ETX-90/EC USER COMMENTS - FEBRUARY 1999
This page is for actual user comments and information on the newly released Meade ETX-90/EC. Accessories and Feedback items appropriate to both the original ETX model and the new model will continue to be posted on other pages as appropriate.
|February User Comments (2/28/99)
Current User Comments
|ETX-90/EC Press Release (1/28/99)
ETX-90/EC Accessories (1/28/99)
Subject: ETX to pc cable parts list Sent: Sunday, February 28, 1999 20:10:49 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Marc M. Triola, M.D.) I used the info in your Tech Tips section to successfully make an Autostar -> PC serial cable as described by Cameron Brennan and Dick Walters. The parts were about $5 at Radio Shack and consisted of a 25 ft handset cord (#279-305), a 9 pin female serial connector (#276-1428a), and the serial connector hood (#276-1508). Took about 20 minutes to put together and has been working very well with the demo version of SkyMap Pro 5. Radio Shack also has a good power supply that can be used with the ETX. It is part # 273-1653B. The output is 12V DC at 1 amp. Its a very nice supply with a built in reset button and costs $20. Just thought some people might like to know the part numbers. Keep up the great work! Marc ____________________________ Marc M. Triola, M.D. NYU Medical Center http://members.xoom.com/triola
Subject: ETX-90/EC Sent: Sunday, February 28, 1999 19:46:32 From: email@example.com (Peter Thorpe) More observations on the new ETX: 1) Power Adapter - Radio Shack part # 273-1662 with the "green" colored tip with TIP+ aligned and adapter switch set for 12 volts. Please be careful with polarity as "ALL DICLAIMERS APPLY" 2) Definite bug in the Longitude register. When doing an edit to a custom location the < Lon: > mode WILL NOT accept anything but decades in the last two positions (minutes). For instance it will register 20 but not 26 or it will register 30 but not 32. UPON CHECKING THE ENTRY IT WILL HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO 10,20,30,40,50,60,70,80 or 90 if anything like 23, 45, 66 or 81 (anything but a decade count) ........ have been used when the enter key is pushed and you think it's been accepted - it gets changed to the nearest decade. 3) Yes SkyMap works very well with serial adapter (from SCOPETRONIX). For some reason it will not work with THESKY software ... they said they are working on it though. 4) So far we have three people in Minneapolis area interested in an informal get together any other takers should e-mail me. Next dark skies will be week-end of March 20/21 .... Maybe then? e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org As always, Mike, thanks for the great site.
Subject: ETX comparison Sent: Sunday, February 28, 1999 17:03:22 From: email@example.com (Chris Dumas) I have owned the "classic" ETX since November and have enjoyed every minute out with it. I recently have had the opportunity to purchase the new ETX for the outdoor education center I run on Cape Cod. I took the scope out the other night...here are some thoughts. I felt that the hand controller was a fine addition, it really made centering objects easier and quicker....though if the electronics or batteries ever go bad in the field you would have no way to slow-mo track. I'm not sure why, but the new scope also has a bad vibration when focusing (much more so than my old ETX). I wonder if this is caused by the plastic base? Both ETX's are mounted on Meade tripods. Anyway, I was happy with the new scope, but not overwhelmed. I am not sure which one I would personally choose. Thanks again for updating your site so frequently!
Subject: etx90-ec/wedgepod Sent: Sunday, February 28, 1999 7:59:51 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Riccatone) I received the new adapter for the wedgepod the other day and installed it shortly after. It is a solid chunk of metal which installs over the battery compartment and screws into the two baseplate holes. Once in, it is a very sturdy mount. This did not go on without a hitch though. After installing and setting back up, I powered on the etx and discovered that the scope would slew at only the fastest speed in R.A., no matter which setting! Also, during tracking, it would automatically slew to the west by itself. So there I sat scratching my head saying No Way! Since all this didn't happen until I put the adapter on, I dedided to loosen it up just a bit. I had my scope back! For some reason, maybe someone out there can help me out, when the mounting screws are tightened completely, it causes the R.A. to go haywire. (Dec was fine) It was just a matter of a half turn or so to get the scope back to normal without compromising the sturdiness of the mount. Aside from that, the scope is performing very well. I was getting oohhs and aahhs from some first time skywatchers the other night while showing them saturn, the 1/4 moon, and M42(looked excellent even with the bright moon nearby!) The scope continues to impress. Looking forward to having the blue moon retreat to get on with some clear dark sky observing here in southern CO. Thanks again, and serenity and happiness to all under the night sky. Brian Riccatone
Subject: ETX 90-EC Sent: Thursday, February 25, 1999 14:36:40 From: email@example.com (Kevin P. Kretsch) I've had my ETX 90-EC for three weeks now. Ireland in February is not the best time of year for clear skies but I have had some success. The first night was the trapezium and Saturn through light cloud. Four components of the trapezium were easy at 48x and Saturn stayed visible in the scope at 98x despite being COMPLETELY INVISIBLE by eye through light cloud! Cloud band on the disk was easy, though no Cassini division. (To be fair, not expected through the cloud.) Jupiter through hazy cloud a few days later showed easy cloud bands with very distinct colour and of course, the Jovian moons. Speaking of moon... ...WOW!!!! I'm stunned! I never saw the moon like that before! One good clear night gave me lots of cool clusters, and I cleanly split the components of Castor (3") at 98x. that said, the first diffraction ring was only half a ring. Collimation could be out, but I'm not too worried, yet. Anyone else have this problem? Can anyone tell me of a closer double that SHOULD be resolved? Having seen a few open clusters (and Castor) I decided that I would go for a shorter f.l. eyepiece, rather than a 40mm. So, when I get a chance to use it, I'll tell you about the Celestron 17mm plossl (83x/166x). Oh yeah, I love the coffee sound, but until I try it out at 3am, I don't know if it wakes the neighbours! *smile* Clear skies all, Kev. --- Kevin P. Kretsch B.A.(Mod.)Phys e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Photonic Materials Group, Tel: +353 1 608 1324 Department of Physics, Fax: +353 1 671 1759 Trinity College, Dublin 2, IRELAND.
Subject: Interfacing with the ETX90/EC Sent: Thursday, February 25, 1999 2:34:02 From: KVenables@avimo.co.uk (Keith Venables) Although I live in the UK, I managed to buy an ETX90/EC and Autostar on trips to the USA. (Nature World in the Galleria, DALLAS had Autostars in the shop last week). I read that some users are having difficulty with alignment, my Autostar is version 1.0c and clearly states that the "smaller fork" needs to be above the control panel. This removes any ambiguity and I have had no problem. I have a Manfrotto #075 tripod with #029 head, and have made a simple interface adaptor out of a 6" diameter 1/4" thick aluminium plate. The ETX sits on the plate and is securely fastened by two 1/4" screws. I recessed the screws holding this on to the tripod quick mount plate, so that they do not foul the battery compartment, and it makes for a really steady arrangement. The ETX90/EC is not available in the UK for some months, so I am having difficulty in obtaining some of the accessories. I built a PC to Autostar cable out of a telephone handset lead, this is the only source I have found for the small connector. You have to shop around a bit to find one that has the little plastic lug you press to extract the plug. Some are meant only to be removed using a small screwdriver or similar. So far the Autostar is working well with SkyMapPro5. I cannot find an AC or car adaptor that will fit the ETX90/EC power socket. The centre pin seams to have a small ridge on its top edge that prevents normal plugs from entering. Does anyone know of a source of plugs or leads? I am new to the ETX and would agree that the finder is less than perfect (British conservatism!), but with an Autostar it becomes much less of an issue. The noise dosent bother me either. I've not had too many clear nights (missed the conjunction like everyone else), but so far can only say I am very impressed. I've started with the 26mm, 9.7mmSP, and short barlow, which seem to be a useful spread of lenses. Are the UWA eyepieces worth using? Next I'm going to try interfacing my Starlight Xpress CCD camera, I'll report progress.
