LX200 Classic Mount and Webcam

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Ron Morley

Hi Martin

Thank you for your wise words.  I had begun to wonder if it was me who was hopelessly incompetent.  Inexperienced yes.  I also got to the stage of dreading switching on the LX200 and pressing the hand box buttons not knowing what might happen.  Fortunately even although it’s now 19 years old I have not done much fast slewing.  Now, like you advise, I perform a single star polar alignment then manually creep up on the unsuspecting target perhaps with a final auto-find when within a few degrees.  I seek relief from the trials and tribulations of the LX200 with my 12″ Dob which is fun.  I saw your 19″ Newtonian in ‘The Modern Amateur Astronomer’ book which I bought some years ago.  It was a huge beast.  I also saw your troublesome LX200 12″ in  ‘More Small Astronomical Observatories’.  Oh my, Scalextric motors.  I know them well. Like many youngsters growing up in the 1960’s I had a Scalextric set (50′ circuit) and regularly had to replace the plastic gears, clean the commutator with a pin and replace the carbon contacts.  My father had established a model/toy shop and with him being a qualified electrical fitter gave advice to me and fixed all the wonked out cars after Christmas – which were usually filled with hairy carpet.  They were frail little things and the gears (and motors) did not last long if mistreated even mildly.  Definitely not appropriate for putting in a telescope and making them whirr round at enormous speed.  What were Meade thinking.

I’ll fiddle around a bit more with polar alignment and PEC training and then go for stacking.  30 secs works ok for the brighter deep sky objects.  I attach a recent M31 image using the 60mm refractor – 21No, 30 sec exposures – possibly with dark frame subtraction (I’m learning the software) but with an unclean primary.  The Ultrastar camera is good – a smallish chip and perhaps more of a guide camera – but simple to use and give good images. 

The LX200 and webcam (Toucam Pro ii) worked ok for me back in 2009.  I attach one image of Jupiter taken on 22nd August 2009 at 23:08hrs.  Equatorial diameter 48.77″ and altitude 66 degrees.  Seeing was very good.  Image taken from location 35 miles inland from Cape Town.  Registax software used to extract and build image.  Fortunately I managed to find my old AVI video files so I can have another go at processing.  

I have some horrendous AVI files which shows that sky ‘wobble’ can be worse than mount wobble.  I will have a look at the option of a new mount in the near future.  As an aside. An LX200 lift damaged my spine in 2007.  I’d been going to the gym for 3 months was fit and relatively light in weight (for me) – mere 13 stone.  A straight arm lift of the telescope from the wedge and bang the disk bulged.  A horrible and painful 3 days spent lying flat on floor followed by a dead foot/leg for 6 months.  Even now one leg is weaker than the other.  So I can vouch for the advice ‘beware of heavy telescopes’.  

On PHD it’s not important.  It’s just another piece of software for me to fiddle around with.  It’s usually the drivers and comms protocols that confound me.  I’m not an electronic/software person (I’m a civil engineer – geotechnical) so I struggle a bit with the acronyms.  Also modern guides are a far cry from Airfix  instructions or Haynes Workshop Manuals.

Your Paramount and C14 sound fantastic.  A really high quality system indeed.  That’s a real BMW plus plus set up.  My Dad had a Morris Marina.  Worse car ever he said.  I drove it.  Oddly light and erratic.  Yup – wobbly like an LX200 mount/drive. Not like the old Austin Maxi he had previously – stable yes – but that gearbox was beyond a joke – stirring cobbles – impossible to engage first gear – three attempts minimum needed – embarrassing at traffic lights.  

I will persevere with the short exposures and stacking approach with as good a tracking I can manage with the LX200.  Tonight looks promising so I might have another go at M31 with the cleaned up primary on the 60mm.

Cheers, Ron