|Initial Steps: Various complaints have been made about the accuracy of the LXD55 mount when using the Autostar's Go-To functions, especially
by new and inexperienced buyers of the scopes, but in many cases a good setup will cure most of the issues, as long as the steps for axis
alignment and drive training have been completed. If not, do these steps first, because a misaligned axis or poorly-trained drive can easily cause
the scope to consistantly miss its targets by 2-3 degrees or more, even if the computer and mount are working the way they are supposed to.
Drive training is covered on page 20 of the white LXD55-Series manual that comes with every new scope, and while there are two methods of axis
alignment shown, the second one on page 53 is by far the easier of the two, as it requires less manual movement of the scope and thus less
uncertainty when the user is unfamiliar with the process. Both of these processes should be done during the day and require you to have a direct
line of sight to a target at least half a mile (0.8 km) away - the farther the better for accuracy's sake.
Also, select your usual observing location(s) from the Site menu in Autostar, either by choosing from the provided list or entering the latitude and
longitude numbers if your city is not listed. The Topozone link on the front page can tell you if you don't already know, although if you live outside
the US or in an unencorporated area, you can find these numbers on a good topographical map. Entering these numbers tells Autostar wher you
are and where the stars are in the sky at your location and time. Your latitude is also equal to how high Polaris is in the northern sky from your
location, as well as the angle that your mount must be tilted at to properly align with the North Pole (use the latitude screws on the front and back
of the mount to set this angle).
If you have one of the EC versions of LXD55 scopes or do not plan on using the Go-To functions, then you can disregard the above steps and skip
straight to the First Light setup.
First Light: Once you have a good observing spot (hopefully with an unobstructed view of the North Star), you will want to set up your scope and
connect the hand controller and power supply. Make sure that the area is fairly level and dry, and have a nearby table for setting starmaps,
eyepiece cases, and the OTA while you are assembling the scope (to keep it off the ground), as well as other
accessories or odds and ends. Due to the weight of the scope, I always move it
in a few pieces. The tripod and mount together weigh only 25 lbs., but the
tripod legs and off-center balance point can still make this a handful, so I
move it out to my observation spot without any counterweights attached. The
next steps are fairly simple.
1. Aim the tripod roughly North (use the map to the right as a guide if you
are unfamiliar with the sky in that direction) and set the mount's
tilt to your latitude (If you haven't already or are in a new location).
2. Level the tripod with a bubble level or some other way (This does not have
to be done perfectly, as an equatorial mount will track just as well if it
is not leveled, but your scope will be more stable and thus safer if you
at least get it close.)
3. Look in the included Polar Scope (the top -or Declination- axis must
be sideways...don't ask me why Meade did it that way) and adjust the
north facing leg and latitude screws until Polaris is close to center. It
should be the brightest star visible in your field of view if your mount
is facing the right direction.
4. Bring out and attach the counterweight(s), as well as the power supply
and Autostar hand contoller if you have not already done so. Do not
attach the OTA first, as it can be damaged (read: smacked against the
tripod or thrown to the ground) if the axis locks come loose and the
counterweight(s) are not on to balance it's weight.
5. Attach the OTA so that when all four arrows line up it points North,
then turn the tube sideways so that you can see through the Polar
Scope. Use the manual Latitude and East-West mount screws to center Polaris as best as you can.
6. Unlock both axes and swing the scope back and forth to check the mount's balance. Adjust the positions of the OTA in the rings (forward and
back), and the counterweight(s) on the declination shaft (up and down) until neither side feels heavier than the other. Balancing the scope
will help your motors to not wear down as fast (saving you money once your warranty ends) and makes your Go-to's more accurate as well.
7. Line up all of the arrows on the mount again, lock the axes, and put a low power eyepiece in the focuser (the supplied 26mm Plossl works well
for this). Once focused, you should see Polaris somewhere in your field of view, although it is doubtful that it will be perfectly centered.
Also, make sure that your finder scope (if you have attached the one your scope came with) is aligned well with your OTA. Doing this will
make the alignment procedure easier, as you can then center the star in the finder and then look in the eyepiece to finish centering it.
Once these steps are completed you can turn on your scope, enter time and date, run through an Easy Alignment, and be observing in two
minutes, although there are other things you can do to improve your accuracy a bit further (and get you set up for some decent unguided
astrophotography). If you are still less than satisfied with your pointing accuracy (ie. often missing targets in the 26mm eyepiece), or just want to
have your LXD55 scope work as well as it can, then you will want to follow the next few steps before starting your observing session.
8. Turn on the scope, ignore the time and date and keep pressing [Mode] until the menu says [Setup]. Press [Enter] and scroll down a bit
until it says [Telescope]. Enter this menu and scroll up two times until it says [Calibrate Motors]. Press [Enter] once more and the scope
will move a bit on both axes before stopping. Calibrating the motors lets Autostar know how much resistance (weight) it has to
overcome and how much power (voltage and battery life) it has to use to move the telescope, matching it's commands better to your
scope's current situation. Shut the scope off after this step and align all of the arrows again before aligning.
9. Turn the scope back on, enter the date and time and perform a One Star Alignment. The scope will move to where Polaris would be if your
mount was perfectly aligned, and then you manually (using the four mount screws, NOT the hand controller) adjust the mount until Polaris
is centered. For visual observing, using the 26mm eyepiece is fine, but if you want to do photography you will want to then center the star
at a much higher power (I use a 2x barlow and a 12mm illuminated reticle eyepiece with a double crosshair for accuracy. It's hard to get
Polaris into the tiny box, but if you do, you will be nearly perfectly aligned).
At this point you have a choice: 1) complete the One Star alignment by pressing [Enter] and centering the star that Autostar chooses, or 2) (what I
do most of the time) turn off the scope, reallign the axes, and do a Two Star alignment after restarting. The Two Star alignment is much more
accurate "Go-To-wise" than the One Star procedure, although it requires that you know the names of several bright stars in the sky on both the
eastern and western sides of the meridian (an imaginary line going directly overhead from north to south). Pick one star from each side to center,
and you're ready to go. Happy stargazing!