View Full Version : New Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10

2003-Apr-28, 09:05 PM
Well, my brother, Kelfazin, went and bought an amazing scope. We were frustrated with wrestling the Dobs around and trying to track with it...it was a good familiarization tool, but only really decent for looking at well-known, easy to find objects. This new Meade is a Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10, 8" with GPS...and it's simply amazing! We learned more in 1 night with this scope than the 3 months of the Dobs simply from the handset that came with the Meade. Getting it properly aligned was sort of a learning curve, but we seem to have figured that out too as the tour mode unerringly put objects down to mag 10.3 right in the field of view. I think we saw 7 galaxies, 4 nebulae, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, as well as a star that has an extrasolar planet, plus several globular clusters and various other Messier objects. So, I would heartily recommend a Meade scope to anyone who is ready for that next step in investment and exploration.

BTW: I took a few experimental pictures with my 35mm SLR to test the tracking ability of the Meade. This photo (http://elegant-insanity.com/xericstudios/art/j_moons.jpg) was taken in 400 ISO B&W Kodak print film, exposure was 8 seconds, projected magnification lens was a low quality plossl 10mm. The print was made at Wal-Mart 1hr developer, and they overexposed it, so you cant see the cloud-bands or the eye, which was clearly visible to me. You can see all 4 major moons, though, and watching their dance through the night is one of the more fascinating things to watch. I think Jupiter is my favorite planet to watch and image. I also see very little if any evidence of movement, which bodes well for my testing of the Meade's tracking abilities. I also got a picture of the Ring Nebula, but it's exposure on the print is even worse than this one of Jupiter, but in the other direction, and it was taken though a 25mm plossl, making it almost impossible to see in a scanned image. I have some 3200 B&W and some 1600 color that I plan on using in the coming weeks to capture more through this amazing scope.

Sorry post is so long...I just love this stuff.

edit to add: our site is approximately 30 miles from downtown Phoenix, so light polution is the reason we only see down to 10.3 when the scope is rated to mag 14. Also, one of the funniest things happened while we were operating the scope in tour mode...it pointed us to Cygnus X-1, which made us both laughingly say "Wow, this scope is so good it even sees in the X-Ray spectrum" hehe...yes, I know there is a mag 9 blue supergiant associated with it, but the handset didnt say object whatever suspected to be associated with the black hole...we thought it was very funny.

2003-Apr-28, 09:23 PM
Shut up, you're making me jealous.

I once managed to make out the core of M31 with averted vision in my CTS. (Of course I've seen it naked eye and binocular) That's about it for my resumé of galaxy sighting. I managed to view the Orion Nebula once, which looked rather good, and I think I managed to see the Horsehead Nebula with averted vision, but I'm not sure.

I would consider taking your advice on a Mead but I live in such a light polluted area that I probably wouldn't be able to see much with it anyway. Besides, right now, I'm saving up for flying lessons.

That photo you took is really good. I managed to get an okay one of the Jovian system plus M44 using my SLR free-standing. I used a 320mm lens, ISO 3200 B&W negative, with the exposure at f/5.6 for 5 seconds. I couldn't get any detail on Jupiter, but I managed to get three of the moons and M44 looks really good.

My attempts at scope aided photography haven't been particularly impressive apart from the occasional good shot of Luna. That's partly due to the fact that I use the slightly unorthodox technique of standing the lens of the camera at the eyepiece of the telescope.

Have you used ISO 3200 before? I know you probably have so feel free to reject this, but in my experience, it is extremely grainy. If you're scope is good at tracking, I'd suggest trying longer exposures with a slower film.

Good luck. When you get some more good photos, be sure to post them.

2003-Apr-28, 09:35 PM
Getting it properly aligned was sort of a learning curve, but we seem to have figured that out too as the tour mode unerringly put objects down to mag 10.3 right in the field of view

Could you just basically describe how you set it up? I've been fooling with another Meade for a while now and the controller always makes the scope either slew to the wrong place or hit a hardstop. [/quote]

2003-Apr-28, 09:44 PM
Well, now that I have faith in the tracking abilities of the scope, I plan on testing different films and exposures. My brother is also going to take advantage of the $99 lens kit ($600 value, according to Mead) so I wont have to rely on the low-quality plossl I used in that photo. The 12mm that came from Mead is much much clearer than the no-name 10mm, but it's too long for the camera mount we have.

