Telescopes I've Owned

Meade 826 from 1977
1977: Meade Model 826

My first real telescope was a Meade 8" f/6 828 Newtonian on a German mount. That was around 1977 . It was not a very good mount. The clock drive would wind up behind the stiction until it had enough to overpower it and then it would jump, wiggle a while and stick again. You see it had no bearings. It had the wide spot in the RA housing where bearings should go, but it wasn't machined to hold bearings. It just had a teflon washer. It looked like a good mount, but it wasn't a good mount. Optically it was a great tube, but the mount was just bad.

Things have progressed a little since then. Meade discovered bearings, for one thing.

In 1979 I was on a project that involved getting data out of a 100 x 100 pixel EE&G Reticon CCD camera. I envisioned a time when people could run their telescopes from inside the house via these CCD cameras, using them for finding and guiding. With graphical overlays of crosshairs so they could manually guide. Then they would only need to go outside to change the film in the camera. I had no clue.

Meade LX200 from 1998
1998: Meade Model LX200

Next was the LX200 10" f/10, also from Meade. What can I say? It is one of the most popular telescopes ever. Here it is with a water-cooled Genisis-16 camera. My guide camera was a Logitech Quickcam. The original white ball Quickcam. Monochrome, 6-bit converter, and parallel interface. It took two computers to run this rig. It suffered the same fate as many of the "classic" LX200s: The motors would start up and just go until I powered off the scope. Eventually, the DEC axis control fried altogether, and the thing turned into a big rock tumbler.

Meade LX600 from 2017
2017: Meade Model LX600

And finally, the Meade 12" LX600. Beautiful scope - a lot like the LX200 on the surface, but underneath it is more like the LX200 GPS with a guide scope and an f/8 Advanced Coma Free OTA. Works pretty well. The positioning is 100% there. Tracking is 90% there if I use periodic error correction. It has the same focal length as the 10" f/10 LX200, too.

It disintegrated electrically one day. Almost everything quit working - Starlock, GPS, computer interface, PEC, non-volatile memory. But it would still slew and track. I sent it to Meade then $750 and two months later they sent it back with a working guide scope, GPS and other repairs. They even cleaned it. Very good service. Although I would have liked to have had it back sooner, it gave me an opportunity to use a big scope for a while.

I bought the LX600 because it had an integrated guider, and that amazing GOTO accuracy. Two years in I added a Stellarvue F80 80mm f/3.8 finder scope. Wow. I could see stars through it! I've since changed out the right angle focuser on the finder for a straight-through 2" focuser, and added a ZWO ASI290MM-Mini camera and it has replaced the Starlock as the guider.

I use Kstars and Ekos for controlling the automation provided by the Indilib, and with that I can point somewhere near an object, tell it the object, then it takes a picture of the sky and figures out where the scope is really pointing, goes to the object, then starts guiding. It can take all of the images I want, then park the scope when it is done. Kstars/Ekos/Indi have replaced most of the functionality of both me and the AutoStar II. The benefits are that Kstars/Ekos/Indi do it better and they are updated regularly with bug fixes and enhancements.

Going by past numbers, the next scope would be a 14", but I'm betting it's a little refractor of some kind. "One person can set up a 12-inch cat." True, but another will have to operate it while the first person catches their breath. The LX600 as configured weighs in at over 150 lbs: 75 for the scope, 50 for the tripod, and 25 for the wedge. Plus 10 for the guidescope, cameras, focusers, the filterwheel, power box, Raspberry Pi, USB hub, and power supply. And all of those cables.