Last updated: 14 August 2007
A User's Guide to the Meade LXD55 and LXD75 Telescopes
by Martin Peston
Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series
Published by Springer, 2007
The author, Martin Peston, sent me a courtesy copy of his new book on the Meade LXD telescopes. What follows is my review.
Table of Contents
2. Astronomy as a Hobby
3. Choosing an LXD Telescope
4. Setting up the Telescope
5. Polar Alignment and Goto Setup
6. First Night's Observing
7. Telescope Operations, Abilities and Observing Techniques
8. The Universe at a Touch of a Button
9. Connecting a Personal Computer
10. Taking Images
11. Keeping your Telescope in Peak Condition
12. Gadgets and Gizmos
13. Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Appendix A: Lists and Charts of Autostar Named Stars
Appendix B: Object Lists Appendix C: Autostar Menu Options
Appendix D: References and Further Reading
Appendix E: Astronomical Image Information
As you can see from the above Table of Contents listing, this book has topics for every level of user, from beginner to wannabe expert astrophotographer. The tone of the book is friendly and is easy to read; you get the feeling that Martin is talking directly to you. A book such as this promises a lot. Does it live up to the promises? Read on.
The first chapter, Introduction, explains the why of the book. The second chapter, Astronomy as a Hobby, is an excellent overview of topics that are important to a new amateur astronomer with their first telescope. It is here that you will learn about the night sky and some observing points. This background is important to enhance the beginner's enjoyment of using a GOTO (or any) telescope.
Chapter 3, Choosing an LXD Telescope, begins with a brief but excellent discussion of telescope designs, factors to consider when deciding to purchase a telescope, and ends with a thorough overview of each LXD55/75 telescope model, including how each relate to those purchase factors. This chapter should be required reading for any beginner making a first telescope purchase!
Chapter 4, Setting up the Telescope, is the start of the meat of this User's Guide. The author takes you through unpacking, handling and setting up the telescope and tripod, and doing some adjustments that may or may not be needed with your LXD (polar viewfinder alignment, finderscope alignment, and OTA alignments to the axes). The steps are detailed and include valuable images where appropriate. As the author notes, many users won't need to do all the adjustments to enjoy the LXD but if you want to get the most out of the telescope you might consider doing these adjustments at least once.
Chapter 5, Polar Alignment and Goto Setup, provides information on aligning the mount to the celestial pole (North or South) and it explains all the AutoStar alignment options. Normally I just set the telescope pointed roughly North and do a One Star Alignment (to "align" the telescope's polar axis) then I do a Two Star Alignment. Most times this has worked out really well and GOTOs have been accurate. However, after reading this chapter I will now spend the time to align the polar axis using the Polar Viewfinder (after insuring it is aligned per the steps in Chapter 4). And speaking of "time", one of the really nice things about this book for the new LXD owner is that the author includes time estimates for each of the operations. From my experience they are conservative but will guide the new owner on what to expect. As you gain experience the times will decrease.
The next chapter, First Night's Observing, is a short discussion of what to expect and how to plan for that first night out with your new LXD (or any) telescope. There are some excellent tips in this brief chapter.
Chapter 7, Telescope Operations, Abilities and Observing Techniques, goes into more depth on using the telescope (any telescope generally and LXD telescopes specially) and how to observe objects. Some good tips on finding objects using the AutoStar and not using the AutoStar are in this chapter as well.
Chapter 8, The Universe at a Touch of a Button, is a "grand tour" of the objects in the AutoStar's database of 31,000+ objects (no, not all of them!). Here you will learn how to select objects and what you can expect to see when looking at the objects through your LXD telescope. This chapter contains a typographical error: on page 133 in the discussion of using a solar filter to cover the aperture, the author says "...by reducing the size of the aperture the focal length is increased...". Obviously, the focal length is not changed but the focal ratio is increased. This could confuse new users who might not pick up on the boo-boo. But other than that, this chapter will help guide new users on what they can expect to see with their new AutoStar-enabled telescope.
Chapter 9, Connecting a Personal Computer, discusses how to connect a Windows based computer to the AutoStar and update the AutoStar ROM. Unfortunately it overlooks the non-Windows alternatives that are available for both updating the ROM and controlling the AutoStar/telescope. The chapter does mention that a RS-232 port is not included on today's computer so a USB adapter has to be used. But it fails to mention that some USB adapters do not work reliably with the AutoStar. In the section on cloning one AutoStar to another, it also overlooks the fact that a special "cloning" cable is required, which is different than the #505 serial cable. Still, this is a good chapter for those new to the AutoStar.
Chapter 10, Taking Images, provides a lot of excellent information on cameras (film, digital, and webcam) and techniques for different types of astrophotography. In the section on reducing camera shake (SLRs) I was surprised that the author didn't touch on the "hat trick" method of eliminating SLR camera mirror movement vibrations. A couple errors are in this chapter: Figure 10.3 shows the eyepiece backwards in the eyepiece projection adapter sequence and Figure 10.4 and the last sentence of the afocal photography section call the adapter a "parfocal adapter". But still, this chapter is "spot-on" with really good information.
Chapter 11, Keeping your Telescope in Peak Condition, is one that provides many valuable tips on testing and keeping your telescope performing at its best. Two-thirds of the chapter provides the steps to collimate each one of the LXD telescope models, with the remainder of the chapter discussing, cleaning, general maintenance, and storing your telescope. There was one error that might confuse new users: on page 181 there is a discussion of the magnification to use for the "star test" optical collimation test. It says that you should use 1X for each cm (centimeter) of telescope aperture and then notes that the 8"SC model is a 203cm telescope, meaning an eyepiece yielding 200X should be used. Of course, what is meant is "mm" (millimeter) not "cm"; but the answer of 200X for the 8" is still correct. If cm had been correct, then the 8" (20cm) would mean a 20X magnification eyepiece would be used and that obviously (to a non-beginner) is not correct.
Chapter 12, Gadgets and Gizmos, briefly talks about the many accessories that can be used with the LXD telescopes, such as additional eyepieces, Barlow Lenses, focal reducers, filters, motorized focusers, GPS, cases, and more. The chapter will give you a hint of how you can spend your money to enhance your enjoyment of using the telescope. But serious amateur astronomers (and their spouses) know that purchasing a telescope is just the first expense in a life-long commitment.
The last chapter in the book, Where Did It All Go Wrong?, is a synopsis of some things that can go wrong when using a LXD telescope. It has a sort of checklist for each item, with references to other chapters where the problem and solution are discussed. Sometimes references are made to web sites for further information.
The Appendices have lists and charts of various pieces of information that will be useful to any LXD owner. For the new user, the alignment star lists and sky charts will be especially handy. I did see one bad URL: on page 241 (Appendix A) there is a URL for Meade's AutoStar update web page. It shows a link to the AutoStar Suite page instead. The correct link for the AutoStar update is on page 243.
Many readers of my book Using the Meade ETX have told me that they keep the book handy when using their ETX telescope. I suspect that many LXD telescope users will keep A User's Guide to the Meade LXD55 and LXD75 Telescopes on hand as well. While no book will cover every topic or detail that the author wants to or should include, this book, in its 250 pages, has many techniques and tips that any level of LXD user will find valuable. I can heartily recommend this book to all LXD telescope users.
Go to my LXD55/LXD75 Home Page.