The advantage with ISO 3200 (b&w) and 1600 (color) film is that it can be pushed to 6400 and 3200 (respectively) which drastically reduces exposure times. The disadvantage of using these films, even at their rated ISOs, they do produce high granularity. I'm considering using one roll of 3200 at a much slower ISO to see if I can reduce granularity but keep sensitivity. I'm also going to use some 200 ISO color film at long exposure and see if I can get some of the color and detail to show up with Jupiter.

For reference: I use a Canon Elan 7E, with a T-adapter and extension tube which allows me to project from any lens short enough for the extension-to-mirror clearance directly onto the film plane. This limits my f/stop to whatever the telescope+lens combination allows which is why I dont give that information, but I use the Bulb setting on my camera to manipulate time of exposure. Focusing on faint objects through the camera, due to the nature of the SLR, is very difficult because so much light is lost at the viewfinder, so I usually end up focusing on a bright object then using the scope's Go-To function and hoping for the best. I also bracket my exposures by +/- 2 stops.

2003-Apr-28, 09:50 PM
Getting it properly aligned was sort of a learning curve, but we seem to have figured that out too as the tour mode unerringly put objects down to mag 10.3 right in the field of view

Could you just basically describe how you set it up? I've been fooling with another Meade for a while now and the controller always makes the scope either slew to the wrong place or hit a hardstop.

We had that same problem for the first 2 nights...the scope always seemed to be 2-10 degrees off from anything we tried to see. Really, I think this was user error, though, due to our unfamiliarity with specific named stars. We were finally successful when we used Vega and Dubhe as our alignment stars in the Easy Alignment mode. After that, every object was within the field-of-view with only minimal adjustment needed to center them. We also reset the scope to defaults, calibrated its sensors for the site we were at, and made sure the base (where the handset plugs in) was aligned North-South (plugs are South, back of base is North) in the approximate "Home" direction. Other than that, I think certain elements of luck also play a roll in getting the finicky thing successfully aligned.

edit to add: are you hitting "Enter" then "Go To" on the handset when you select an object or just hitting "Go To" when the object name comes up? In our experience, if you just paged through and hit "Go To" at the object name, it would sometimes slew someplace completely random...but if we hit "Enter" so we got the "Calculating" message, then "Go To" after the calculation was complete, it was flawless.

2003-Apr-29, 12:55 AM
Thanks a lot. I will try that this weekend. I think my problem may lie more in the HOME position setting, though. I'm never sure if I have it just right.

David Hall
2003-Apr-29, 03:38 AM
Just for the record, what scope did you buy and how much was it (if I may ask). I want to file the info away for when I actually decide to buy my own.

Also, I'm no expert in astrophotography, but I don't think the 1 hour developers is the way to go here. Shouldn't you at least take your film to a more professional shop? :-) Oh, and I've also heard that you should clearly label the package as astronomical photos so they can get the balance right.

2003-Apr-29, 04:21 AM
Well, for the b&w photos, I dont mind the 1hr developers because I actually eventually print them myself at the university darkroom. For the color, I have an impulse problem...I want instant gratification and cant stand the 48 hour wait to get prints back from someplace professional :)

When I have my formula of film+lens+exposure set, I will definitely start using professionals.

This is the scope (http://www.meade.com/catalog/lx/lx90.html) that my brother bought.

edit: oh yeah, forgot to mention that I use Wal-Mart because their 1hr machine actually has a monitor where they can manually view each frame and set the contrast/brightness...Walgreens, although they're Kodak certified, dont have the screen so the prints come out even worse there. You should see me trying to explain to the teenager at Wal-Mart that these are astro-photos and they should print every frame even if their machine says it's just a blank frame from a flash that didnt pop or something...sigh...and 50% of the time I still only get back 15 out of 24 printable frames...at least I have darkroom access...

Kaptain K
2003-Apr-29, 06:26 PM
One "trick" with the "one hour" places is to shoot a couple of "normal" scenes at the start of the roll to give the machine a reference, then tell them to print all of them.

Charlie in Dayton
2003-Apr-29, 11:41 PM
I know this worked for Kodak, but have no idea of other film brands.

The first pic or two on the roll should be of the box the film came in. In Kodak's case, that yellow on the box was one of the colors used in the correction process. So if they got the pic of the box right, it's odds on that they got everything else right too.

Hmmm...maybe go to your photo processor and ask for a couple junk Kodak film boxes, just to have a scrap of cardboard in the bag to take a pic of at the roll start? Couldn't hurt...