Subject: My experience with the new ETX90/EC Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 1999 9:43:59 From: email@example.com (Barry Cucchi) I purchased the scope in January and about 3 weeks later, the autostar computer arrived. Cool! I have similar observations to others; the finderscope reeks, electronic focus is a must, and there seems to be no "hard stop" in verticle movement. I check out Jupiter, Saturn and M42 the first night. Very satisfied! I used a 40mm PLssel eyepiece and 2x televue barlow along with the supplied 26 mm. I was somewhat disappointed in the sparce manual with the autostar, but the on-line navigation is pretty straight forward. I went through the initializing and "motor training" with no problems. The sky was going to be perfect that evening too! Once it became dark, I had an immediate problem with determining the "home" position. Turning the scope ccw until it stops resulted in no stopping at all...uh oh...better check this web site. After reading the experiences of others, I got the scope in the home position and Polar Aligned it. (Oh, it's mounted on the Meade Field Tripod.) So now, I'm ready to do the alignment procedure...the autostar selects Sirius and noisily begins to slew to it...it moves in RA, and seems lined up with the star on that axis, but there is no movement in declination. I try the arrow controls to move the scope in dec...nothing. Bummer! I take the whole rig in the house...try the hand controller...no movement in dec. I try the recalibrate motor procedure...the autostar suggests the batteries are going dead. Can't be...check the battery alarm...it says bats are at full capacity. My new toy is broke! Called the dealer, Astronomics. They are helpful as usual (why buy a scope anywhere else). They get me in touch with a techie at Meade. He suggests that I return the scope to them and tthey'll have it back in a week. Well, it's mailed; hope to have it back soon. Great site; thanks Mike! Regards, Barry
Subject: ETX Newbie sees the Light! Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 1999 7:30:07 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Kris Younger) A long buried interest in astronomy has surfaced again due to my 7 year old daughter's interest. A recent trip to the Onizuka Visitor's Center on Mauna Kea with her made us both realize how much there is to see, and gives a chance to do the Father/Daughter thing, which is always welcome. I hadn't spent any real time observing since I was about 13, so it shocked me to discover the bug very much alive. Being a bit on the technical side, I thought the ETX/EC was a great idea, and after reading all the material I could on the ETX on your site and others, I figured that last Saturday was an auspicious day to finally buy one. Added a padded case and the seemingly required #126 Barlow. Saturday afternoon and evening was the moon and the Orion Nebula. Simply put, breathtaking. The ETX was easy to use, easy to setup, and I found even in alt-az mode, easy to track these objects by handcontroller. The only thing I'm still not content with is the finderscope, either its attitude (I need to get the right angle one) nor its alignment, which is close, but not good enough. Seeing was not great, with high clouds coming and going, but the experience of learning the ETX's habits was very enjoyable. Mine seems to be one of the good ones, I like the motorized control, and find the noise caused by the motors while slewing not overly loud, even at the fastest rate. "Electric Can opener" seems to be the right metaphor to describe it. I thought I was seeing things, when the Trapezium popped into view, along with the gray clouds of gas, I just kept looking and looking, trying to convince myself that I was truly seeing such a sight with a small scope. My daughter and I were amazed. But now, last night (Monday) was the way it should be. Jupiter with a few bands, all four Galilean moons, low on the horizon and with good seeing. Just above it, was Venus, bright and in phase, although I had a bit of tree branch to contend with. Saturn and Titan, and I must look again tonight if I can, but I thought I could make out the Cassini Division. The Moon at Quarter was terrific, detail stood out, making it look serene and cold. Fabulous view. Orion Nebula too got revisited, and spent some time crawling around Orion, with some great results. All this makes want to pick up an Autostar as soon as they are available in the retail store here by me. I also think I'm gonna go out at lunch time and get a quickcam to start taking apart and hack into CCD imager. Already ordered the SkyMapPro5 software, since several folks have confirmed you can drive an Autostar with SkyMap in LX200 mode. I saw one place that had the cable I need too. I figure a QuickCam Color and one of the photo adaptors with a project box from Radio Shack and little bit of time hacking and I may just be able to record some (and more) of what I can see with an ETX. Maybe a tour of the Messiers - Thanks for a great site, and Thanks to Meade for a great telescope. Kristofer (email@example.com)
Subject: etx-90/ec Sent: Sunday, February 21, 1999 11:45:34 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Riccatone) I originally bought the classic etx last may and I had many great nights of observing with it, so when the new ec came out I became interested and contacted the Natural Wonders store where I originally purchased my first one. To somewhat of a surprise, the manager informed me that I would be able to swap mine for the new one as long as the scope was in good condition with no dings and with original store receipts and packaging. Well, needless to say when I got a chance, I went up for the replacement and came back with a very fine scope. My first impressions of the scope are limited for now since I received the scope yesterday and unfortunately had an overcast night. The two stars I was able to see though looked good even through the haze, and when I slewed at all speeds I had little to no vibration. I like the feel of the control and the ease of operation. The noise is a little on the loud side, but that really doesn't matter to me. At first, the gears sounded a little grindy but take up backlash within a second at the slowest speeds and I see virtually no backlash at the 5 and .75 deg/sec speeds. I think I grabbed a good one here! I don't know if it's just me, but this scope actually seems to be put together with a little more care than my original etx. The OTA is a richer purple than the last and the whole scope feels a bit more solid. More importantly, the optics seem to be a little nicer also. The corrector lens has a much deeper coating to it than the last etx and the primary mirror also looks smoother around the edges to me. The new Dec and R.A. locks are also solid and more reassuring than the old ones. Overall, I am very impressed with the new look. After seeing the mixed reports on the autostar, I'll probably stay away from it for awhile. After all, searching the sky, discovering and learning positions of objects is one of the main reasons that I enjoy going out at night. I would like to get the auto focus though in the near future to eliminate the wiggles especially during the cold winter nights. Thanks Mike for the work that you put into this great website and keeping it so up-to-date. It's my favorite spot on the web and the reason that I own this scope. I hope to send some observation results with the new scope in the very near future. Thanks, Brian Riccatone
Subject: New ETX Sent: Sunday, February 21, 1999 8:56:34 From: email@example.com (Ed Brentnall) Pulled the ETX out of the box and on the first night did an easy align and tracked both Saturn and the moon. Worked a total of five stars. I have not touched a scope in thirty years and had lots more fun with the ETX. Yes the manual is bad but figure it out. This is a fun little scope. Ed Brentnall
Subject: ETX report Sent: Friday, February 19, 1999 19:44:50 From: OptiquesJeff@worldnet.att.net (Jeffrey Nutkowitz) Well, I managed to get out for about a half hour of cloud free skies tonight, just after twilight, with the ETX/Autostar. This time, I made sure that the base was LEVEL (using two small bubble levels), input the CORRECT time, DST ("NO"), and location settings, set the forks' Home position according to the manual, then aimed the scope to TRUE NORTH (using the North Star to assist) by moving the entire base, then fine tuning it by moving the forks just a tiny bit, set the OTA at 0 deg altitude, and then did the Easy Align. The first star, Sirius, was just outside the field of view of the 26mm eyepiece, so I centered it, hit Enter, and went on to the second star. That one was almost dead center. Centered and hit Enter, and alignment was done. Entered Saturn, hit GOTO, and the scope slewed right to it, almost perfectly centered. I did the Synch function on it, and then went on to Pleides. Dead center. Next was M36. Dead center. Then M38, dead center. Then the clouds rolled in. The ETX/Autostar got me locked on to easy objects in about 1/3 to 1/2 the time it would have taken me using my 6" Newt, not including actual observing time, and without using a finder scope at all. Keep in mind, I was inside of light polluted and hazy Philadelphia, and these objects are obviously fairly easy targets for any scope. If that is what the ETX/Autostar can do under those conditions, however, I can hardly wait to see what it does for me with all those many other dimmer or more difficult objects that I have always just not bothered with out of laziness or because they were just too much of a pain to deal with using star hopping or inaccurate setting circles, as well as on those same easy objects under better skies. This thing DOES WORK when it is properly set up, and we are talking about someone here who has used the unit only two times, for a grand total of less than two hours time to go through the learning curve. -- Jeffrey Nutkowitz/Optiques Classic Photographic Imagery Freelance Outdoor and Nature Photography Emphasizing a 'Sense of Place' http://members.aol.com/OptiquesJN
Subject: Play in RA axis on new ETX-90/EC Sent: Friday, February 19, 1999 16:33:06 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mindspring Email) Could you post this in the comments section for the ETX-90/EC? Perhaps some other new owner could advise me. My new ETX-90/EC seems to have excessive play in the RA axis. Even when locked there's enough slop to move the optical tube around about a quarter of an inch at the end. Also, if I pick the scope up by the forks, there seems to be about 1/8 inch vertical play in the RA axis. The DEC axis is nice and tight with nearly no play in it. Also, when training the motors, scope movement is smooth and straight in the vertical axis (DEC). However, when slewing left and right on the RA axis, there is also up and down (depending on which way it's moving) motion as it takes up the slop in the axis. As an owner of an earlier ETX , I know that the mount has never been its best feature, nor do I expect the same kind of precision found in my LX200. Could other new owners advise me about what is normal play in the fork mount and what action, if any, I need to take. I can be reached at email@example.com. Thanks!
Subject: ETX and Autostar Problem Sent: Friday, February 19, 1999 15:54:11 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Rainey) I have been trying to get this damn thing to work for days and I finally figured it out. If your having problems with getting the scope to point in the right places, check your Lat and Long manually. I discovered that it was placing me at -35 degrees when it should have been +35 degrees. Once I fixed that problem it worked fine. In other words, don't rely on the site you chose during setup, verify your location with the Lat and Long. Thanks for the great site....
