As described in ‘My Equipment’, I own a Meade LX850 12” telescope with StarLock. StarLock is a fully autonomous guider system, mainly aimed for astrophotography.
I received the telescope from USA through Sirius Optics in September 2013, I thought all was ready to launch myself into the astrophotography adventure at that time, but...
Soon after setting up the scope in my backyard, I found that the StarLock was not working properly; the target star would drift off and be out of the FOV very quickly. I googled for solutions, and there were various suggestions: the drift alignment was off, the level of the telescope was off, the guide scope was out of focus, etc., etc.; I had also exchanged many mails with very happy LX850 users all over USA. After checking/correcting each of these possible issues I found that the target star would still drift very quickly out of the FOV. It seemed like the correcting signals being sent to the telescope were somehow corrupted and making the tracking worse than if there were no guider at all. As a result, I was at the point of abandoning the LX850 saga and look for a replacement.
At that point, I decided to perform another test by-passing Starlock, so I added a small guiding scope with a guiding camera, and voila, the mount was responding perfectly to the guiding commands. So that gave a bit of hope, knowing that the issue was coming only from the Starlock.
Talked to Meade and they had sent me a new Starlock, installed it just to realised the problem was still there.
During November 2014, I gave Meade a last chance before returning the scope and claim for my money back: I proposed to Meade support to have a live session taking advantage of the time difference (11pm Perth time – 7am Los Angeles time). We run a Skype/TeamViewer all night long session with two Meade engineers and the customer service manager controlling my scope and CCD camera from USA (thanks 21st century technology) !!! When the sun was rising, they concluded more testing was required in order to understand the issue.
Meade sent me a more developed testing program; I went through it during the following nights and sent back the results to California.
The conclusion came up very quickly: It turns out that the StarLock has a ﬁrmware problem. Even though the GPS knows that the scope is in the Southern Hemisphere, that piece of information isn't recognised by the StarLock, and as a result it drives the scope as it is located in the Northern Hemisphere. Every Meade telescope with StarLock in the Southern Hemisphere would suffer from this problem. Fortunately, to the credit of Meade engineers, they came up with a work-around solution that makes the StarLock work at our latitudes.
The work-around has to be done within the hand box settings:
- Setup / Telescope / Reverse L/R should be “On” (Auto Star saves this setting)
- Setup / Telescope / Reverse Up/Down should be “On” (AutoStar saves this setting)
- Setup / Telescope / DEC. Guiding should be “No” or "North only" or "South only" (AutoStar does NOT save this setting, so you need to reset it for every session)
"North only" provides better guiding for me, but the other two might work better for you; Meade engineers discovered this ﬁrmware problem at that time, even after thousands of hours of beta testing (yes, well guessed, all of them in the above the Equator !!); with the engineers saying that they would update the ﬁrmware; this has not yet happened!
Additionally, "training the drive" is necessary to ensure perfect tracking. There are two processes to achieve this, Periodic Error Correction (PEC), and Automatic Rate Calibration (ARC). These are both described in the Meade User Manual, however I would like to add some detail about the PEC training. It is advised to run the PEC training, then several iterations of the PEC update as well. The manual states that the PEC training takes 6.4 minutes, ARC is relatively quick at four to five minutes.
You can monitor the corrections sent from the StarLock to the scope under Utilities / StarLock / Status. There are two changing values displayed; the ﬁrst is for RA axis, the second is for Dec axis, both in arcsec. Once the values for both vary between +2.0 and -2.0 then you are ready to take some photos!
I have to say that I’m extremely happy with this piece of art telescope and 100% satisfied on how seriously Meade took this problem and all the engineering hours they put together in order to solve it and to satisfy the client :) !!!
Someone asked me if I was putting the names myself to the objects that I had published.
Well the short answer is NO, I do not have such imagination…
But in order to give you some context, human beings tempt to catalogue and classify everything that comes across.
The first astronomical catalogue was Azophi's Book of Fixed Star, published in the year 964, describes more than a thousand stars in detail and provides the first descriptions of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Johann Bayer's Uranometria star atlas was published in 1603 with over 1200 stars. Names are made of Greek letters combined with constellation name, for example Alpha Centauri.
John Flamsteed's Historia coelestis Britannica star atlas, published in 1725, lists stars using numbers combined with constellation and ordered by right ascension, for example 61 Cygni.
Messier Catalog- The Messier objects are a set of astronomical objects first listed by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. Nebulae and Star Clusters was published in 1781, with objects M1 - M110.
New General Catalogue compiled in the 1880s by J.L.E. Dreyer, lists objects NGC 0001 - NGC 7840. The NGC is one of the largest comprehensive catalogues, as it includes all types of deep space objects and is not confined to, for example, galaxies.
As technology was evolving and humans got access to more and more and more celestial objects, dozens of catalogues followed, each time more specialized and more specific.
In my website I will be naming the objects as per those catalogues and also adding the 'common' names when they have one.
Most of the images will include objects from the following catalogues:
- M: Messier catalogue
- C: Caldwell catalogue
- NGC: New General Catalogue
- IC: Index Catalogue
- Abell: Galaxies clusters catalogue
- PGC: Principal Galaxies Catalogue
- Melotte: Open clusters