Meade Lightbridge Review
Overall the Meade Lightbridge is a scope that is very well constructed and an excellent bargain. Throughout this review please keep in mind that I have only been observing seriously for about two years and this review is composed with limited knowledge of astronomy and written at what I view as a basic level.
The Lightbridge (LB) that I purchased is a 12" Standard version. The scope has its good and bad points as well as things that can be improved like all scopes. Over all I am very happy with the scope.
The Good Points - The thing that immediately jumped out at me about the LB is the quality of the 2" focuser. The focuser knobs are made of metal and the tube moves in and out smoother than any focuser that I have used before. The eyepiece literally feels like it floats in and out of the tube, a property that makes it very easy to make fine adjustments with out the use of an electronic focuser. The focuser knobs are also far enough away from the tube that gloves do not have to be removed to work the focuser. To change eyepieces though, you do need to remove gloves to loosen and tighten down the locking screw. The locking screw itself is very nice and tightens down a ring around the eyepiece as opposed to the often-used double screws that simply press against the eyepiece. The scope is also very easy to assemble with or without gloves on. The poles easily slide into the base containing the primary mirror and tighten down with three large hand screws. The upper part of the tube uses the same type of system but you need to have a little more skill to hold the tube and not cross thread the screws or drop the tube itself. Once the tube is assembled it forms a very solid unit. The scope is just as easy to disassemble and move around. This scope being a standard model did not come with the steel bearings, but I feel that the scope moves just fine without them and that the deluxe almost moves too easily. Viewing through the scope is also exceptional. I have viewed the clusters M35, M36, M37, and M38 all under less than favorable suburb of Chicago skies and saw more stars and depth in these objects than I have ever seem before. Stars stood out as tiny point of light that I have never seen before through other scopes. M31 is unbelievable and I could easily see the companion galaxies and what I believe was the presence of dark bands. M42 filled the entire eyepiece and looked like heavy green smoke with lots of detail.The Negatives - Straight out of the box I could not get the LB to hold collimation when it was pointed toward zenith. This problem was fixed by tightening the spider and the screws that hold the focuser to the tube. I also had to do some additional adjusting on the tension screws on the focuser tube, which can be very difficult to work. The plug for the fan was broken and took some fiddling to make it work. Until Meade gets replacement parts for the LBs, I did not want to send the entire scope back for such a simple problem. The scope also arrived almost two months after it was promised by the Meade rep. The mirror cover for the primary is very cheap and fell off during shipping, but luckily only scratched the inside of the tube and not the mirror. The scope is also unable to hold heavier two-inch eye pieces and needs some sort of weight system.
Modifications - I have made some modifications to my LB that I would like to share. I have marked the three sets of two poles with numbers so that I can assemble the scope the same way every time. This helps make collimation a lot easier each time the scope is assembled. I also ordered some industrial welding magnets to help balance the large two-inch eyepieces as well as a solar filter. I also fabricated a light shroud that turned out to be harder that I thought. Since the LB only has six trusses you need to support the fabric of the tube so that you don't end up viewing through a triangle. To accomplish this I placed vertical dowel rods in the shroud between the "V" of the poles. This successfully holds the fabric out of the view of the mirror. The trusses are also painted silver and do a pretty good job of scattering the light inside the tube. I bought some pipe insulation at Home Depot and put it around the trusses successfully solving the problem. A final change to the scope that is planned is to paint or cover the inside parts of the tube that are painted white. I don't know if this has any effect on viewing, but I figured it would not hurt to cover them up.
The new Lightbridge is a very solidly built scope and a bargain for the cost. It does have some drawbacks but nothing that cannot be easily fixed. I am very much looking forward to further viewing with this scope and I am very pleased with my purchase.Published in the April 2006 issue of the NightTimes