Subject: ETX/CE Dec. Hard Stops Sent: Thursday, February 18, 1999 7:45:57 From: email@example.com (Dick Walters) From e-mail traffic, it appears the first shipment of ETX/CE scopes did NOT have hard stops in the DEC axis to keep the tube and viewfinder from cratering against the base or yoke. Apparently this feature (mentioned in the handbook) was added to subsequent scopes. One message mentioned the owner had returned his first scope without the stops and the replacement scope had them. Conversations with Meade tech support deny the existence of DEC hard stops on the ETX/CE. My scope does not have them and I've already found that they would have been handy, especially knocking the VF and the scope out of alignment in the dark. All scopes do have stops in the RA axis to keep the wires from tearing loose. Another confusing issue with the new scope is the RA "home position", which allows the base to be positioned in the center of its travel. The drill is to turn it to the hard stop, then turn it back so that the yoke is over the control panel. Meade tech support said turn it CW to the stop then back till the Dec scale with the numbers is over the control panel. The Autostar manual says CCW to the stop then back till the "fork arm" is over the control panel. The Autostar setup display says the "smaller" fork arm. Probably not important so long is it's set between the stops. The Autostar manual says to hold down the mode button 2 sec for status of the telescope position, batteries, etc. What is doesn't say is that nothing happens till you subsequently press the up or down buttons. Another thing I noticed is that unless the RA lock is engaged, pressing the "Park" function will cause the RA motors to run forever. I guess it's counting clicks on the encoder which is then disabled. Dick Walters
Subject: ETX-EC comments Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 1999 20:31:12 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Kelsey) Great site. Here is an edited version of the letter that accompanied my ETX-EC that I returned to the vendor after just one week. I had already made a deal to sell my original ETX but backed out when the EC turned out to be too problematic. I'll keep my old ETX for a while. Still, I intend to buy an ETX-EC sometime in the future (when they get the bugs worked out), but right now I am very disappointed in Meade for releasing a product that's not ready for prime time. After both "Easy Align" or "Two Star Align" the ETX-EC never finds a selected GOTO target. I have precisely Trained the scope and set the location and time (exactly via WWVB) but have only once had a desired object appear in the eyepeice after selecting it. I precisely set the scope in Home position and am very careful when aligning on the selected stars. But after all this, the scope cant even find the very same alignment stars it just had me point it to. Heres an example, I used Easy Align which automatically selected Sirius then Alioth for alignment. After aligning on Sirius the scope automatically slews to Alioth and after aligning on it, I select Sirius as my first GOTO object It then slews near Sirius but it doesnt hit it. Sirius may be in the finderscope but never in the 26mm eyepiece. Another problem is even if I manually slew the scope to a selected target, the EC fails to track the object for more than a couple minutes in alt-az mode. Note that from the same, level, concrete pad my old ETX will track an object for hours (albeit using the table-top tripod). Altitude adjustment causes shift of azimuth: While Altitude Training the scope, the azimuth shifts slightly. The converse does not occur when training azimuth. In any case it is impossible to use the up or down altitude keys to precisely return the scope to the original stationary target as the azimuth has changed. Once when requesting a different star in Easy Align, the Autostar went into an infinite loop "Searching.. Not Found. Searching.. Not Found" After waking up the scope from sleep mode (after approximately six hours) the time read 34:10:15 and the Autostar declared all requested objects to be "Below the Horizon." Powering off the ETX-EC and then on, and entering the correct time, cleared the error. The Autostar "locked up" on one occasion after a two star Align (Alkaid and Beteljuice) with the following message "PROC. TRAP 2" The ETX motors were still running but no keypad entry would respond (nor remove the PROC TRAP 2 message from the LCD display). Power off/on cleared the error. On one occasion the scope stopped slewing though the motors were still running. Even though the Autostar beeped and declared it had reached its target, the EC was off-target by about six hours in RA. Design-wise the only shortcoming the Autostar has is the lack of an Electric Focus. While electric focus does come with the standard hand controller, its omission from the Autostar is unpardonable. This is such a serious omission that I feel I must have overlooked something. As with all Meade products, the users manuals must be written by engineers and are not the easiest documents to use. Also, as with the original ETX, the 8x21 Finderscope is too small, awkwardly placed, difficult to use, and in general is not befitting of a telescope of this caliber.
Subject: ETX 90/EC tracking vibrations Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 1999 17:37:46 From: email@example.com (scott johnson) on february 6th dean posted a message saying he was having problems with excessive vibration during sidereal tracking with his new etx ec. i just wanted to note that i have had some problems with this as well, though not as bad. i was able to clearly feel a very subtle vibration through the focusing knob when in sidereal tracking mode. i never had this problem with my old etx, which is one reason i noticed it. it also was detectable through the ota and the rear housing. obviously, this affected imaging in some way, though it was not a perfectly steady night, and comparisons with the tracking on and off didn't show gross image problems, though it seemed the image pulsed with the tracking on. in any case, i informed mike leigh at meade, and am sending the scope back for tests and repairs. mike says this is definitely not normal behavior. otherwise, i must say i like the scope much better than the old etx. controls are much tighter, and i find the overall integrity better. i had the use of a questar for some weeks thirty years ago and never would have thought i would own a scope this optically excellent, let alone a scope with this level of electronic sophistication. and the questar was five times the price of either model etx. despite the problems i have had, which seem rare, i am hooked. hats off to meade from me. and many thanks to mike weasner for a superlative site.
Subject: Tripod Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 1999 16:06:16 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gary Hansen) Here is my new ETX mounted on the tripod and wedge I built. I really like the new Meade and the tripod works well with it. The wedge comes off the tripod and of coures the legs can be removed for transport.I used Oak wood and brass hardware for the construction. Gary
Subject: Autostar alignment update Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 1999 6:11:34 From: email@example.com (Dantin, Jim) My first night with the Autostar presented me with a couple problems. The scope insisted on slewing up against the AZ hard stop when using the GOTO function on some objects and when using the Park function. I also had a consistent error in positioning with GOTO -- the scope stopped around 1-2 degrees below the object. I spent a half-hour on the phone with Meade tech support (their nickel!) trying to translate the instructions in the manual. I'll report on that conversation and ask for comments from other users. The manual describes the alignment procedure in, let's say, less than clear English: "ETX telescopes must have the base in a special position to avoid internal hardstops. Begin by releasing the ETX horizontal lock lever. Turn the telescope counterclockwise until it stops. Next turn the telescope clockwise until the fork arm is directly over the computer control panel and lock the horizontal axis. With the telescope in the home position (level and pointed North), press ENTER." That sort of sounds straight forward, but is a bit unclear in places -- such as which fork are they talking about! During my conversations with Meade tech support, a couple other problems surfaced -- specifically relating to what direction is clockwise! He acknowledged that the manual is sorta vague! I'll now repeat his verbal procedure: To eliminate any confusion on clockwise or counterclockwise do this -- place the scope on a table. Stand up so you are looking down at the scope. When you rotate the scope (holding the base stationary) so that the optical tube goes in the same direction as a clock, that's clockwise. Well, duh! I already figured that out, didn't you? Well, hold on a second and pay attention to the next steps! Position the scope (and tripod if it's on one) so that the control panel faces West. Release the azimuth lock and rotate the upper part of the scope (holding the base stationary) CLOCKWISE until it hits the hard stop (the tube should be pointing roughly South). Wait a minute! That's opposite what the manual says. Yup. Then rotate COUNTERCLOCKWISE around 180 degrees until the tube is facing North. If you've done this correctly, the scope is pointed North, the control panel is pointed West, and the fork arm with numbers on the declination scale is positioned directly above the control panel. Lock down the azimuth lever and move the entire tripod, if necessary to more accurately position the tube to North. Now, carefully level the scope. You now (allegedly) have the scope in the Home position. Meade tech support says that the leveling step is very important for proper (accurate) operation of the Autostar! Continue with the alignment procedures as instructed by the Autostar. Hint -- to accurately center the scope on one of the alignment stars you can defocus the star until the image fills the field of view -- it is now much easier to accurately center the scope on the star. I haven't fully tested this procedure -- clouds! I did simulate it on the kitchen table, and the scope does park correctly now. Hope this helps.
Subject: POLAR ALIGNMENT Sent: Sunday, February 14, 1999 18:37:02 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (PAUL B. PERLMUTTER) I received my etx-90/ec last tuesday and as luck would have it, it was cloudy that evening which gave me a chance to spend an evening studying the manuals which fall very short on documentatio. (Beginners will be very confused). The next evening was clear an to scope worked well(the noise was loud but not a problem for me)in the alt-az. Mode. Rahter than spend 100 bucks or so and wait for a wedge, i made my own out of some spare wood for about 5 bucks (mostly for hardware). I have and 8 inch meade s-c so i'm familiar with polar alignment but i couldn't get the etx to work at all in the polar mode. I didn't even come near the alignment star and seem to go wherever it want but not were it should. Very strange how it works in alt-az. Fairly well and not at all in the polar mode. Meade should also be ashamed for making this scope with the finder that is comes with and not the one they offer as an after thought. Any ideas on the polar mode. PAUL B. PERLMUTTER(email@example.com)
Just spent an hour out in the freezing cold with the scope. It was lots of fun. Aligned in alt-az, mode with one star alignment. Zipped to m's 35,36,37,38,42,45,81,82,44,and saturn. All this is outside of light polluted phila. I can't wait for a little warmer weather and a chance to go out to darker skies. I haven't been able to polar align the scope yet but with the way it is working in a-a mode, i don't really care about the polar mode.
Mike here: You can see Paul's Homemade Wedge on the Tech Tips page.
Subject: Autostar Problem Sent: Saturday, February 13, 1999 14:09:44 From: T1138HX@aol.com I'm having a strange problem with my new Autostar. I'm hoping it's just user error, and someone can enlighten me. Sorry for the long post, but I'm at a loss here . . . My Autostar will drive the ETX when I select a star or constellation, but if I select a solar system or deep sky object, the OTA doesn't move! I've tried two different Autostars and three ETX's with the same results. The ETX will slew to stars/constellations but not planets/deep sky. When it should be slewing to a planet/deep sky object, the Autostar display reads "slewing . . .", but the OTA doesn't move. All other functions are okay. The ETX by itself works great. No optical problems, standard handbox works great, Autostar used as a handbox controller to manually move the OTA works great. I've started from step 1 many times by resetting the Autostar and carefully following the setup instructions in the manual, but I get the same results every time. I even had the assistant manager at my local Nature Company store (where I purchased the ETX) to try it, and she got the same results! What am I missing? This is what I'm doing . . . 1. Connect the Autostar and then turn on ETX power. 2. Press 1 to select English. 3. Read Sun warning and press 5. Autostar tests motors. 4. Read Getting Started message and press ENTER to continue. 5. Enter date and time (I'm doing this procedure as I write--It's now 4:15 pm EST, Feb 13, 1999) and press ENTER. 6. Enter YES or NO (currently NO) for Daylight Savings Time. 7. Select location (Atlanta--I tried entering other locations, with no change in results). 8. Select scope model: ETX90/EC and press ENTER. 9. Train drive, both AZ and EL. (Several steps in this process. I followed the manual, used a distant, carefully-centered terrestrial object, and got seemingly good results.) 10. Go to SETUP, ALIGN menu. Select EASY. 11. Autostar asks for the scope to be placed in "home" position. (Rotate azimuth CCW until stop is reached, then rotate CW until the shorter fork arm is directly over the control panel. Then move entire scope to point OTA directly north.) 12. Press ENTER. Autostar displays "Searching . . .", selects Capella and slews to it. (I take it's word for it, since I'm doing this inside during daylight). 13. Press ENTER. Autostar displays "Searching . . .", selects Diphda and slews to it. 14. Press ENTER. Autostar displays "Calculating . . ." 15. Autostar displays "Align Successful" and starts tracking Diphda. (Note: Since I made no manual corrections to Autostar's slewing, it thought it was "dead on" those two stars, so of course the align was successful.) 16. Select OBJECT, STAR, NAMED and press ENTER. Autostar displays a list of named stars. 17. Select Deneb and press GO TO. Autostar displays "Slewing . . ., slews the OTA across the sky, stops at Deneb and begins tracking. The OTA actually moved. 18. Select OBJECT, SOLAR SYSTEM, VENUS (should be in the sky now because it's daylight) and press GO TO. (HERE'S WHERE THINGS GET WEIRD.) Autostar displays "Slewing . . . " but the motors STOP for a few seconds. Autostar then displays VENUS and the motors start tracking again. But the OTA *has not moved*! 19. Select OBJECT, CONSTELLATION, URSA MINOR and press GO TO. Autostar displays "Slewing . . ., slews the OTA across the sky, stops at URSA MINOR and begins tracking. The OTA actually moved. 20. Select OBJECT, DEEP SKY, NAMED OBJECTS, CRESCENT NEBULA and press GO TO. (THINGS GET WEIRD AGAIN.) Autostar displays "Slewing . . . " but the motors STOP for a few seconds. Autostar then displays CRESCENT NEBULA and the motors start tracking again. But the OTA *has not moved*! Is this operator error? A software bug? I called Meade and spoke with someone familiar with the Autostar, and he had no idea what's going on. Since I've tried two Autostars and three ETX's, it's got to be operator error or a serious production problem for Meade. Anyone have any ideas?
