LX200 computer

This Telescope's AutoStar II Computer, Smart Mount, and GPS System . . .

  • GPS/AutoStar computer operation: The operation of an LX200 is simplicity itself. Once you mount the scope on its tripod, you simply turn it on. An integrated true-level electronic sensor levels the optical tube parallel to the ground. A 16-channel GPS (global positioning satellite) receiver in the left fork arm uses a network of earth-orbiting government satellites to first quickly triangulate the scope's position on the earth with an accuracy measured in meters, then determine the time to fraction of a second accuracy. A built-in electronic compass automatically rotates the scope optical tube to aim it due north (the home position). This is a tremendous help if trees or buildings block your view of the north. Built-in software compensates for magnetic declination errors (the difference between true north and magnetic north at your observing location).
        Once the scope reaches the home position (it only takes a minute or two), press the "enter" button on the AutoStar II hand controller to start the astronomical alignment. The LX200 slews at 8° per second to the first of two alignment stars (6° per second in the case of a 16" scope). If that star is not precisely centered, a touch or two on the AutoStar II hand control directional push buttons quickly centers it. Do the same with the second alignment star the scope moves to and you're ready to observe. That's it! For the rest of the evening, a computer in the AutoStar II controls the scope's altitude and azimuth motors to keep you precisely centered on whatever you aim at, for as long as you want to observe.
        It takes only a few moments to begin observing, since you never have to line up on the celestial pole, take the time to precisely level the tripod, input observing latitude and longitude and accurate local time, or adjust imprecise manual setting circles to match the sky.

  • AutoStar II computer: This scope's AutoStar II computer can show you the planets and thousands of deep space objects the very first night you use your scope - even if you've never used a telescope before! The computer's 3.5 megabyte flash memory (which you can upgrade at any time for free via the internet) contains the following objects:
    • the entire NGC (New General Catalog) of 7840 nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters

    • the IC (Index Catalog) of 5386 nebulas, galaxies, and star clusters

    • the Messier Catalog of the 110 best known deep sky objects

    • the Caldwell Catalog of 109 fascinating objects that Messier missed

    • 227 named objects

    • the Herschel Catalog of 400 faint and difficult deep sky objects

    • the Abell Catalog of 2712 galaxy clusters

    • the Arp Catalog of 645 irregular galaxies

    • the Uppsala Galaxy Catalog of 12,940 galaxies

    • a portion of the Russian Morphological Catalog listing 12,939 of its 30,642 galaxies down to magnitude 15

    • the General Catalog of 28,484 variable stars

    • the SAO and Hipparcos Star Catalogs of 31,090 stars

        Also included are the eight major planets out to Pluto, the Moon, asteroids, comets, Earth satellites, and more. You can also add your own selected favorite deep sky objects in a separate catalog. The AutoStar II computer keeps a total database of 147,541 stars and objects in its memory for you to observe.
        Granted, a good number of the faintest objects will not be visible in the smaller aperture telescopes (for example, the 14th through 15th magnitude galaxies of the Russian Morphological Catalog are not eyepiece objects in an 8" scope that has a visual limiting magnitude of 14 under perfect dark sky seeing conditions), but they are all photographable with any of the telescopes given the right equipment and a modicum of persistence.
        Simply call up any of these 147,541 discrete objects on the AutoStar II hand control's two line/sixteen character night-vision red screen by using the 20-button numeric keypad. Then press the "go-to" key. The LX200 slews to that object at a fast 6° to 8° per second (barely 11 seconds to go from horizon to zenith). The telescope quickly centers your chosen object in the field of view for you to enjoy. It routinely centers objects with an accuracy that puts them well within the field of the standard equipment eyepiece (usually within two arc minutes of dead center). The supplied Smart Mount Technology system (see below) can improve that accuracy still further.
        Once the object is located, the hand control screen tells you its catalog number, type, magnitude, size, right ascension, and declination. If you have the coordinates of an object not in the computer's memory (a comet or asteroid, for example), enter those coordinates, press "go-to," and your LX200 takes you there at speeds of up to 8° per second, as well. You can find faint deep space objects almost faster than you can read about it. If you want to scan the skies on your own, the AutoStar II keypad lets you move the scope in any direction at any of nine scanning and centering speeds up to 8 degrees per second.
        The AutoStar II computer includes an RS232 serial port for interfacing with a Windows-equipped computer. This allows remote control of the scope, as well as the ability to upgrade the operating system and database at any time at no cost through Meade's website. The scope hand control provides brightness control of the computer keypad, a real-time digital readout of the telescope position in right ascension and declination, and a variety of other unique keypad/display panel functions.

  • Smart Drive: The LX200 has built-in dual-axis Smart Drive permanent periodic error correction (PPEC) to make deep space photography easier. This computer circuit automatically corrects for the minor drive errors present in every telescope - regardless of size, brand, or cost. It reduces by up to 90% the number of guiding corrections needed to compensate for those errors during long exposure photos. Simply use an optional illuminated reticle eyepiece to guide once on a star for a short time. Use the AutoStar hand control to make the corrections needed to keep the star centered on the eyepiece crosshairs. The Smart Drive remembers those corrections and automatically plays them back whenever the telescope is operating - virtually eliminating repetitive corrections during astrophotography. The dual-axis Smart Drive even corrects for declination errors, not just right ascension errors as with competitive scopes.

  • SMT (Smart Mount Technology): This standard equipment software program provides improved (and constantly improvable) pointing accuracy with the LX200. The already high pointing accuracy of the telescope is further refined with every object that you center precisely and synchronize on during a night's observing. The program works in both altazimuth and equatorial modes. It includes a simple routine to refine the pointing accuracy for the entire sky with your particular equipment configuration and alignment. The refined pointing data can be saved and reused for permanent and portable setups.

  • Home Pulse Acquisition on 16" Models: Included as standard equipment with all 16" LX200 models, and unique among commercial telescopes, is a special "home pulse" feature that allows the telescope's operating system to maintain the telescope's pointing position in non-volatile memory, even when the telescope is turned off. This allows the telescope to be remotely aligned and operated over a long distance (even thousands of miles), by using a modem link to the telescope's RS-232 serial interface. In this way Meade 16" LX200 telescopes may be operated through a pre-programmed sequence of, for example, CCD imaging, without a human operator being present in the observatory.
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