutoStar Update utility. I noticed that if I just add the Sun (as an Asteroid) using the utility, it warns me that this is going to wipe out all user objects and replace it with the data I'm loading. I didn't want to do that. So the procedure is to "retrieve" all the user objects currently in the Audiostar, then add your object to the list, then "send" the data back to the Audiostar. When I "retrieve" the data in the Audiostar (note this is brand new), there are a number of corrupt entries in it. I'm not sure why this is. Is this a defect in the utility or is this because Meade doesn't zero-out the user-data area after they flash a new Audiostar? I was afraid to mess with it until I speak to Meade... if the utility has bugs with this particular version of the handbox then I don't want to scramble the firmware with no way to restore it.

I discovered the AutoStar Update utility isn't actually needed at all. When you go to the Asteroids menu, there's a sub-object to "Add" a new entry. I picked Add and it interactively prompts you to enter all the ephemeris for your object. Just enter the data found in Dick Seymour's post (on the Weasner ETX site linked just up above) and it'll add a new Asteroid named "SUN".

I took the mount outside with my solar Ha scope, aligned it to true celestial north (in Polar mode), and told it to go to the Asteroid named "SUN" and it nailed it (I didn't have the mount perfectly aligned... I just eye-balled it using a compass, but it was _very_ close and actually just on the edge of the field of view of my eyepeice.)

At the end of the day, everything is working but I need (a) a replacement Vixen saddle plate with a properly aligned setting circle and (B) a clarification on why the AutoStar Update utility shows some corrupted entries in the user data area and whether I can safely over-write by just pushing my new data to the scope and ignoring what was there.

#3 DogRubio

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 01:03 AM

My was working fine, I was really happy with it, but all of a sudden it has begun doing weird things, like pointing the other way when I look for objects, like I was totally in a different place (south pole) my location is right, time zone, date etc. Still working on it I will upgrade the firmware an see what happens.

#4 AC5TF

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:09 AM

If anyone is interested, I just added a "how to" article on the Cloudynights website describing a very inexpensive way to go wireless, using bluetooth with this mount.

Fred

#5 fjk5146

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 01:47 PM

If anyone is interested, I just added a "how to" article on the Cloudynights website describing a very inexpensive way to go wireless, using bluetooth with this mount.

Fred


I enjoyed your "how to " on how to wirelessly connect to an LX80. I'm also a ham radio operator and a bit of a geek so I'm going to order the interface and give it a try.

Fred, KC9QQ




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