Last updated: 8 April 2002
Mike here: While not strictly ETX related, this was too good to not post!
Subject: First Light ... Thank you OPT, Thank you Meade, Thank you, Mike W! Sent: Saturday, April 6, 2002 16:48:14 From: email@example.com (Richard Seymour) Hi... Mike, did you have a direct hand in this? Either way, Thank You... if you didn't -directly- affect it, you (more than) indirectly caused it by providing a soap box fingers to shout from... A tale: Aperture envy finally got the better of me, and i decided to buy my little ETX90 a bigger brother... i've been holding out for the 10" LXD55, but decided that i've been too cheap far too often, so a couple of weeks ago, i chose a vendor and mailed a check on a Saturday for a 10" LX200gps. Three days later, i received an email from Mike Fowler of Oceanside Photo and Telescope (OPT). (<-- not my selected vendor, not OPT's fault) "Please give us a call, I'd like to speak with you about a few things I think you might find interesting!" So i did... and was stunned by his question: "How would you like an 8 or 10" LX200gps... free?" It takes a lot to knock me speechless (i talk like i write... (including the parenthetical asides)).. he managed it. When i stopped (well, slowed) just going "ga, ga, uh, " i finally squeaked out: "You're 3 days too late... ga, ga" His answer: "Stop the check" (see footnote 1) This was totally out of the blue... I've never purchased anything from OPT, nor communicated with them other than here and via the Yahoo groups over the last year. (see footnote 2) Totally unexpected, complete gob-smack as the UK folks would say. OPT had gotten together with their Meade Sales Rep, and convinced him to cut them a special deal, and they covered the rest of the cost. As explained to me: "for services rendered to the general Meade telescope user community". (footnote 3) I still hadn't fully recovered speech capability when Mike F. asked: "would you like UHTC with that?" (and made the reasonable argument that a 2- or 3-week delay would be immaterial in the long run). So that's what we chose. Mike F. then left (the next day) for his Baja vacation, with a request that i check with him after his return on Tuesday, April 2, to see how the order was faring. At 4pm, on Monday, April 1st, a familiar brown truck delivered 3 boxes (small, medium, and this-is-ridiculously-huge) to where i work (fn 4). Co-workers were hoping i'd open it, but i figured i'd have problems getting it home safely out of, or sloppily reinserted into, the boxes. (i -did- open the end of the big box, and saw that the inner boxes required full extraction to open... so we couldn't even peek at the barrel) At 6pm, i stuffed it into my Nissan Stanza wagon (a minivan... big box across the back seat, tripod and eyepiece box tossed in the rear), and took it home. Dinner was somewhat disrupted as my wife and i unpacked and assembled it.(5) Egad... it's HUGE. the front UHTC corrector is -transparent-. Meade forgot to pack the obligatory cloud coverage... bless them.. Seattle was having a first-time-in-weeks clear, and i mean CLEAR, night... So i struggled the beastie upstairs and out to the viewing deck (and brought along the ETX90... good thing). I didn't have batteries, i didn't have a 2 amp power supply... so i used the knobs (while my dear wife ran off for batteries)... half an hour of familiarization with manual slewing and focusing, and general drooling at the images... I had the ETX90 show me where Ikeya-Zhang was, and filled the 26mm with it. Batteries arrived, and the LX200gps got first-powerup. v1.1a Based upon the postings in the LX200gps group, i [mode]d out of GPS fix, and manually told it Seattle. It proceeded to point completely sideways for Arcturus, and then (as its 2nd alignment star) chose one below my horizon. So what? i had faith... I then did a Calibrate Sensors, ran the focuser in and out, and shut it down. Then turned it back on... The GPS started looking... one asterisk appeared, a second... and -WHAM-... the words "Different Site" flashed on the screen, and it was off and rolling with the alignment sequence... less than -15 seconds- for the first fix! It arrived at the alignment stars within the viewfinder... the rest of the evening was spent visiting old (Saturn, Jupiter, Pleiades, m42, comet, m31) and new (m82.. just not visible with the ETX90 here in-city... a distinct and clear line-in-the-sky of the edge-on galazy it is in the LX200gps. (26mm