Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

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Apollo XX
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Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

Unread post by Apollo XX »

Greetings Fellow Astronomy Equipment Geeks,

As some of you may know, one of my frequent rituals is to scan the Craigslist ads for potential bargains within the realm of our hobby. Over the years I've snagged a few. Back in April of 2021 I scored a nearly-new Meade R5/LX70 scope and mount for about a third of what it cost new. It's not like I needed it or anything, but I've got an affinity for refractors and was primarily interested in the OTA, so I had planned on putting the mount back on the market as soon as I got it. I figured the mount would draw about 80% of what I paid for the whole setup, and so in the end I'd have a decent 120mm OTA for less money than I spend on gas in a week.

Then a funny thing happened. The OTA turned out to be just an OK example of mass produced optics - not great, but not terrible either. But, I have definitely warmed up to the mount! It's just a plain-Jane light/medium capacity manual German Equatorial Mount, but it definitely punches above it's weight. It holds the 120mm refractor OTA splendidly, is nicely portable with quick setup and take-down times, and stores easily. There was just one annoying little attribute to the whole thing - keeping up with the constant RA adjustments can be a real pain in the keister - GEM's are absolutely better served with motor drives.
Craigslist R5 LX70.jpg
Craigslist R5 LX70.jpg (409.65 KiB) Viewed 952 times
I had hoped to like the OTA and didn't care about the mount - and then I did!

Now came the tricky part - scoring an RA motor drive for a mount that not only never came with one but was only on the market for couple of years, and as is typical in the American mass-market astronomy realm it's now obsolete and all but forgotten by astronomy stuff sellers. Fortunately our fellow brethren across the pond are slower to scamper from product to product, and apparently still harbor an appreciation for the simpler things in life. I can certainly appreciate that modern advanced technology has a place with today's telescope mounts, but in this case I didn't need "dual axis drives", "wiz-bang go-to", or any other manner of complexity beyond turning one gear to drive the scope in right ascension. That's it. Turn. One. Gear. How hard could it be?

Well, if you stop your search at the likes of the OPT's, Adorama's and High Point's it's very hard, like in you're-never-getting-there hard. Figuring out exactly what I needed wasn't very hard. A plethora of threads on Cloudy Nights address the very issue of adding motors to the LX70 mount, and after sifting through them I came to the conclusion that a Sky Watcher EQ5 mount was essentially of the same construction, and so an SW EQ5 RA drive motor kit would do the trick. As it turns out, you can't get that product here in the good 'ol U.S.of A. It's almost as though the message being sent by the American marketplace is that only a Neanderthal would want such a thing. Such simple-minded old technology is so yesterday. What's wrong with you? Well, I guess you can chalk me up in the simpleton category.

Fortunately the mother-land appears to be chock-full of simple-minded beings like myself, and UK-based website after website showed me exactly what I was looking for. I wound up going with 365Astronomy, an outfit being run by a bloke out of his basement, with his wife assigned to warehouse and shipping slave-labor as well as office duties, while his son buffs up the website;
https://www.365astronomy.com/about-us

And how can you not love a guy named Zoltan? I seriously thought it was made up until I found out that he's a native of Hungary and that it's a popular name over there;
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zolt%C3%A1n
SW SAMDEQ5.png
SW SAMDEQ5.png (113.78 KiB) Viewed 952 times
Now that's what I'm talking about - a motor, a gear, a handbox with a couple of buttons and a battery pack - as simple as it gets!
US$-BPconv.png
US$-BPconv.png (20.05 KiB) Viewed 952 times
Yes, it did cost me a little more because I had to buy it outside of the country, and that's one of the arguments you get when you propose doing such a thing..."you know, for the amount it costs for the mount plus what it costs to add motors you can get a real whiz-banger"...yes, I know.
OnTheTable.jpg
OnTheTable.jpg (415.59 KiB) Viewed 952 times
Up on the operating table, getting ready for some painless day surgery. This class of mount was originally developed by Vixen of Japan, then was copied and mass marketed by companies like Meade, Celestron, Orion, Sky Watcher and others. The castings are pretty much all the same, with just the colors and labeling differentiating the end product.
Apart.jpg
Apart.jpg (466.11 KiB) Viewed 952 times
The process is quite simple, really. Take off a cover and the slow-mo cable, install a gear on the RA worm gear shaft and bolt the motor to the mount. Inside the worm block is the worm gear - that's the one gear that needs turning to make the mount track the sky.
Together.jpg
Together.jpg (481.5 KiB) Viewed 952 times
The whole job takes about fifteen minutes to do. The cover re-installs over the motor making for a very clean installation. That release knob disengages the drive in the event that you ever do want to use the manual slow-motion again.

