Oct-Nov 2009, it had become obvious that I had reached the
capacity limit of the LX200, so a Mount upgrade was a must
if a better refractor was in the future and with ambient
temps <35°F or >80°F tracking accuracy suffered and the
motors labored particularly at the lower temps. The Meade
178mm Mak OTA with the stock internal counter balance weight
is approx 24lbs, the Pronto with Rails & Rings approx 11lbs,
the SBIG ST4K w/AO-8 approx 4lbs.. An upgraded refractor,
another camera, guide scope etc.. etc.. the total weight
starts pushing 50-60lbs, wanting to keep my instrument
weight no greater than approx 75% mount capacity I'd be
looking for a mount in the 80-90lb capacity category..
Quality mounts in this category or with this capacity rating are
VERY expensive, but with a little luck and good timing they
can be had for reasonable prices on the used market.. after
shopping and drooling for about a year I ran across a deal
on AstroMart (Jan 2011) from a
gentleman in Rhode Island on a Losmandy HGM-200..
2011, Arranged the time off from work to head up to Rhode
Island (BTW connecting flight from NJ to RI, I sat across
the isle on a small commuter plane from Sen. J. Kerry.. NO..
I held my tongue, even after he threw a fit when the flight
attendant told him to put his phone away at lift off, but
that's another story haha..) I couldn't find 'any' pictures
on the internet that did this mount
justice, for its Mechanical Beauty nor for its Sheer Mass!
As I walked up to it in his garage he pulled the cover off
it and I was floored, there was no way I'd trust shipping
this mount short of a private courier, call me crazy but
this mount was in like new condition and is going to stay
that way (Equatorial Head, 16'' Saddle approx 90lbs), Drove
it down to VA., Dis-Assm'd, Packaged with loving care and
sent to Oak Ridge, TN via my brother-in-law, Jul 2011 drove
up from D/FW to pick it up..
Sept 2011, Finally, all the mounting accessories, a new
Refractor (FSQ85ED), work & weather (70ea days >100°F temps) I was
able to begin my GEM Learning curve, not quite as daunting
as I thought, two setups and I've got it down.. (Found out
NGC-Max & TheSky only just co-exist, later confirmed when I
stumbled upon it in the manual.. One of these days I'll read
the manual first ..maybe) ..of course
more time and practice will help improve polar alignment and
pointing, but for the second outing not bad, approx 90min
from tear-down, to move, to setup & align..
2011, a Dark-Site West of St. Jo, Tx finally able to take a
long exposure image, Guiding with the StarShoot-AutoGuider
in the Mak (0.62as/px) and the ST4000/AO8 combo in the FSQ
(3.38as/px) I attempted the Rosette Nebula for the first
time and with just 52min total useable subs I'm more than
happy with the results.. Packed it up, grabbed some sleep
then headed to Ft. Davis, Tx
to pick up what turned out to be an Absolutely Like New!
FS-128F. My second opportunity at the dark-site I revisited
the Triangulum Galaxy for a comparison to my '09 image,
wind gusting 18-20mph, and again lacking subs, totaling only 60min the image IMO
really shows the quality of the FS128F and just how Rock Solid
the HGM200 is.. Sea-Trials & Testing almost complete, Patience and More Subs
are next.. Also while there I captured M34 for
evaluation of the Optics Collimation & Field Curvature, see
below for results..
NGC884 & 869 / Losmandy HGM-200 / FSQ-85ED / ST-4000XCM /
1ea 240sec Unguided, Unprocessed / HGM & FSQ 1st-Light..!