Meade 14″ ACF

I bought the 14″ ACF SCT Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) telescope in excellent condition in April 2019 second hand.  These ACF (Advanced Coma Free) SCT scopes from Meade have an excellent flat field and my intention upon purchasing this scope was to use it for lunar and planetary visual work and also for some astrophotography.

Meade 14" ACF

The SCT telescopes increase in size and weight is almost exponential with their increasing aperture.  This scope is VERY heavy at almost 27kg and I had it mounted side-by-side with my [also heavy] TEC140.  I needed almost 40kg of weights to balance this combination.  It was very close to the MESU200’s maximum weight carrying ability and caused the mount to shiver for a few moments after any physical touch of the mounted telescopes.

I originally intended a three scope combination with the Meade 14″, TEC140 and my FSQ85, the latter two attached to the cameras since I only use these for astrophotography.  However, no matter what I tried I could never get this combination to balance in all orientations.  If I got it balanced in the parked position then they’d be unbalanced in the “point east

position”.  Get it right pointing east and the meridian flip would fail.  It was like a game of whack-a-mole and a balance problem would repeatedly keep popping up no matter how I adjusted the scopes on their dovetails and in their saddle.  In the end I abandoned mounting the FSQ85 and did a dual rig side-by-side with the Meade and the TEC140.  Even this was never perfectly balanced and caused the MESUs friction drive to give way on some occasions and I’d awake in the morning following an all-night imaging run with the scopes pointing up at the zenith.  Also, because the scopes were so heavy it was a challenge for the MESU to hold them perfectly steady.

I fitted the Meade with a Moonlite Crayford focuser and equipped it with motor focus.  With such a long focal length and physical touching of the scope to focus it causes the observed object to wobble for a few seconds and makes focusing a challenge without motorfocus.  The fitting of the motorfocus massively assists the usability of the scope.  Indeed, I’d suggest just using the mirror focuser would be a very big ask when trying to fine focus.

I sued the scope a lot on The Moon and for some deep sky observations.  It excelled on objects such as M27 and M13 and other small objects needing a significant focal length.

However, my overall ownership was a bit of a disappointment and this is absolutely in no way a fault of this magnificent telescope.  It is a result of my own aperture fever.  Such a telescope in a Bortle 5 suburban sky is always going to be significantly handicapped and this indeed proved the case here.  So much so in fact that I hardly even used it on faint galaxies because such objects are drowned out by the light pollution.  Jupiter and Saturn were very poorly placed for observers at my latitude (53N) during my ownership so I never got chance to use it on those.  In fact, I found my Celestron C925 showed as good a view in my skies.  For these reasons, I sold the telescope, minus the focuser in May 2020, after a year of ownership.   In the end I sold it to someone from Derbyshire Peak District who has dark skies. I was sad to see it go because in the right skies it will be magnificent.

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