Meade LT-8 ACF

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Meade LT-8 ACF

Vital Stats

8 inches (203.2mm)
Focal Length: 
2,034mm; f/10
26mm Plössl
Aluminium single arm altaz
01342 837098
We had it slewing here, there and everywhere to try and trip the onboard computer up. But the LT-8 didn’t once falter.

There’s a saying in astronomy – ‘the best telescope is the one that gets used’. In other words, without a dedicated observatory the novelty of carting a large bulky scope in and out every clear night can quickly wear off. A small telescope helps of course, but if you want something with a little more light grasp, you’re a bit stuck. The Meade LT-8 addresses both issues: it’s a generous 8 inches (203mm) in aperture, but also lightweight and extremely portable.

The LT8 has two main parts – a mount and tube assembly, and a steel tripod. The mount and optical tube have been designed as a single unit and don’t separate. With the tube pointing down, the whole assembly is similar in size to a pilot’s case, and a convenient handle on the top of the single vertical support arm makes the whole thing really easy to carry. The steel tripod is adjustable in height from 64.8cm (25.5 inches) to 101.5cm (43.5 inches) and is a compromise between weight and strength.

This is a fully computerised Go-To telescope which, once it’s been set up, is capable of pointing at any of 30,223 objects in its onboard database, assuming they’re above the horizon, of course. The process of initialising the Go-To is really simple and happily it worked perfectly for us first time. We had it slewing here, there and everywhere to
try and trip the onboard computer up. But the LT-8 didn’t once falter.

Coma-free optics

The wonderful Wild Duck Cluster, M11, looked like a resplendent burst of stars with the supplied 26mm Plössl eyepiece. The cluster stars were beautifully sharp and crisp, even at the edge of the field of view, thanks to the LT-8’s patented optics, which go by the name of Advanced Coma-Free (ACF).

The oval nature of our next target, the Ring Nebula, M57, was easily seen, as was the darker middle ‘hole’ that gives it its name. The much larger Dumbbell Nebula, M27, showed good structure with its sides pinched in like an apple core. The LT-8 has excellent visual contrast and this really helped with the visibility of these objects.

The double star Albireo looked stunning, showing as two pinpricks of light, one golden yellow and the other blue. We needed to swap in our own high-power eyepiece to view the more challenging Epsilon Lyrae, the Double-Double. Then the two pairs of really close doubles became visible. Again the LT-8 did a superb job, presenting a clean view of the tighter split pairs, even when each pair was moved around the edge of the eyepiece view. Closer to home, Jupiter also looked impressive through this scope – its slightly squashed disc was pleasingly full of detail.

The Meade LT-8 ACF comes with an altaz mount, which tracks the equatorial movement of the stars with the onboard AutoStar computer system. Indeed, you can hear the drives chattering away reassuringly as they make constant positional adjustments. The tracking was very good and objects remained in the field of view even after periods of several hours.

If you’re wondering whether the LT-8 can be used for imaging, the answer is, yes it can – but it’s not designed solely with that in mind. Its altaz mount introduces field rotation as the scope tracks across the sky. Its drives struggled slightly with a medium-weight planetary imaging camera attached, and at high magnification we experienced some scope wobble from the tripod. Also, it accepts 1.25-inch eyepiece fittings by default. For visual use these issues aren’t distracting, but for serious imaging they’re not ideal.

In summary, the Meade LT-8 ACF’s aperture and focal length make it a good scope for both deep-sky and Solar System viewing. If you need to travel to a dark-sky site, get better views or just want something that is easy to move in and out of the house, then for visual astronomy we can recommend the LT-8 as an excellent grab-and-go telescope.


‘L’ of a mount

The LT-8 is distinctive because of its L-shaped mount, something which the LT series shares with other Meade telescope series, such as the LS. The LT-8’s mount is made of die-cast aluminium and houses the drives, gears and computer that bring the telescope to life.

The AutoStar computer that drives the mount is controlled via a handset that plugs into a socket at the side of the mount. A cut-out in the horizontal base gives you somewhere to put the handset when not in use. For the ultimate in portability, there’s a built-in battery compartment that takes eight C-sized batteries, giving about 20 hours of operation. A 12V input is also provided if you want to operate from a more substantial power source.

Undoubtedly, the best characteristic of the mount is that, relatively speaking, it’s light. This makes the LT-8 an instant hit because it removes the psychological barrier that might stop you taking a heavier instrument outside. In short, the LT-8 is a scope that will get used.

Telescope tube - The LT-8’s tube is made of aluminium and keeps the f/10 optics of the scope securely in position. A corrector plate covered in ultra-high transmission coatings (UHTC) sits at the front of the tube and holds the secondary mirror in place. The main 8-inch primary mirror is totally enclosed inside the tube.

Single arm mount - The tube is held by a single-arm mount made of die-cast aluminium. Its design helps keep the overall weight of the scope down. The mount is of the altaz type, with high-precision gears on both axes. The onboard AutoStar computer tracks the natural motion of the stars and planets through software.

Compass and level - The compass and level is a simple, yet effective device. It’s used to accurately set the scope in its home position prior to initialising the mount’s Go-To. It is inserted into the scope’s diagonal, where a bubble lets you know when the scope is level and a compass indicates when you’re pointing north – simple and effective.   

Optics - The LT-8 can be bought with either Advanced Coma-Free (ACF) optics, as reviewed, or as a standard Schmidt-Cassegrain scope. The ACF optics produce excellent distortion-free views right to the edge of the field of view. This is particularly impressive with large open and globular clusters, which reveal pin-sharp stars right across the field.

Autostar - The LT-8 is a fully computerised Go-To scope controlled by a program called AutoStar. The AutoStar database contains 30,223 objects, along with a number of pre-defined tours. A hierarchical menu system allows you to navigate to any of the stored objects, and hitting the Go-To button will move the telescope to point at that object.

This review originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Prices correct at time of going to print.

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