and 2x barlow)). Flawless operation for over an hour and a half... the -only- bug came at the end when i asked it to create the User Object "North Pole" at RA=00 Dec=90. After creating it, it declared it to be "Below Horizon". (yes, i've reported it). That beast is one -sweet- scope. Tuesday night was even better... clearer, and i dug out my Televue 8mm and reached 600x with the Barlow... Jupiter looked like the ETX90's box photos. M42's Trapezium nearly filled the field of view.... a friend came over and we slewed into the night ... until the batteries died (motor stalled during tracking at Battery Level=50%)(so $3 per hour battery cost...) Wednesday i bought a 17AH quick-start battery, and played some more. The microfocuser may be having problems... the motor runs, but the barrel is no longer extending... it only moves inward. But there's that big knob as backup, so i'm still happy (i can wait for the delayed shipment of clouds to arrive... since the Space Shuttle is going up, i expect them tomorrow). [added later: focuser OK] Fit and finish were nearly excellent... the one paint chip was on the edge of the front cover plate, probably where the hook held it during the painting process. A small screw fell out of the big box when opened, later determined (took a LOT of looking) to be one of the base's underneath cover screws (again an item mentioned in the comprehensive LX200gps group's FAQ). So, i wish to sincerely and publicly THANK OPT AND MEADE for this wonderful gift... i'm still stunned at the thought of it... Mike Weasner deserves a major chunk of credit, too... his well-moderated site has served himself, me and Clay with a platform from which to provide whatever help we can... the "time lag" (vs. the instant-post eGroups) allows better researching and a few cycles of ask/answer/clarify with himself in the middle serving as second eyes/ears. Reader's questions provide opportunities to dig into and learn more things than i'd ever think of by myself. The LX200gps it will let me move from "i think" and "theoretically" with LX200 questions to being able to test and verify problems. I'd already been nibbling at the edges of digging into how v1.1a operates, and now i've got the ability to -test- patches which might seem useful ... It -has- severely cut into my eGroup-tracking and email time... i'm -days- behind in all of the groups i track... but, but... i'll catch up... just as soon as some clouds appear... really... still flabbergasted (but oh, what lovely images...) --dick sn 02558 10" gps, UHTC. sn??? ETX90ec Footnotes: (1) well, i wouldn't do -that-, and was able to cancel the order from the other vendor with no hard feelings (how can you price-match "free"?) (2) (Full disclosure section:) About 2 years ago, OPT ran a little contest (announced on Mike Weasner's site, and on their store's pages) involving an Autostar Tour... the goal was to run the tour, see the magic word, and submit that for a drawing. The tour was written in Valley-speak (like, fer sure!) and rather painful (i could imagine the squeaky voices). I may have been the only person who perservered long enough to reach the secret word. Be that as it may, i won the prize, a very nice nebula filter for eyepieces. Three emails, and the arrival of the package from OPT, are the sum total of my prior communications with them. (Mike F. was unaware of this) (3) just goes to show P.T.Barnum was on to something... (4) (UPS can -never- find my house). (5) Again thanking the LX200 FAQ for the "how to find the microfocuser's mounting ring"And an additional comment from Dick:
Lest you think (or fear) that Aperture is Everything, The best accessory for successful use of the LX200 has been the ETX90 purring along beside it... first, it provides something useful to -do- for the five or more minutes the LX200 spends sweeping bystanders from the area during alignment... and then it serves to show where the various targets really -are- when the LX200 decides to look elsewhere. The ETX can also confirm that an unfamiliar alignment star really -is- below the horizon. The Autostar is v2.4, the LX200 is only v1.1, and it shows... Of the four nights i had the LX200 out (before clouds ate us), i -didn't- set up the ETX90 on the third night... and that was the least "productive" (and fun) night of the bunch. The ETX90 was set up -first- the next night, and contributed throughout the evening.
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