Vixen Sphinx Deluxe 2 equatorial mount
The Vixen Sphinx Deluxe 2 (SXD2) mount represents the natural evolution of the original Vixen Sphinx Deluxe. The lustrous cream finish makes a return, as does the excellent fit and finish, but there are also many enhancements. Some, like the upgraded Star Book Ten hand controller, are obvious; others are more subtle, for example the addition of extra bearings on the RA and dec. drives, and a return to stepper motors.
An optional fitted flight case was supplied to house the review equipment. This contained the mount head itself, two counterweights of 3.7kg and 1.9kg, the hand controller and an optional 12V mains power supply. Hidden in a pocket in
the lid was Vixen’s excellent instruction manual, which was well written and very comprehensive. A second box contained the optional SXG Hal 130 aluminium tripod.
Vixen has championed a mount design where much of the casing and the drive components are placed on the counterweight side of the RA axis, creating a large amount of natural counterbalance, and the SXD2 follows this blueprint. A low-profile dec. head also helps to reduce the counterbalance weight requirements by keeping the telescope close to the RA axis and, therefore, the mount’s centre of gravity. This simple concept conveniently reduces the overall weight of the system, aiding its portability. It certainly wasn’t difficult to carry this mount outside set up on its tripod.
As you might expect, the mount has a Vixen-style dovetail mounting block. Immediately underneath the mounting block is a rod with an adjustment knob at each end, which operates the clutch for the dec. axis and is easy to find in the dark. At the other end of the dec. axis there is a 20mm-diameter counterbalance shaft that retracts inside the mount for transport.
The Star Book Ten hand controller is normally supplied with Vixen’s higher end products, so its presence here was a bonus. Its database contains in excess of 272,000 objects, including those from the Messier, NGC, IC and SAO catalogues, and of course the Solar System.
Setting up the mount at the start of each session was very straightforward and carrying out a polar alignment was easy using Vixen’s excellent polarscope. This is the same polarscope used on Vixen’s high-end mounts, and it really is quick and intuitive to operate. Adjusting the altitude was also easy: achieved by moving a single hand bolt; the bolt drives a carrier that rocks the mount up and down effortlessly. This critical adjustment was considerably easier than using a pair of opposing bolts that work against a tongue projecting from under the fulcrum point, a configuration that appears on many mounts. Azimuth adjustment is achieved using two opposing bolts working against a fixed post on the tripod’s table in the conventional manner.
Star alignment is also easily achieved. Point the telescope to the west and line up the index marks on both axes to set the ‘home’ position. You then select an alignment star using the cursor in ‘Chart Mode’; the mount will point to the chosen star. Finally, you centre the chosen star in your eyepiece and press the align button. You can repeat this with more stars, thus increasing the accuracy of your sky model.
We found that three or more widely spaced alignment stars produced very accurate Go-Tos, with the mount quietly and quickly locating each object then tracking it smoothly and silently. Our targets remained close to the centre of our 17mm eyepiece for more than 90 minutes and although we measured the periodic error at 27 arcseconds peak to peak, this was delivered smoothly and could be easily autoguided out.
We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the SXD2 mount to both new and experienced users as it is intuitive to use, produces excellent results and with its new ASCOM driver – see the annotation above – is right up to date
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