Someone on the Meade ETX Discussion Web Page suggested pressing ENTER before GOTO. This seems to work for my deep sky/solar system GOTO problem. Apparently, for stars/constellations you can just press GOTO, but for planets/deep sky, you MUST press ENTER first and *then* GOTO. Meade should fix this in their first software update. Or at least make it clearer in the manual. Thanks!
Subject: Focuser compatability Sent: Friday, February 12, 1999 14:37:18 From: Tetsuo912@aol.com Colette at Meade's dealer support tells me that the focuser will be able to be controlled through the Autostar controller. Of course, I guess we'll have to wait until the ship to be positive.
Subject: Autostar and focusing Sent: Friday, February 12, 1999 9:10:21 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dantin, Jim) I'm still waiting on my AutoStar to arrive, but the manual DOES have a reference to "Focus" on page 6 -- Pressing and holding the "Mode" key for 2 seconds enters a menu that has "Focus" as one of the entries. No more info about how you actually use that feature (instructions packed with the electric focuser?) The manual also tells you to go to the Meade web site for "complete instructions" on how to track satellites! Jim Dantin
Subject: ETX 90EC Sent: Friday, February 12, 1999 9:04:18 From: email@example.com (Johnathon Morgan) Just wanted to add my first experience with ETX-90EC. I've had my new ETX for about 2 weeks now and finally had an oppportunity to use it. Still waiting for the autostar to arrive. I set my ETX up and did a polar alignment using my compass and compensating for the grid to magnetic angle, as best as possible My impressions are that I liked the ETX-90EC better than my ETX. I felt that the optics were identical on both. My ETX 90EC's optics appeared no better or worse than my ETX. The difference was the electric hand controller. The ETX 90EC with the hand controller was so much easier to slew than the ETX using the hand knobs. Another thing that I liked was the noise the motor drive makes and the red LED light. While it does sound like the gears are grinding apart at least I knew the drive was engaged. Something I always wondered about with the ETX. After manually slewing the tube assembly the drive motor took up the slack within 1-2 seconds. There was a slight breeze last night and I felt that the Mead tripod/ETX 90EC combo was easily effected by the wind. I'm not sure of the solution to make the system a bit more stable. My first targets were Jupiter, in Orion Betelgeuse and M42 and in Ursa Major Mizar and Alcor. Mike
Subject: ETX-90/EC _DOES_ have declination stops!!! Sent: Friday, February 12, 1999 8:28:55 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Meade Daffron) The new ETX -- the ETX-90/EC -- DOES have rotational hard stops built into its declination axis! When you're rotating the tube upwards, they stop the tube a few millimeters short of allowing the finder bracket to contact the left fork arm. When rotating the tube downwards, they stop the front of the tube from contacting the RA base. It's a major improvement over the first-generation ETX, in my opinion, because I nearly dented the tube of my first-generation ETX against its drive base several times during my 13-month course of ownership. So either the folks that claim their new ETX-90/ECs don't have rotational stops just don't notice them (I will concede that they do stop the scope's rotation awfully close -- especially near the finder -- but they DO stop it from contacting) -- or they got bum scopes from Meade (which I'll concede isn't out of the realm of possibility either). Still enjoying the heck out of my new ETX -- and I don't even have the Almighty Autostar yet. BTW, Question for ya -- My birthday's coming up and I'm thinking about asking for some scope accessories. I want a few eyepieces, but the Meade Series 4000 Plossls are kind of expensive and they don't have much eye relief (especially the 26mm that comes with the scope --awful) for us eyeglass wearers. I used to have a couple of Edmund RKEs with my old 6-inch reflector. They have great eye-relief (you can hold your eye about an INCH away from the 28mm), they're wide-field, multi-coated, etc., and they're only $49 bucks a pop at Edmund Scientific. I can't find any reference to them on your site. Have you, or any fellow ETXers out there, tried 'em in your ETXs? Any comments? Thanx! Clear skies, Meade Daffron Richmond, VA (Note the changed e-mail address, if you keep records of that type of stuff)
Mike here: As to the Edmund eyepieces, I mention some of mine but only in passing in a review of the Expanding Bushing, which lets me use my old 0.965" Edmund Brandons.
Subject: New Etx Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 1999 16:33:28 From: email@example.com (Gary Hansen) Well I have seen the comment's etc on the new ETX and thought I would add my 2 cents worth.I had purchased a ETX about 5 months ago and was very happy with the optic's, however the small hand controls for RA and Dec were terrible. So when I saw the ad for the new one I had to have one. I have never had a scope with goto functions and prefer finding stuff myself and figured it might be fun to try. Also it would be easier to get at the hand controller for adjusting Ra and Dec. After several night's of using the new ETX and Autostar I have nothing but praise for the new system! Alignment promblems? I havent had any, Shakes with the new motor drive obvious in the eyepiece? I don't see any. It does take bit of time to figure out, you must train the scope before using etc and the manual isn't the best with the AutoStar but once you figure it out, it's simple and there's lots of great info included in the Autostar menu's on objects etc. Overall I think it's a KEWL scope... Mine works very well.... Gary
Subject: Electronic focuser for EC/90 Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 1999 15:51:41 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Doug Rainey) I just received the Autostar computer and noticed the manual mentions nothing about interfacing with the focuser. Have you heard anything about whether or not it will support this feature or is it only on the standard controller???
Mike here: All I know is what I read on the ETX-90/EC Accessories listing:
#1244 Electric Focuser
Focuser can be run off of the ETX-90/EC hand control
Subject: Autostar Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 1999 5:52:07 From: email@example.com (Dick Walters) Although I haven't received my Autostar yet, Meade told me the way to align RA is to turn the base full clockwise to the mechanical stop then back till the main dec scale (one with numbers) is over the power switch of the control panel. This is supposed to be home position for both Az/el and computer use. As for the hard stops in elevation travel to keep the base from hitting the tube or viewfinder, forget it. Not there. The motors will scream, but there's a clutch and it won't hurt anything according to Meade. The scope does use encoders and that's what the startup routine is for (the scope slewing off position when you first start it), to align them. Dick Walters
Subject: EC/90 and AutoStar Operation Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 1999 22:33:41 From: EbyT@aol.com AutoStar arrived today and luckily the sky was clear enough tonite to put it thru its paces. I mounted the ETX on a Bogen tripod, powered up, enetered date and time then ran thru the simple Alt Az motor drive training calibration on a distant land based light. Next ran thru the "home" procedure (set ETX to approximately 0 degrees dec, turned the RA CCW to the rotational stop then back again CW a bit so the small fork lines up with the control panel); then adjust tripod to point scope toward North polestar. According to instructions, I then used the AutoStar to tweak the DEC to read 0 degrees, and energized the RA motors briefly prior to doing the "Easy Align" function, which worked like a charm. It calculated Sirius as the initial alignment star, automatically slewed to it and finished with the big star well within the 1 degree field of the 26mm eyepiece. Used slo-mo's to center it, then hit ENTER. Next it selected Dubhe in Ursa Major as the 2nd star, and repeated the process. That's it, all aligned. Then select any object, ENTER them and "GO TO". I punched in Saturn, M42, M1 Crab Nebula (looked pretty good in this little scope!), Pleiades and a number of stars in different parts of the sky - all objects fell well within the 26mm's field. Had a lot of fun and was impressed by the accuracy even though the scope probably wasn't leveled perfectly and the motor drive training was quick and dirty. Manual states the initial drive training is very important to do accurately and directly affects subsequent operational precision. Found that the Alt Az tracking was very good, "grabbed" right away when slewing finished, and drive kept objects in view for longer than I wanted to look at them. Was some minor DEC drift, which may have been due to inexact alignment or motor training. Scope has a busy little sound to it with both engines running vs. RA tracking alone in the polar mode. When GOing TO an object, the scope may slew around the long way depending on its last position, to avoid the RA rotational stop. My scope doesen't seem to have a DEC axis stop as indicated in the manual, however, this is no big deal since the AutoStar will not drive the scope to an object below the horizon anyway, it just issues a "below horizon" warning. AutoStar is quite nice, makes this little package come to life! Fits the hand well, easy to read display and all keys are backlit with red-orange light. Brightness and contrast of display is adjustable. Comes with a good manual, but most instructions and procedures scroll across the display; essentially the manual is unnecessary once you get the hang of the menu architecture. I got stuck once when a "Motor Unit Failure" error came up repeatedly during my first alignment attempts. Scrolling message said to check for low batteries, obstructions, or simply reset the encoders using the "Reset" function. Resetting did the trick. Lots of other functions available and has some nice utilities such as a timer, alarm, eyepiece field calculator, etc. NGC, Messier, IC and myriad other objects available, just punch in the one you want. All in all, the first nite was a success! Definitely a fun system.
