Last updated: 14 December 2002
I unpacked everything in the store. (The table is where I was autographing my book, Using the Meade ETX
That evening I took it outside into the parking lot for its first light. Initial reports were WOW! Crystal clear and bright images! (Remember, I've been using an ETX-90 and -125 for the past few years.) From the parking lot, the Moon and Saturn were really nice in the 26mm eyepiece (77X) (even though Saturn was low).
The next day I unpacked everything again, documenting it with photos. This photo shows the contents of the two boxes. The long box lid (top) contains the accessory tray, the 8 D-cell battery pack, the manual (for all LXD models), and the #497 Autostar. The tripod box itself (middle) has the German Equatorial Mount (GEM) head, the counterweight rod, the tripod, the Autostar cable, and one of the two counterweights. The OTA box (bottom) has the 8" SC telescope itself, the 26mm eyepiece, a 1.25" eyepiece adapter, the 8x50mm finderscope, and the second of two counterweights.
Here is the tripod, just removed from the box:
Here is the GEM head attached to the tripod. Note: this is not its final orientation.
Here is the GEM head with the counterweight rod and counterweight attached. It is now set for my latitude (approximately 34 degrees).
Here is the 8" SC Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) mounted on the head. Note the "UHTC" on the left on the bottom side of the tube. The eyepiece end is on the left as well (you can see the focus knob; the silver rod).
Here is the fully assembled LXD55 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. I attached velcro to the back of the Autostar and to the top of each tripod leg.
Here is a closeup of the telescope. The 1.25" eyepiece adapter star diagonal and 26mm eyepiece is on the right.
Here are two views into the aperture end of the telescope. Oh, those optics look nice and clean!
That night I got to use the telescope some more just learning its GEM mounting but did look at some stars (nice airy disks with the 9.7mm eyepiece) and M57 (bright and large). I'm gonna like this scope (but I suspect my ETX-90RA will continue to be my most used telescope). It weighs in at about 75lbs fully setup. I can handle carrying it from the house to the patio with very little difficulty but would not want to carry it very far in that configuration. Unfortunately, it clouded up and then the holidays conspired to keep me away from home at night. So the telescope got no use during the next two weeks. Rats. But I decided to get this initial report online while waiting for the weather to clear.
I ordered the Meade $99 Super Plössl eyepiece set on Monday, 18 November, via US Mail and received them on Friday, 22 November! I guess it helps being an hour away from Meade's office in Irvine! Here's the aluminum case. The case latches will lock and there are two keys included.
When you first open the case, here is what you see. There are seven eyepieces in bottle cases.
Here is how I configured my case. I have added the 26mm eyepiece bottle case, a Scopetronix 25mm eyepiece with Digi-T adapter, and a 2X Barlow Lens. I added white labels to each bottle case with the focal length of the eyepiece.
The eyepieces included are listed in the table below with the magnifications they provide with the f/10 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain (focal length of 2000mm). The 26mm is not included with the eyepiece deal but comes standard with the telescope.
The optics seem really good. I did a star test (on a night of lousy seeing); using a 9.7mm eyepiece I could see a nice Airy disk on Vega. The mount seems stable, but then I'm using the tripod with the legs fully collapsed. I've not noticed any problems with the tripod, the GEM head, or the telescope. In fact, the only problem so far is with the accessory tray on the tripod; when I lift the tripod and telescope combination, a twist on the legs causes the tray to pop up away from one of the tabs on the support arms. Not a big problem but it is difficult to get it repositioned onto the tab without undoing the central screw. Since I use the tripod without extending the legs I doubt that I'm affecting tripod stability much.
The only issue so far is with Meade customer support! I called the Monday after I received the telescope to get a couple of replacement parts that were missing: one was the tripod leg tip "niblet" (the little rubber cover) and the other was a 2" eyepiece adapter. The 2" EP adapter was mentioned TWICE in the manual as being included with the 8"SC. I was told they would send both to me. A week later the box arrived; no niblet and the 2" adapter was for the 8" Schmidt-Newtonian not the 8"SC and so it didn't fit. Sheesh. So I called back the next day and explained about the missing and wrong parts. After checking several times on the 2" EP adapter for the 8"SC, the rep couldn't definitively say whether there was such a part for the LXD55 8"SC. Sheesh. I told him it was mentioned TWICE in the manual. He said he would check further and call back by 4:30pm that day. That was Tuesday, 26 November. No call back. I'm now waiting to see if they ship anything.
So far I've used the Autostar for the polar alignments. As I'm used to using the Autostar on ETX telescopes, I was very comfortable with it and had good GOTOs. I aligned the large (8x50mm) finderscope using Vega and had no difficulties with the easily accessed screws (unlike the small ones in a tight space on the ETX models). The finderscope had a nice bright and clear image and was in focus across nearly all of the field of view. I still have to try out the polar alignment scope and all the eyepieces in the case. And of course, I'll be doing some astrophotography.
Stay tuned for more reports as weather and holiday festivities permit.
As I mentioned above, I had some missing parts so I had called Meade. The first call was made on 18 November but the package that arrived on 25 November was missing the "niblet" and the 2" eyepiece adapter was for the 8" Schmidt-Newtonian model and not the 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain. I called on 26 November about the errors and was told I would be called back later that same day. By Wednesday, 4 December I had received no call back from Meade nor the proper parts.
On Thursday, 5 December, I decided I had better call them back to follow-up on their customer support. After waiting on hold for about 10 minutes a gentleman came on the line and said "Meade Instruments, please hold" and then he proceeded to disconnect me. I called back and waited another 5 minutes before another gentleman came on the line. I repeated the initial missing parts report and gave him the original replacement parts order number. After several minutes we got things straighten out that I was talking about the 8"SC and not the 8"SN (I lost track of how many times I explained that). He eventually determined that the LXD55 manual was wrong in two places (the note on the top of page 13 under the Schmidt-Cassegrain paragraph and page 47 in the SC-8 specifications). The rep said that the Meade #929 2" eyepiece adapter would work if I wanted one. He said he would ship me three niblets for the tripod. I'll report on when they are received.
I pointed out to the gentleman that a simple addendum in the box would have saved myself and Meade Customer Service a lot of wasted time and phone calls. He didn't seem to care about that.
As to actually using the telescope, the skies continue to be cloudy. Rats. But I was able to accomplish one good thing. I updated my ETX-125EC Autostar to 2.6Ec using an Apple Macintosh PowerBook G4/500 running Mac OS X 10.2.2, Virtual PC 5.0.4 with Windows2000, a Keyspan USB-Twin Serial Adapter with the v1.4 driver, and the Autostar Updater Application 3.61 with a local copy of the ROM file. It took about 20 minutes and the ASU reported 86% complete when it finished. I then cloned it to the LXD Autostar (which came with 2.6Ea); took 10 minutes.
LXD55 tripod leg tip "niblets" (3) were received on Monday, 9 December.
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