In 1988, when I was living in Beaverton, Oregon, I purchased a Celestron telescope with an equatorial mount from Orion Telescopes. Back then, there were no digital cameras, at least any that I could afford. Also back then, telescopes didn’t come with an electronics package that helped you align the scope with the night sky and locate stars and other deep space objects by clicking a few buttons. So, the Celestron I got was hard to use and required a long setup process to align it correctly. I lived in an upstairs apartment at the time and that just made it harder to use. Frustrated after a few years of using this telescope, I sold it.
In September 2003, I decided to buy a Meade LX 200 GPS 8″ because my research had shown that it’s electonics package was the best at the time. I purchased the scope from OPT online.
Over the years since then I’ve added lots of goodies onto the scope and now my scope can take pretty good astrophotos from my driveway. I just wheel it out on my JMI Wheeley Bar and start using it. The alignment takes less than 5 minutes. It is a pleasure to use and I’ve learned so much about the stars from that little hand controller.
I wasn’t satisfied with the precision of the gears and the focus, so I bought and installed several of Peterson Engineering’s fine upgrade kits (see my equipment list below). That was the scariest experience I ever had – ripping apart my telescope and disassembling key mechanical assemblies. I chronicled some of the upgrade steps in photos:
The Peterson kits are very well documented and come with all the stuff you need to successfully complete the upgrades. I can highly recommend them for older scopes, but I have to warn you that they are difficult to complete, especially the Buck’s Gears.
I do all my observing from the edge of my driveway at night at my home in Everett, WA. I always run my scope in alt-az mode because I’m too lazy to polar align the scope. Even in this mode, the Meade DSI II software and Smart Drive with PEC does a pretty good job of keeping the scope steady during long deep sky exposures.
Here’s a list of my equipment:
- Meade LX 200 GPS 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope
- Peterson Buck’s Precision Gears
- Peterson EZ Clutch Kit
- Peterson EZ Focus Kit
- Peterson Mounting Assistant
- Telrad Finder
- Meade Flip-Mirror Model 644 UTHC (to quickly flip between eyepiece and camera)
- Astrozap aluminum dew shield (blue) for my scope
- Meade Deep Sky Imager II PRO monochrome camera
- Kendrick Dew Remover System
- JMI Wheeley Bar (invaluable for moving my scope from garage to driveway edge).
- PC Intel Pentium 4 3GHz with 2GB RAM and a 250 GB hard drive running Windows XP SP3 (for running the Autostar and Imaging software)