Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book review: So you want a Meade LX Telescope

If, like me, you are a relative beginner and visual observer who uses your Meade LX 200 in alt/az mode, and don’t have an experienced mentor living nearby, you will likely find one or two dozen tips in this book that will help you. That made it worth buying for me.
  • The book: So You Want A Meade LX Telescope! by Lawrence Harris, Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series
I always dog-ear any of a book’s pages with useful information and figure that if a book has at least 10 dog-ears it was worthwhile. This book ended up with 13, so it “passes.”  Almost half of the book’s 230 pages are about software, primarily for astrophotography. I’m a visual observer, at least for now, so half the book didn’t matter to me, at least not yet.

I’ve had my Meade LX200 for a couple of years and still have lots to learn. There’s no group of amateurs locally, Meade users or otherwise, so my only support group has been “The Google” and a few forums. The problem with that is there is almost always too much information to sift through to find answers, and when you find them you can’t be certain they are correct. I have found a few websites, like Mike Weasner’s Cassiopeia Observatory, that share a lot of useful, accurate information. But I still needed more.

If I had an experienced mentor living next door, using the same telescope, I wouldn’t need this book. But I don’t. Instead, the book acted like a mentor with a lot of simple tips I guess I should have known or figured out, but didn’t. Here are a few of the author's tips: 
  • Minimize image shift – by regularly winding the focuser fully in and out to help evenly distribute the grease along the shaft;
  • Minimize backlash – by making your final focus twist a push so that the mirror moves away from the rear of the scope; 
  • Set a lower maximum speed – The scope’s default goto speed is at maximum, so any use of the goto option moves your scope at top speed – and nothing, apart from a badly balanced scope, is more likely to quickly wear out your gears.
These are very simple tips that everyone with a Meade LX 200 should know the day they buy their telescope. I didn’t, so I’m glad I found a mentor who shared these and dozens of other simple but useful tips. It wouldn’t be right for me to share all of his tips here, but here are some more topics I found useful:
  • A simple way to figure out which screw needs to be adjusted next when collimating;  
  • Getting more out of your Autostar II handbox using Smart Mount Technology;  
  •  Improving goto accuracy during an observing session well after your initial alignment; 
  • Balancing your telescope.·       
Plus, if you plan to move on to adding a wedge, software, and imaging equipment, the book has even more to offer. I don’t know how valuable that information is because I’m not there yet. The bottom line for me: Even though half of the book does not apply to me today, I got enough practical information I could use right away to justify the cost and reading time.  

1 comment:

  1. Comment on my post of this article on the Stargazers Lounge forum from Damian: Great review, like yoursef I had my LX200 for a couple of years before buying the book. It changed the way I use it, especially the reduced slew speed!


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