Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Meade LX200 12 inch SCT!

The rumors are true... Introducing the Lost Pleiad Observatory's new Meade LX-200 12 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope.  This telescope is well traveled, having started its career several years ago as a research instrument at the Arkansas Sky Observatories.  When it was retired from research it was sold to a private individual who used it for a few years before deciding to pass it along.  I had been looking for a larger SCT for some time and when I saw this scope advertised, decided to take the plunge.  It has been optimized  through several modifications, such as the two cooling fans which have been installed to circulate filtered air behind the mirror.  This aids the mirror in reaching ambient temperature. The stock focuser bearings have been upgraded to provide very smooth focus with minimal image shift, and the interior of the optical tube has been flocked to eliminate internal reflections and scattering of light.

Above left is the business end of the scope where you can see the the focal length is 3048mm resulting in an F/10 instrument.  The center image shows the cooling fans and on the right you can see the internal flocking.  I have had an opportunity to test the scope out over the past three nights, and without hesitation I can say that it is the best SCT I have owned.  Both my original 8 inch and the 9.25 inch that I have been using were fine performers, yet this scope is in another league.  Certainly the aperture increase is significant, however, planetary images in this scope are sharper than either of my previous SCT's.  In addition, contrast is excellent and the fine detail that I have been able to observe from my backyard has been rewarding. While splitting double stars is the realm of my TEC 140 refractor, this big blue monster has impressed me.

So far I have sketched two objects observing through this instrument.  For my first light sketch (to the right) I decided to attempt M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. This was the first planetary nebula discovered by Messier and is one of the showpiece objects of the summer sky.  This nebula is approximately 20,000 years old, a baby in astronomical time. I observed this nebula with and without my Baader UHC-S filter to bring out some of the nebular extensions.  The magnitude 13.9 central star illuminating the nebula was easily visible as were about 10 other stars within the nebulosity. 
Planetary nebula are fuzzy objects, and typically hold up well to higher levels of magnification than other targets.  I was observing NGC 6818, the "Little Gem" nebula in Sagittarius and decided to pump up the magnification and see if what was a small, circular, light blue fuzz-ball at 234x may reveal structure at 609x!  Typically one would not use magnification that high, but decent seeing combined with excellent optics transformed the nebula from a featureless disc into a nebula reminiscent of M57, the Ring nebula. To the left is an image of this nebula, while below are my sketches of this "Little Gem" at 234x and at 609x.  For reference in the high power sketch, the stars to the NW and SW of the nebula are magnitude 12.5, while the star to the east of the nebula is magnitude 13.5.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your nice writeup, and enthusiastic review of this scope.
    I also am getting a used 12 inch Meade LX200 SCT, though I will have to add the improvements you have noted on this one (cooling fans,... probably improved sliding rail for the mirror, etc.). I have used the one belonging to the P.A.S. in San Jose foothills to shoot M51 with nice results in the past. - MHH Apr 12 2016