Subject: ETX-90/AutoStar Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 1999 21:57:44 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Craig) I just came in from using the new ETX-90 with the AutoStar controller. I wanted to share my insights with others while it's fresh in my mind. MY SETUP PROCEDURE: 1. Placed the ETX-90 on a flat table (my Work Mate) and pointed the scope manually at the North Star and locked the R.A. My thinking was that I would get very close to perfect North. 2. Manually I leveled the tube a locked the DEC. My thought is that having the base level wouldn't be a bad idea to improve pointing accuracy. 3. Powered up the scope and entered the date and time. I had previously entered in my location. I don't understand way Meade didn't add a small coin battery to keep the time and date. 4. Entered the Easy Align Mode and Sirius was the object of the ETX-90 desire and it took off to the South in hot pursuit and placed Sirius within the field of view in the finder. I hate the standard finder. I have thick glasses and can't get in close enough to get a good view. Besides, it's in a poor location. I would recommend the Quick Finder by Rigel Systems because of its easy to use position mounted 4" above the tube. 5. Without touching the scope I used direction buttons on the hand controller to move Sirius into the cross hair in the finder. I recommend that users align their finder during the day to help with aiming the scope on an object at night. Since using the buttons to move the scope is easy it's a lot easier to center an object in the main eyepiece if the finder is aligned. Moving around the sky with motors and not knowing what way to the object while looking through the main eyepiece is frustrating. Also note what way the object moves in the finder field of view relative to what button you press. It maybe different then what you see in the main eyepiece. 6. Centered Sirius and focused the scope. I know from being a LX200 owner that centering the object with higher power improves the pointing accuracy. The ENTER button was pushed and the second star (I can't remember its name) in the N.E. was displayed on the hand controller. After pressing the ENTER button the scope slewed to the star. 7. Centered the second star a pressed ENTER. I twice before pressed the MODE button by mistake instead of the UP button. I had to start over twice. 8. Selected M-44 and pressed the GOTO button and the scope. The scope slewed to the open Star Cluster. It wasn't in the main eyepiece field of view. Instead of trying to center the object I decided to slew over to M-42 in Orion. It also wasn't in the field of view. Looking through the finder I spotted it off center by a small amount. I centered the object by pressing the direction keys on the controller. I studied M-42 for a couple of minutes and then pressed a held the ENTER button for 3 seconds to enter the Sync Mode. ENTER was selected again to Sync M-42. 9. Next was the star Castor. It wasn't in the field of view ether. Looking through the finder revealed that it was off by the same amount as M-42. Maybe all the objects would be off by the same amount. Knowing that it might be the same every time might mean that the same centering buttons could be pressed every time a new object is selected. My thought is that better setup procedures could help pointing accuracy's. 10. Selected M-45 which was close by, but the scope took the long way around. It was off by about the same amount. I centered M-45 and selected M-42 again. The scope slewed into it's built-in stop and I had to shut down the scope. I was cold and called it a night. More results in the future. LASTING THOUGHTS: I think leveling and accurate high power centering will be a must for best results. It might be possible that each user/owner will have to get use to their scope, because each one will it's own personality. My concern is that "Newbies" and "Vet's" to this hobby might be frustrated with results like listed above and be turned off by the GOTO promise. It's one thing to not being able to find and object manually in non-GOTO scopes. How will close by no cigar when expecting GOTO to over 12,000 objects leave them feeling? I encourage all owners and users to learn how to get the most out of their GOTO ETX-90. This is only going to come with practice and patience. For owners of the ETX-90 who don't have the AutoStar controller yet, maybe practice with the standard controller will help you get use to your scope. Thanks for this Forum Sincerely, Barry A. Craig (clear Night Products) 248-547-2315
Subject: ETX with Autostar, Verdict not in... Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 1999 7:08:20 From: Michael_P._Lingenfelter@oa.eop.gov I've been out a couple of times now with the ETX and Autostar, and so far I'm underwhelmed. I've done a good polar alignment, then tried a two star alignment. Usually I get "alignment failed." In the cases when the alignment was successful, I would choose another object, press "go to," and the ETX would certainly go, but not quite where I expected. And sometimes, it chooses, shall we say, "interesting" slewing directions. For instance, while aimed at Betelgeuse, I pressed "go to" for Sirius. This should be a very short slew. But, the scope slewed clockwise, thus requiring nearly a full rotation to get to Sirius - which it didn't actually end up anywhere near. Now for a question. I'm using the Meade ETX field tripod and after several frustrating hours last evening, I decided that, having tried everything else, perhaps I should check the accuracy of the bubble level on the tripod. I removed the ETX and placed the tripod head at 90 degrees. Then I adjusted the tripod until the bubble was centered. Next, I placed my own level on the tripod head and there was a discrepancy. So, I tried another level, still off. I leveled the tripod using my own levels and when I looked at the bubble, it was off center, with a portion of the bubble outside the little red circle. I popped the level out and set up my own levels, like a plus sign +, one on top the other, both with bubbles centered. I placed the bubble level from the tripod in the center of the + sign, and the bubble was off center. The question - how much would this effect my polar alignment. It doesn't seem like much, on the ground, but I have to think that the discrepancy would multiply with magnification and distance. Anybody have any thoughts? If it's clear tonight, and it looks like it will be, I'll try aligning the ETX after leveling the tripod using my own levels. I'll let you know what happens. If this fails, I may consider returning the autostar, and probably the 90/EC as well. I may go back to the "classic" ETX, or I may even consider something entirely different. Perhaps something with no motor, but more aperture, because it's damn frustrating spending a perfectly clear night fiddling with a gadget, while the stars wheel overhead. Michael
Mike here: As to the exactness of the tripod leveling, it can make a difference but exactly how much depends upon the amount and direction it is off and then where you are pointing the ETX. The idea is to get the ETX's RA rotational axis exactly parallel to the earth's rotation axis. Usually, with portable telescopes the polar alignment is only approximate so any misorientation of the axis can compound errors. But I suspect that the approximation done when polar aligning would far outweigh any minor leveling errors.
Subject: ETX-90 Focus Sent: Sunday, February 7, 1999 22:41:31 From: email@example.com (Jeff Adair) I've had my ETX-90 for about a week. The first few times I had it out and looked at the moon and Orion Nebula. This weekend I did some terrestrial observing, and noticed I couldn't get to focus very well. The only thing I've done to it is add the Orion EZ Finder with 2 sided tape. Is there some tests I can do to determine what the focus problem is? Thanks, Jeff
Subject: etx/ec Sent: Sunday, February 7, 1999 19:41:11 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Welch) I'm John Welch of Phoenix, AZ. As a former employee of the Astronomy Shoppe and still reviewing and repairing scopes for same, I thought I would put my two cents worth in about the new ETX/EC. I've tested and repaired approximately thirty original ETX's and found them to be wonderful scopes with the indiginous weak points (drive, finder, mounting) adequately reviewed in your neat site. The EC removes most of the frustrations! After initializing there is little to no need to use the finder scope. The shakes are minimized by using the scope in alt/az. I built a flat-plate mount that prevents vibration transfers. I found the plastic base plate is not perfectly flat but only requires a simple shim to remove the "teeters" when used on the new Meade deluxe tripod The only programming flaw I found was the inability to call up negative dec. positions with the scope still located in the north and vise versa. Slewing the scope to the area (north or south) and then entering the dec. position solved the glitch for now. I called Meade and they promised a cure (new chip or 'flash' over the net) in the near future. All other menus and submenus worked to perfection! All six alignment methods are simple and are just as accurate as the LX200. As always, the scope is textbook perfect optically and has nearly undetectable image shift. Thx, John
Subject: ETX-90/EC Sent: Sunday, February 7, 1999 18:38:31 From: dschmitz@ONRAMP.NET (DAN SCHMITZ) First of all thanks for this site, it made all the differance in the world when it came to buying the ETX. Picked up the new EC today, 2X barlow and a 9.7 eyepiece. Out of the box RA had too much catchup, 3/4 of a second at hi speed,,12 to 15 at low. Back to the Dealer. They were kind enough to let me plow through 8 or 10 scopes. It became obvious the first scope was an abboration, the others had varying degrees of catchup problems but only detectable at the lowest speeds and only for an instant on either axis. Also noise varied between scopes, none were too loud, of course I've never heard an LX for comparison but I surley wouln't be embaresd to spark it up among friends. Did notice several with what appeared to be alot of dust and contamination on the primary mirror. Being a newbie with only memories of a cheap 60mm refractor to relate to I was truley amazed. Couldn't wait till nightfall, terrestrial time. 100yrds 26mm EP across the parking lot to the balcony of Apt 1102, (I didn't know she had blues eyes) reading a book "Applied Marketing Principles"..WOW! Nightfall, the Orian Nebula, supposed to be around here somewhere, boy these slow motion controls beat the jittery manual ones I've played with before,, POW! There it is, not the fuzzy blob I remembered but clear contrasts,,the 4 stars in the center needlepoint clear, but this shouldn't be possible in a light polluted parking lot in the middle of the Dallas Ft Worth Metroplex!! Well its time to go shopping for a rock solid mount and a Doskill hard case because July brings the family reunion in dark sky Nebraska! . ETX-90/EC,,, THUMBS UP!
