A while back I owned a Meade LXD55 10″ which in many ways was very similar to this setup. Both are home telescope level, and both are fully computerized GOTO mounts. That is pretty much where the comparison ends. This Celestron in every way you can name is superior. I serious may never buy another Meade scope again based on everything I have seen about this Scope. I also owned a Meade 12″ Lightbridge, which was priced in the same ballpark as this AVX, but had overall lower quality of optics and build.
Seeing conditions: Partly cloudy, transparency 2/5, no wind, about 70 degrees and humid.
This Celestron is very well made, easy to set up, and as long as you take a few trips, easy to carry out. I carry the OTA in one trip, the mount in another, and the two counterweights in a third trip. The entire set up is around 80 pounds, which is doable (for some people) in a single trip but the size and shape of the setup makes it very awkward to carry that way. I highly recommend three trips no matter how strong you are.
I set the scope up on my lawn, without really pointing the mount or anything. Mars and Saturn were easy targets, but I was losing them due to low clouds on the horizon. I unlock the motors and used my shiny new Telrad to find them. Oh, how I have missed the Telrad! I relocked the motors and plopped in my Orion Expanse 6mm ep. At 166x, that is my current highest power. Not exactly a planetary ep, but I could make out banding on Saturn, and could tell that Mars is around 1/2 to 3/4ths phase right now. They swam a little in the EP due to conditions. Also, I guess since I did not really align, they did not stay put, I had to use the fine controls on the hand paddle to recenter them.
Satisfied that no matter what happened the rest of the night, I at least saw 2 planets, I decide to align the scope. Polaris was visible, so I was able to point the mount roughly at it. After entering the correct date and time, I did the “Two Star” alignment. This was really more like 10 or 15 stars, as it took many tries to find stars not blocked by trees or clouds. The scope like picking ones low on the horizon for some reason. After the two star alignment, I added one “Calib star,” which I had a heck of a time finding until I looked it on my star chart and discovered the silly scope had picked a double star and I was looking for a single star.
Also, I made sure to do the up/right thing on each alignment star just like the instructions say. Meade never told me that with the LXD55, but it needed the same help, for the same reason. At least Celestron admits it. 🙂
So, I decided for my first GOTO, I would head to Saturn. I could still see it above the cloud line and I figured I would know right away if it missed. Saturn is pretty obvious, even just in the Telrad. Well, not only did it slew right to Saturn (after taking the LONG way around the scope and ending up with the EP in an awkward position), but it got it with the center 1/3rd of the 20mm Possil FOV. Saturn stayed put in the EP this time, confirming my suspicion that I need to do the align if I want tracking to work.
So, checking my start chart I saw Neptune would be up, and in a clear area of the sky. Now, this area of the sky is towards the city so not much visible that way. I really had no hope of finding it naked eye, making it a perfect test for the GOTO. The scope slew over and stopped. I looked in the EP and at first thought it missed. Took a moment to remember that Neptune is not Jupiter and in my 20mm EP (50x) it was tiny! I put in my 6mm EP to verify, and sure enough, there was that tiny little dot that was not a star and the scope had stopped with the planet centered enough to have it in the FOV of my 6mm EP. 🙂
Now I was feeling bold, so I pulled out my star chart and poked around for a DSO. I not sure why, but I picked the Dumbbell Nebula. It slewed its happy way over and boom, again near the center of the EP. Nice gray fuzzy in the right shape was in the EP.
Ok, that really got me feeling bold. I took the EP off, and the 1.25″ adapter, and installed the T-Adapter and hooked up my Canon for prime focus. NOW, I want to stop and say: I could not have pulled off that kind of change on the Meade. It would have lost the object. The Celestron stayed put and kept tracking the whole time. So I took a few shots narrowing down the focus until I got the shot attached below. I will need to spend a bit more time working on getting the focus tighter, and etc, but for a single 15-second sub taken under a street light, I think it came out pretty good. I tweaked levels just a bit to darken the background, but it is basically untouched other than that.
In conclusion, this scope is a great buy! 🙂 If you do buy it, I recommend the following accessories are bought with it, or soon after:
1) A/C adapter if you are setting up near a power source(Celestron 18778 AC Adapter). The Celestron Power Tank if not. (Celestron Power Tank)
2) A Telrad finder. This will make the initial star alignment much easier (Telrad Finder Sight )
3) If you do not have an EP collection, get the Celestron Accessory Kit, it has everything you need to get started. (Celestron Accessory Kit )
4) If you have local street lights, porch lights, or other local light sources definitely get the shade (Celestron 94009 Lens Shade for C6 and C8 Tubes (Black))