Any Astronomer who lives in a light saturated suburb will value the virtue of portability in their telescope. The Lightbridge is Meade’s secret weapon against light pollution, if your struggling with sky glow simply collapse the truss poles and pack it into the back of your car and it’s off to darker skies.
It can be collapsed down into its 4 constituent parts, the upper part of the tube assembly, the truss poles, the lower tube assembly and the mount. The biggest single part is the mount and that’s only about 40″ tall by 30″ wide, I can easily fit mine into my brothers metro which is a very small car.
It’s very easy to collapse and rebuild, from the back of a boot to fully setup and ready to go takes less than 10 minutes (and most of that time is in the collimation).
But there’s very little point in having an ultra portable telescope if it doesn’t perform in other areas, so what’s the Lightbridge like to use?
Optically speaking, this telescope is of a very high quality, when used with a good eyepiece the results have quite often blown me away, faint spiral arms detected in galaxies that are hard to see at all in other scopes, wonderful details pulled out of the moon and planets, there’s no doubt that Meade have spent a lot of time crafting an excellent system.
The Lightbridge also excels in focusing. Meade have included a 2inch Crayford in their design. Unlike a rack & pinion focuser which uses a cog with teeth to move in and out, the Crayford relies on pressure instead, using a spring to push a rounded cog hard against the focuser. As the cog is perfectly smooth it makes for a less jumpy experience when compared to it’s toothy cousin.
The Lightbridge seems to be doing pretty well so far but as with most things it is far from perfect and does have a few issues that Meade should address.
Perhaps the most obvious example is the lack of a tension nob to lock the telescope in declination (up and down movement). If you’re changing from a heavy eyepiece to a light one or visa versa you will need to attach a plastic bag filled with an appropriate level of ballast to the bottom of the scope to counter act the change in weight.
Secondly, the collapsible type of telescope suffers slightly more from vibrations when touched, this is present in the Lightbridge, when moved it vibrates harder and for longer than a solid tubed alternative.
Also the collapsible telescope doesn’t hold collimation as well as a solid tuber due to minute movements in the truss poles, collimation soon becomes second nature and when you’ve done it a few times it won’t take you too long but when I was new to the hobby I certainly didn’t want to “waste” time by having to readjust the primary and secondary mirrors, I just wanted to get out there and start observing straight away. The regular need to recollimate may be enough to put off the newcomer.
Lastly, the LB comes with a laser dot finder as opposed to the more traditional finderscope, some will prefer the finder’s ease of use, but I prefer a more orthodox magnified finderscope. This is just a matter of personal opinion though and certainly not a major failing in the scope.
To conclude, the Lightbridge performs exceedingly well optically it just needs to address some mechanical issues. I have since performed a few minor adjustments to improve the scopes usability, if you google something along the lines of “Lightbridge modifications” you will find some easy and practical help for you to get the most out of this telescope. Such as crafting a more solid primary mirror cover to replace the insubstantial plastic one provided.
A very nice offering from Meade with only a few technical issues to sully its otherwise brilliant name.