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  • Writer's pictureJames Paulson

My Gear Wish List

Meade LXD75SN6

Isn’t it strange how time and experience change our perspective on what we want to accomplish with amateur astronomy? All I can do is speak from my own experience, yours will be totally different.

I grew up as a reflector user, always believing that larger and fairly fast (f/6) reflectors would be excellent astrophotography scopes. That was what I was interested in. Of course, I also grew up knowing that the mount that the scope sits on also needs to be exceptional.

As a means to transition to a better way to mount a telescope, my default plan was to downsize the telescope, hoping that the weight reduction would bring added stability on the mounting end as well as buy some savings for added astrophotography gear like cameras and auto guiders.

So, in 2009, I set out to purchase and build myself a modern imaging platform. I had always enjoyed widefield piggyback astrophotography with my 10-inch Cave Astrola, and I thought the LXD75 mount with the SN6 reflector made by Meade would be a great platform to build upon. At the time it seemed like a logical step forward. The scope worked fairly well.

I added an accessory rail to piggyback a DSLR camera and that worked fairly well. Then I began to add an auto guider with a guide camera, and I quickly ran into the limits of the little LXD75 mount. I realized then that I wanted a better mount and I set my sights on an EQ6.

I bought an EQ6, and it is the mount that I still use. I absolutely love this rock solid and heavy old beast of a mount; it lets me use anything and everything I want with great reliability. It handles my SN6, guide cameras, and anything I want to piggyback with ease.

SkyWatcher EQ6 Pro

But then I ran into a new set of issues with the SN6. Namely collimation and a mirror cell that was too tight and resulted in triangle shaped stars My guiding was spot on, but the revelation of a new set of issues was more than I wanted to contend with. I had come to realize that the SN6 and the LXD75 both were severely compromising my ability to do quality astrophotography.

Now I am not saying that this is a bad instrument. It is not. It is just limited. You have to work with it, make adjustments, calibrate it frequently, and be patient. At 762 mm focal length in an f/5, it is a fine instrument, just not “plug and play.”

Which leads to where I am at today. I have become a refractor snob. I bought an Explore Scientific ED80 – an f/6 unit with 480 mm of focal length. High quality ED refractors that are well built and with field flatteners are where it is at for me today. I am a firm believer in the color corrected and pinpoint star images, the speed of these units, and even the field of view though at times it is a bit short on focal length, so I find myself looking at finding something in around 700-800 mm in focal length to allow me to get in closer. Once you start looking at refractors in that size, do you have too much weight for the mount, or is it a price point well out of your budget? Refractors are not cheap.

Explore Scientific ED80

And I am going to complicate my setup even more by adding an off-axis guider to my C8 which can deliver f/6 performance at 1200 mm focal length and bring me even closer for those smaller objects. If I can accomplish all of that with 3 instruments, I will be able to image a wide selection of targets for many years to come.

That’s the state of my equipment situation in 2022.

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