My first-light experience of using the new tracking feature was during a week while when were at the Gurnet in October of 2021, and it was simply splendid. The tracking was quite good, even when using higher magnifications. Once on target it was such a pleasure to just look without having to touch the scope, and sharing the views with multiple people was so much better than the usual "excuse me, I've got to adjust it" interjection every couple of minutes. This little mod made this sweet little mount even better, and if anyone has a mount like it that they'd like to try enhancing in a similar way I'm happy to help you make that happen.
RdyToLook.jpg
RdyToLook.jpg (443.45 KiB) Viewed 952 times
All set up and ready to ply the night sky from one of my favorite locations on Earth.

Keep Looking Up,

Mike M.
"The purpose of life is the investigation of the Sun, the Moon, and the heavens." - Anaxagoras
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Pete
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Re: Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

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Once again, thanks for sharing, Mike. Strange that the installation was so simple where the search was so difficult.
Pete P.
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Apollo XX
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Re: Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

Unread post by Apollo XX »

Hi Pete,

Meade, as many of the manufacturers are prone to do, only marketed this particular setup for 2-3 years and when they did a dual-axis motor drive kit was available as an add-on. When the product was discontinued and the stock ran out, the distributors just say sorry, no more. Even though it is well known in the community that EQ5 stuff will fit it you won't find a distributor that will say it, for understandable reasons.

I could've bought a CG5/EQ5 dual-axis drive kit here in the states, but the cost was prohibitive when all I really wanted was an RA drive. Without go-to the mount is still a push-to/star hop deal to get on target, and honestly if it's even remotely polar aligned a motor on the DEC drive is quite unnecessary. You can't get a single-axis drive kit here in the states. Too low tech for this market. Europe to the rescue. They still do simple.

Mike
"The purpose of life is the investigation of the Sun, the Moon, and the heavens." - Anaxagoras
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Pete
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Re: Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

Unread post by Pete »

Yeah Mike, 2 drives are sorta unnecessary when the inexpensive go-to setups only put you in the ballpark anyway. So your scope's halfway equipped, as is the ladder on your lighthouse. But you've got the half that counts.

These days when asked about a beginner scope for stargazing I've been recommending Az mounted 80mm long tube refractors, and particularly singling out Celestron's StarSense Explorer LT 80AZ Smartphone App-Enabled Refractor Telescope with a 900mm FL and a price tag of only179.95 Celestron's smartphone app is probably as good as most go-to drives but they lack even half a ladder :shock:
Pete P.
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NGC7000
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Re: Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

Unread post by NGC7000 »

Mike,

I really enjoyed your journey from a successful bargain hunt to a successful DIY rig that pleases you.

I also want to mention that your outdoor picture of the finished project is in itself worthy of a professional marketing photo. Very nice!

Tom
Tom H
“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”
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Bruce D
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Re: Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

Unread post by Bruce D »

Did you check Orion? That looks like a clone of the "skyview pro" mount motor, controller, and battery pack. I think orion does (or did) offer the motors and the controller to add to the non-motorized version of the mount. I wrestle with selling the skyview pro mount, I have the Celestron Advanced GT mount which to me is every bit as much "grab & go" as the skyview pro but has full GOTO
Bruce D
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Apollo XX
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Re: Adding a Motor to the LX70 Mount

Unread post by Apollo XX »

NGC7000 wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:46 pm Mike,

I really enjoyed your journey from a successful bargain hunt to a successful DIY rig that pleases you.

I also want to mention that your outdoor picture of the finished project is in itself worthy of a professional marketing photo. Very nice!

Tom
Thank you, Tom!
Bruce D wrote: Sun Jan 16, 2022 7:16 am Did you check Orion? That looks like a clone of the "skyview pro" mount motor, controller, and battery pack. I think orion does (or did) offer the motors and the controller to add to the non-motorized version of the mount. I wrestle with selling the skyview pro mount, I have the Celestron Advanced GT mount which to me is every bit as much "grab & go" as the skyview pro but has full GOTO
I did. Like Celestron and Skywatcher they sell kits that would work on it. Orion offers a standard dual-axis kit and a kit that would convert it to full go-to. Even just the standard kit would set me back more than I wanted to or could justify spending. Since I don't mind finding stuff, just having an RA drive is a real game-changer and the expenditure, in my mind, was justifiable.
"The purpose of life is the investigation of the Sun, the Moon, and the heavens." - Anaxagoras
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