Subject: Autostar Sent: Sunday, February 7, 1999 13:45:12 From: email@example.com (Peter Thorpe) Mike, Thank you for your vital service to the ETX community. Got my AutoStar This Friday (2-5). I am looking forward to comments from others as there are some issues with this initial version (V 1.0) of the software. My comments below are intended to seek advice from other AutoStar users ... not as a product review ... based primarily on indoor use/testing as the clouds have allowed only a brief outdoor test here in Minneapolis. 1) My main problem centers around the "Home" position. Page 7 of the manual does not say which fork arm is to be centered over the control panel. However the LCD instructions indicate the smaller fork is to be centered ... does this mean on the first pass or after one revolution? Is the intent to find the middle of the total range (630deg)? Does the correct "Home" position for polar mount put the finder above or below the tube? No instruction on this in the manual as the LCD would have you think. Is there a different "Home" for Alt/Az verses Polar? 2) Next most bothersome problem is possibly related to #1. After initial set up the GOTO button seems to work well, however, eventually the scope "picks" a GOTO direction that forces it against one of the horizontal limit stops instantly causing a loss of alignment. Is this related to incorrect "Home" or possibly a software issue? The software does not seem to know where the horizontal limit stops are. 3) The motors worked well in the Alt/Az mode out of the box. When I tried the Polar mode the East direction would not engage. This turned out to be a slipping clutch. I adjusted the horizontal lock by removing the silver lever and turning the nut a quarter turn tighter. This allowed the lever to fully engage the clutch when in the lock position. 4) When doing a GOTO on a Solar System Object (planets and moon) you must first press ENTER. A computation is made and then you can press GOTO. On all other objects pressing GOTO will work. 5) Use of the SYNC mode causes loss of alignment ... must be a software glitch? 6) The Easy Align mode finds it's first star with very good accuracy ... make sure the correct time, date and location are entered though! 7) In Easy Align mode it is possible to keep making another selection to find a visible star, but upon reaching the end of the list you can not advance or go back to any other star ... you are just stuck at the end of the list. 8) Has anyone got the pin-out for the RS232 port? 9) Does the ETX/EC use encoders? If not, how does it know where it is? 10) When doing a polar "one star alignment" the tube went into a rotation that stopped only when it hit the horizontal limit stop. The vertical motor did not run at all. 11) Had a problem with GOTO on Jupiter (Saturn & moon worked good). The motors would slew to the general area and begin to slow down as usual and fine tune ... only to pause for half a second and take off in a direction that would require a 360 deg rotation from where it was already on Jupiter. 12) My original ETX was very spoiled with red dot finder, NGC encoders and MicroStar 1 and I still went for the upgrade, hope that's what it turns out to be. CCD is next. 13) I like the sound of the motors ... makes it sound like the "Mighty ETX" ... lol 14) Any one want to start a Minneapolis ETX users group? There might even be six of us. That better be all for now. Thanks again for the great site Mike! firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: methods of alignment? Sent: Sunday, February 7, 1999 13:17:47 From: MeteorMik@aol.com I just picked up the new ETX 90/EC and it seems to me the table top set-up they mention as an accessory is just the same legs that came with the old one except you use the rear hole instead of the middle one which had been removed. Also, I purchased the Computer hand controller as well but find the instruction manual to be minimal at best. Can anybody enlighten me as to these various methods of alignment they mention as far as how they are performed. The only one they describe is the simple az method. By the way, I held on to my original ETX because the optics are terrific and I also like the idea that I don't need batteries if the weather is very cold and the batteries can die. Thanks, Meteormik @ aol.com P.S. Mike, this is one of the most enjoyable sites I visit on the internet. Keep up the good work. Will you be moving to the newer version or staying with the old one?
Mike here: For now, I expect to continue to use the older model. Lets me eval all the add-ons explicitly for it (there are a lot of older models out there).
Subject: new ETX vibrations Sent: Saturday, February 6, 1999 7:09:06 From: email@example.com (Dean) I am waiting for the second ETX to arrive! The first one has some problems that I can not live with. I would like to hear if any one else has anything like this or could it just be that I am expecting to much? The noise and vibrations are much more than I expected. The tracking motor sounds like a "grinding can opener" and can be heard from a considerable distance. The vibrations make this one unusable in the tracking mode! After a few moments the "harmonics" actually get internal parts to start rattling! While trying to focus on saturn, I had to turn off the tracking motor to get a clear view. My wife picked up on this first off, and had only looked through the ETX 'classic' once. I have the scope mounted to the meade field tripod and feel that some of the vibrations come from the "soft" feel" of the mounting system. Also, the locking mechanisms still alow the scope to move. I can only describe this as a spongy feel. The electric focuser will help with viewer induced vibrations, but what about the tracking motor and the spongy mount? I hope this new one is smoother or I may consider going back to the Classic ETX which felt much more solid. Is it just me? Dean
Subject: New ETX and Autostar Sent: Thursday, February 4, 1999 14:13:32 From: HellMet1@aol.com I now have the new ETX and Autostar. Picked up the Autostar on Tuesday 2/2/99 from Clairmont Camera in So. Cal. The Autostar manual refers to models DS-60 and DS-70 etc. as being compatible with the Autostar system (of which there seems to several different models). The ETX must be trained before you can use the goto system which involves sighting a land based object and then re-centering it after the scope slews away, both R.A. and DEC motors. Date and time must also be entered at each power up. The Autostar does have sleep and park modes. Have not had time to fully test the computer yet, maybe tonite. Great site. Thanks, Scott
Subject: New ETX-90/EC... mine was defective Sent: Wednesday, February 3, 1999 18:12:59 From: Kavorka6@aol.com I had to return my ETX-90/EC scope and electronic controller for replacement. Sometimes when turning on the ETX, the slew speeds do not function correctly in the declination axis. In the fast speed, the declination axis would stop (not slip) every 15 degrees. And in the lower speeds the drive would operate either at fast speed or jump back and forth between fast speed and the lower speed. Also, the instruction manual talks about rotational limit stops to keep the optical tube from running into the drive base, or the viewfinder from running into the left fork arm. I could not detect any sort of limit stop (either hard or electronic) on this scope. The tube came right down to the base if I moved it manually or with the electronic controller. Maybe some other users can comment on how these limit stops operate on their scopes. I will let you know how the replacement scope functions when I receive it. I hope that this is not a general bug that will plague a bunch of the first production units. Still waiting for an ETX-90/EC that works right. ;o( Todd Larson (And wouldn't you know I forgot to take my batteries out before I shipped it back to the dealer!! LOL)
Subject: New ETX Sent: Tuesday, February 2, 1999 12:22:43 From: X2MSPRIN@southernco.com (Springfield, Michael R.) I received my new ETX on Monday, Feb 1. I am fortunate that I still have my old ETX, that I am trying to sell, as well so I can do some side by side testing. I unboxed it and immediately inspected it. QA seemed very good. The new base seems to be the major update. I haven't actually tried it but it looks like the optical tubes be a direct swap looking at them side by side. The optical coatings on the new one seems to be a much deeper, richer purple. I inspected 5 scopes in my local Service Merchandise store before I purchased my first ETX. Since it has been raining for several days here I have not had a chance to do some side by side star testing to confirm the better optics that the new one appears to have. My base seemed to be sturdy enough even though, as everyone has pointed out, is plastic. It mounted really well on my #883 field tripod. No problems there. I now have my old ETX mounted on a heavy duty Bogen photo tripod and ready for a side by side test. I do not have an Autostar yet and am told by my dealer that they would be in and available in about 2 weeks. Last I heard the electric focuser would not be available until June. I am hoping for a break in the clouds tonight for some head to head testing and will email you the results when they are in. For anyone interested in seeing some CCD images taken through the ETX check out Daryl Powell's web page at http://www.mindspring.com/~dgpow. On another note the Meade dealer that I have the Autostar on order with indicated that Meade is getting ready to release several more telescopes that you can plug your Autostar directly into. He would not go into anymore details than that so look for a more stuff real soon.
