Saturday, February 17, 2007

My first telescope - Part III

The original clock drive on the Starfinder 826 was beyond salvation. So after some research, I decided to replace the mount with a newer, better one with "Go To" capability. Naturally, I looked up the Meade catalogue, trying to find the best solution. The LXD-55 mount works out to be OK, in theory at least, but the LXD-55 has been around since 2001 and persistent rumours of a newer mount coming out soon held me back for a while.

Finally the word was out - the LXD-55 will be replaced by the LXD-75. The best part is LXD-75 is miles better and comes complete with Autostar #497. With it you can point the telescope to any of the 30,223 celestial objects in the database automatically. So no more moving the telescope by hand and having to track the objects manually.

Autostar 497 controller Meade AutoStar #497 Controller

Again I went back and consulted Looi at Infinity Infocus, the Malaysian dealer for Meade to see if the 826 mount can be upgraded with an LXD-75 drive. I did not want to use a tripod because it will obstruct the counter weights. That' s because since my location is very close to the equator and the latitute adjustment has to be set very close to zero degrees. At that angle, the counter weight will hit the tripod at certain angles. The idea is to stick to the good sturdy old pier of the 826.

Meade Starfinder 826C Newtonian 8 inch f/6 telescope with LXD-75 mount

The new mount - note the distance between the counter weights and the black color pier. If it was a tripod, the counter weight bar will most certainly hit one of the tripod legs.

Sure enough, after much discussion and brainstorming, we've got a solution - remove the old mount, drill 3 separate holes on the tube of the pier to extend it with Vixen pier, the put the LXD-75 mount on top of it. The end result was very satisfying, by June 2005 my 20 year old telescope is back in action with some serious "Go To" capability!

Meade Starfinder 826C pier with LXD-75 mount

Meade LXD-75 mount with the Starfinder 826 pier - a unique combination.

Meade's Autostar is pretty cool. It is powered by a Motorola 68HC11, 8MHz procesor with 1MB flash memory. The 30,223 objects in the AutoStar database include :

  • 5,386 objects from the Index Catalog (IC); galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters of all types; the complete Index Catalog
  • 7,840 objects from the New General Catalog (NGC); additional galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters of all types; the complete New General Catalog
  • 109 objects from the Caldwell Catalog of the best objects for small telescopes 110 Messier (M) objects; the complete Messier catalog
  • 16,800 stars from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) catalog, including double stars, variable stars, and other stars of special note
  • 50 Earth-orbiting satellites
  • 26 asteroids, including all of the brightest asteroids
  • 15 periodic comets
  • 8 major planets from Mercury to Pluto

You can also program the AutoStar to include additional objects. Better yet, you can hook it up to your laptop and use the software to control the telescope. Just point on the desired object on the screen, say the Orion nebula M42, click and the telescope will slew and locate M42 for you.

Now all I need is an observatory to house all of that ....


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog post. Very nice information on your quest to observe the night sky.

clear skies!

Ken T. from Chicago

haldafluke said...


Which part of KL are you observing from?

Clear Skies!