Subject: ETX-90/EC: A thorough look Sent: Tuesday, February 2, 1999 10:11:46 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Meade Daffron) Hello from a fellow ETX owner who's made a comment or two on your site since my first ETX purchase in December 1997. I'm surprised Meade hasn't sent you a new ETX-90/EC gratis, in exchange for the sales benefits they surely reap from your site's existence. I'd like to know how many people decided to purchase an ETX after visiting your site. I did! I am now the proud owner of a new ETX-90/EC, and although I know you're getting tons of "first light" reports, I'd like to make one as a former ETX owner who spent many hours at the eyepiece with the first one, and who took his new /EC out to a dark-sky site in the country over the weekend. (Brrrr!) First things first though: I had to return my first /EC. QC was horrible! The first one had the following problems: (A) Collimation so far out of whack that the entire image had a blurry border and the moon was egg-shaped anywhere in the field but dead-center. (B) Eyepiece thumbscrew was so loose in its hole (wrong drill bit, Meade?) that I could rock it from side to side quite a bit, and it stripped its own threads the first time I used it! (C) The finder was covered in a light oil. (D) One of the four LEDs on the hand controller was dead. All this and a wonderful "QC Passed" sticker on the scope and controller. "QC Passed" by whom? Helen Keller? So I exchanged it. The second one was all the difference in the world. No problems at all. (Still wondering about that first one -- lordy!) Anyway, here's a brief review of my impressions both at home and in the field: -- Focusing image shift is virtually GONE from the new /EC. This is wonderful! I'm surprised no one else has praised this little improvement. No more watching your image sway back and forth across the field as you focus! -- Yes, RA and Dec movement is much improved. Very smooth. I was concerned that mine felt a little stiff even with the RA lock unlocked, but the drive works fine. No noticeable rocking of the mount on its base either. -- As others have mentioned, there is quite a bit of "catch up" to be done by the drive after you make an RA adjustment with the hand controller. But all you have to do is take up the backlash by moving east at a slow speed. Once you've taken up the backlash, the drive starts tracking immediately. -- Ditto on the loud motors. In the fastest slew speed, my /EC sounds like my autofocus 35mm camera rewinding, amplified two or three times. (Sorry, but I seem to be one of the few who don't have an LX200 to compare it to :-) ). And there's no way to describe the clock drive's sound other than it's unique and humorous to listen to. Yeah, "coffee grinder" or "can opener" may describe the slew speed -- but "DISHWASHER" is about as close as I can come to the drive noise! BTW, do we all hang out in the kitchen way, WAY too much?! -- Despite what others may have said, the new /EC fits fine on the "old" ETX tripod. And yes, the base plate is plastic -- but the two tripod mounting holes are reminiscent of the holes for the portable legs -- the mounting screws go through the plastic and into what appear to be brass sockets anchored inside the mount. This scope does seem to jiggle a little more than the old one when it's on the tripod and you're focusing, though. -- My Dec motor will slip a little when slewing if I don't have the Dec lock screwed down good and tight. -- The RA lock is still in an awkward place; maybe that's unavoidable, but at least you only have to work ONE finger in there now. Before you had to get your whole hand in there to twist the little knob; now all you've got to do is poke a finger in there and slide a recessed lever. We'll call that an improvement. -- Like two other owners whose posts I've read here, I've found my electronic controller doing unexpected things on one occasion: All of a sudden, the RA stopped slewing after a movement of exactly one hour in Right Ascension -- even though I was still pressing the button. I repeated this several times to prove I hadn't just found a "dead point" in the button. I even went so far as to set my RA circle and measure the movement, finding it to be exactly one hour. I finally cleared it by turning the scope off and back on again. Like your other posts noted, I suspect I inadvertently entered a key sequence that caused an unpublished mode change. Hmmm -- can't wait till all the new owners start experimenting with these things and find all the "secret" features... ! -- A comforting word to those who are worried about the "telephone jack" plug -- I'm also an amateur radio ("ham") operator, and they've been using the exact same plugs on mobile radio microphones -- in place of the old, hardy screw-on metal connectors -- for several years. I have two radios with those cords and even in all the stretching, twisting, etc., of a mobile environment, both have yet to fail me. Besides -- those plugs are designed to take the full pull of a 13-year-old teenager on a 25-foot cord, stretched to its limit across the kitchen, slammed in a doorway! I'm not worried about mine! Hey Mike, thanks again for a great site. Sorry about the long post; but I felt I could offer some first-hand experience after more than just an out-of-the-box review. And BTW, I don't regret having owned the original ETX. It provided many hours of excellent stargazing both at home, in the mountains, and at the beach. The new one is a buncha fun though! Clear skies, Meade Daffron (Hey, just a coincidence! It's a family name) Richmond, VA E-mail: email@example.com
Subj: An Early Review of the Meade ETX-90/EC Date: Tuesday, February 2, 1999 8:14:23 From: firstname.lastname@example.org At the request of Mike, I am providing a quick summary of the new Meade ETX-90/EC Maksutov Cassegrain telescope from Meade. Before I provide specifics of my review, allow me to qualify my observations. First, I am not a professional reviewer. I am a relatively newcomer to Astronomy. But, I occupy the interesting position of having owned both versions of the ETX within a very short period of time; consequently, I can provide a comparative review of the two instruments. The first noticeable difference between the new ETX and the previous version is that Meade no longer includes the table legs for polar aligning the telescope on your favorite backyard table. The shipping box has the empty cavity where they were once located with the previous ETX. As a result, be prepared to spend about $28 for the legs. Or, if preferred, the Meade ETX field tripod can be obtained for about $175. Note also that the new design of the battery compartment eliminates the ETX's ability to accommodate a center screw for a normal camera tripod. If you want to polar align the scope, you need the ETX tripod, the three table legs, or an adapter to fit a camera tripod. The major enhancement to the new telescope is the inclusion of the dual-axis drive system. A compact hand controller allows the user to select between four slewing speeds, the fastest being 5 degrees per second. The slowest speed is 8X sidereal (0.034 degrees per second). The axis drive motors are a little noisy, not quite as loud as a Meade LX-200. The ETX is controlled using a compact hand controller. It controls the slewing speed, choice of alignment mode, and if obtained, the auto-focuser (about $120). The feel of the hand controller is very good. The pads are big and "chunky," certainly large enough to feel through gloves for winter-time observers. The hand controller can be configured to default automatically to either polar aligned or altazimuth mode. And, if polar alignment is the default, the ETX can default to either northern or southern hemisphere viewing. The defaults are obtained by removing one or two tiny screws in the hand controller unit, a design that could easily be improved, in my opinion. Another welcome addition would be an improved method of informing the user as to the current or desired operating mode. For example, the ETX will inform you that you have put the scope into northern hemisphere mode by a pattern of blinking lights. If you want to change modes, be prepared to either memorize the different patterns of blinking lights or take the manual with you. Note to Meade, LEDs are cheap please use them. The hand controller also allows the user to increase or decrease the speed of the automatic tracking speed, up to +\- 65% of sidereal rate. The hand controller connects to the ETX base by means of a plug-in clip, much like a wide telephone jack. The connection is secure, and is typical of the types of connections that Meade builds into its telescopes. With the addition of the two drive motors, Meade also re-designed the method for "locking" the telescope's right ascension and declination. Both RA and DEC must be locked in order for the axis drives to engage. The previous version of the ETX had two little hand knobs that were used to control RA and DEC movement. They were the same size as the knob currently used to focus the telescope, and were a little too small for their intended purpose. The RA knob on the previous ETX always felt a little like it was going to fall off. The declination (vertical) lock is now a large wheel located on the fork mount at the hub of the scope. It's big, comfortable and easy to use. The RA (horizontal) is now a recessed lever in the ETX's base. Two comments on the lever design. First, for anyone with gloves or large fingers, it may be a bit tough to reach or manipulate. And, if the telescope is pointed perpendicular to the base, the lever is essentially out of reach. The second comment is that, if you put a large eyepiece on the ETX (e.g. 12mm Televue Nagler) and a 2X barlow, be prepared to give the lever a pretty hard push in order to engage the drive motor. Pushing it across half way will not completely engage the axis drive. The user must push the lever hard to the left to fully engage the drive. But, a call to Meade has confirmed that the ETX is designed to handle the hard push, and the user cannot damage the scope by pushing the lever too hard to engage the drive. But, the locks should always be left unengaged when not using the telescope. Instead of 3 batteries, 8 are now needed to power the ETX. The battery compartment is accessed similarly to accessing batteries in a child's toy - by removing a thin, plastic compartment cover. It is much easier to access than the previous ETX which required removing screws and then removing the entire base cover. Although the new design is somewhat more flimsy, it is in a low-risk location. A 12-volt AC adapter is available from Meade for about $40. The base also has two auxiliary inputs for options such as the auto focuser and computer software, the latter of which may be used to control the ETX's movement. The Autostar for the ETX has not shipped as of this writing, but is expected to be at retailers by mid-February, 1999. For about $150, it will provide GOTO capabilities to a database of 12,000+ objects, including 50 earth-orbiting satellites. Precise sidereal tracking can be obtained in either equatorial or altazimuth modes. Some things have not changed with the new ETX. Leading the positive side is the excellent optical performance of the ETX. A 26mm Super Plossl eyepiece comes standard and provides about 48X magnification with the scope's 1250mm focal length. Both versions of the scope were received perfectly collimated, producing nicely formed airy discs. An 8x21mm view finder is mounted just to the left of the eyepiece and is arguably one of the biggest detractors of the ETX. I find it remarkable that Meade produces a fine telescope that offers equatorial tracking as one of its primary benefits, but that at the same time is extremely difficult to align because the viewfinder cannot be used when the telescope is tilted for polar alignment. The viewfinder becomes completed shielded from use by the base of the telescope. However, many options are available to overcome this deficiency. Bottom line, the new ETX is a terrific telescope. It's portability, optical quality, versatility and technological capabilities combine to offer an astronomical package that is hard to beat for the $595 retail price. Some will find it an excellent entry level telescope. Others folks will purchase the scope, add the Autostar, program in M42, take one look through the ETX and decide that they have the scope of a lifetime. Don in Dallas
Subject: Another ETX/90 First Night Sent: Sunday, January 31, 1999 22:58:46 From: email@example.com (Jeff Adair) After MUCH research, analysis and contemplation I finally decided to make my first scope purchase an ETX. And since I procrastinated long enough, I was able to get the ETX/90! Since this is my first scope and I'm really new to astronomy, I just set it up and decided to check out the full moon. I had a little trouble getting the scope attached to the Meade tripod...the screw slots on the tripod seemed to have a little too much coating and the bolts didn't fit very well. I went ahead and got it put together, but think I'm going to investigate the wedgepods I've read about on your site. With the accessory tray in place, you can't seem to collapse the tripod, unless I'm missing something. Kind of detracts from the portability. The only other thing I noticed was some excess lubricant on the outside of the scope itself...I'm assuming that's no big deal. I did an initial finderscope alignment before dark, but need to fine tune it. The position of the bottom thumbscrews on the finderscope made it a little troublesome, but not bad. I didn't bother Polar aligning as from my location I couldn't readily see Polaris. I scanned your New User area and found some tips on Polar aligning so will try that at a later date. I set up the scope on my deck as soon as the Moon cleared the trees. With such an easy target I was able to focus in with the 26mm included eyepiece and the 2x Barlow I purchased with the scope. I used the hand controller to keep the Moon in view and to scan the skies. The motor does seem fairly loud, as I've read in other posts. It's not so much the fast slewing speed noise that's annoying, but the slow speed with the drives locked in. Unless I'm doing something wrong, they sound like a variable speed drill spinning very slow, and the motion doesn't seem as smooth as I'd expected. it certainly doesn't seem smooth enough for a photograph. Another point I'd read in other folks' reviews was the "feature" of the drives engaging and moving slightly when you turn on the motor. This was troublesome when I had the Moon in view and turned off the motor to keep a steadier image. When powered on, the scope moved substantially enough to require another look through the finderscope to re-acquire. A way to override this would be great. My second night out I got bold and tried to find the Orion Nebula. I'm pretty sure I got it, but not entirely. I haven't Polar aligned yet, so I just eyeballed the "sword" part of Orion and the middle star. In the scope there appeared to be a hazy white cloud around a bright star, with 2 much smaller stars very close (I think part of the Trapezium?). Sound like it? Even if not, I was pretty jazzed. Even woke the wife up and made her come out and look:) Sorry for the long winded narrative. Your site was extremely helpful in getting me up to speed enough to make a purchase. I'm looking forward to learning much more about this great endeavor. Thanks, Jeff
Subject: New ETX in hand! Woo Hoo! Sent: Friday, January 29, 1999 14:02:10 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter A. Vogel) Based on a conversation with the manager of my local Nature Company, where I had bought my ETX on Jan 3, I walked into the store yesterday afternoon with old ETX in hand and told the floor supervisor what I wanted to do and what the manager had said. He did a quick inspection of the old ETX to make sure nothing was damaged (it wasn't) and mentioned that I was lucky I had spoken to the manager last week, since a memo from Nature Co. HQ had gone out early this week regarding returns of old ETX for new ETX and the policy is not as nice anymore. Just to show my appreciation for the store, I forked over the $190 for the #883 deluxe field tripod :-) We actually had a pretty clear night last night, so I eagerly got the thing home, stopping at the local walgreens along the way to pick up an 8-pack of AA batteries. Set up: Definitely looks like the mounting between the optical tube and the forks has changed, there appears to be some beefy plastic mounting system mounted to the optical tube, that system then mounts to the fork. So I can see why there is an upgrade path problem, though I suspect the tube could be reused to produce an upgrade. The base has 3 modular connections, one (8 wire) goes to the hand box (either the EC that comes with the scope or the AutoStar computer) the other two (phone handset size) are for auxillary accessories, the only known aux accessory is the moto-focus (#1244) but the manual suggests that other accessories will be added. I'll echo the comments from others that have indicated that the new plastic bottom does not seem as "robust" as the old metal one. Especially noticable when the scope is mounted to the tripod and the latitude adjustment is dialed into the tripod. I think it is entirely cosmetic though, since the tripod bolts go into what appears to be a fairly strong assembly deep in the base. Power up the scope, push a key on the keypad, and the DEC and RA motors kick in briefly to let you know that it is alive and ready to be commanded. As shipped, when you power on the scope, it starts in Alt/Az mode, you then need to hold down the MODE key on the keypad for a few seconds to enter the "mode setting mode :-)" from which you can cycle through polar (S), polar (N) or Alt/Az. mode by pressing the SPEED key. Once you set polar mode, you know it, because you hear the RA motor begin to churn. From a polar mode, you can alter the tracking rate up to +-64% of sidereal rate by pressing the focus IN/OUT buttons on the hand contoller, each press of IN adds 0.5%, each press of OUT subtracts 0.5% (caution, I may have the direction of button pressing wrong, I don't have the manual in front of me) so it will take 128 presses to get to the full 64% rate alteration. The manual provides some guidance regarding what rates are necessary for the moon, and other non-sidereal objects one might choose to view. I'd personally like to see the back of the hand controller contain a short mode guide to explain setting the sidereal mode and speed, but that's easily accomplished with a laser printer and an Avery label set :-) There are two "mode screws" on the back of the hand controller remove one and the system will default to Polar (N) mode, remove the other instead and the system defaults to Polar (S) mode. Regardless, all modes are accessible from the procedure mentioned above. First light: First off, align the finder scope. Fortunately, there is a tall tower in the Great America Theme Park nearby that has a nice, bright light at the top. I got that centered in the main scope (the electronic controls were GREAT for this, much easier, lower vibration, than with the hand controls on the old ETX. Then messed with the set screws for the finderscope until the tower's light was centered in the crosshairs. Now to view some celestial objects... I'm in a pretty damn light polluted area (the Silicon Valley floor) so I'm limited in what I can view, so I started with the objects I knew best from the old ETX: Jupiter and Saturn. Cranked in full speed on the hand controller and slewed around to rough in the location of Jupiter. Dropped to moderate speed (32X sidereal) and got Jupiter centered in the crosshairs. Back to the scope and there he is! A little focusing (LOTS of vibration, maybe my hands aren't steady or something, but I'll tell you right now, the #1244 focusser is at the top of my purchase list!) and he's looking good! For the real test, I added in the 2X barlow (the only EP accessory I've got) to get a 96X view. On my old ETX, if I got Jupiter centered with the SP26mm and locked RA, the RA motor lash would have Jupiter *just* on the edge of the field when I added the barlow and it would then track Jupiter faithfully. I'm *very* pleased to report that Jupiter *remained* in the center of field after adding the Barlow--No lash! :-) Optical quality is unchanged from the old ETX, with the Barlow I could make out the stripes on Jupiter and the 4 moons. Saturn was much the same story, though the small amount of vibration introduced by the Electronic Control while slewing in 8X sidereal mode to get Saturn well-centered was more noticible than it had been with Jupiter. Overall, I LOVE the new ETX. I'm looking forward to the AutoStar and the Electronic Focus control, which I'll be buying from Nature Company to support a store that stands by its promises, even though they receive a memo from the corp. office that says they shouldn't do what they had promised. -Peter
Subject: ETX-90EC! User Feedback Sent: Friday, January 29, 1999 7:49:05 From: Jeff.Huston@infousa.com (Huston, Jeff) I finally got my 90-EC from the Nature Company (they said they will get the Autostar controllers next week). Funny thing is, it took me about 15 minutes to convince the saleperson it wasn't capable of auto-focus out of the box...and it doesn't look like Nature Company is going to be receiving any auto-focusers (corporate blunder?). The quality of the mount is substantially higher than the previous mount (or maybe my previous mount was just sub-standard). The R/A and dec movements are extremely smooth. I am a JMI Wedgepod owner, and while I am still waiting for my free 90-EC adapter (from JMI...contact them if you have a wedgepod and looking to buy a new ETX), I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the drive controller fits very nicely where the JMI auto-focus/auto-dec unit would normally go. Looks like it was made for it. As far as I am concerned, portability is the name of the game, and the JMI wedgepod fits the bill much better than the Meade tripod (now cheaper than the Meade tripod). I quickly installed my JMI 90deg finder conversion and piggy back adapter (both work just fine) and now have a very potent astrophotography setup. It is, indeed, a rather loud drive (even tracking), however, nothing my viewing partners couldn't get used to (hah). Rather than a coffee grinder however, I would start dubbing it the 'can opener'. For those of you wondering about the noise and what one of these things looks like in action, I've put up a couple of MPEG files on my web site. They can be found at: http://www.eomaha.com/jeffsastro/etxnews.htm. Clear skies Jeff Huston http://www.eomaha.com/jeffsastro http://www.eomaha.com/stella
Subject: RE: First Impressions of ETX/CE Sent: Friday, January 29, 1999 5:22:29 From: email@example.com (Dick Walters) Mike, looked at your site. Nice job! In the new instruction manual the photos of the scope polar aligned on the ETX tripod has it mounted backwards. That may not be a problem, but suspect the Autostar might not be pleased with the orientation and the scope RA would be 180d out of calibration. Probably an overly artistic layout artist. I subsequently found out from Meade that there are only 1-2 folks who know much about the scope, Mike Lee and John Piper. There is apparently no e-mail access into the place. According to Mike Lee, the startup motion is necessary to enable the scope to calibrate its encoders and it's similar to the larger scopes, LX50. I guess it's something I'll have to remember to do. I don't know where you find the spare time, but keep up the good work. Dick
Subject: New ETX-90 images Sent: Thursday, January 28, 1999 22:20:23 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Craig) I'm forwarding the attached images for all to enjoy and use. I'm now going to observe Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon. I will report back with results. Sincerely, Barry A. Craig (Clear Night Products) 248-547-2315
The ETX-90/EC box
The ETX-90/EC (with the Craig TeleWrap/Dew Cap)
DEC tension knob
RA tension lever
Standard hand controller
Subject: New ETX-90 Sent: Thursday, January 28, 1999 16:26:51 From: email@example.com (Barry Craig) Barry here again, just got my hands on the new ETX-90 WOW! WOW! WOW! everything the old was and lots more. In the 1200X mode in really zips along. More to come with pictures. GOTO hand controller in a couple of weeks. Sincerely, Barry A. Craig (Clear Night Products) 248-547-2315
Subject: Comments on New ETX-90EC Sent: Thursday, January 28, 1999 13:02:09 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jindra, Steven J.) Received the new ETX-90EC yesterday from Astronomics (anniversary present - great timing huh). It mounted okay on my homemade wedge and tripod (based on design by Mark Peterson posted on your site that I originally built for a Criterion 4000). Took it out to look at Jupiter and Moon between clouds. Of course the optics are great. It sounds funny but it works good. When changing direction on slew the view bounces up slightly. At slower speeds or when tracking the backlash is pretty noticeable after changing direction. The sidereal rate can be adjusted through the hand controller up or down in .5% increments to + or - 65% of normal to adjust to Moon or planets. At high power the tracking motor seemed to add some vibration to image, but finally settled out. The handheld computer is not due for another week or so. I am now trying to design an adapter to mount a Celeston 80WA (short tube) OTA for when I want wide angle views with Go-To capability. I appreciate your site and the way you manage it. Steven Jindra Deer Park (next to Houston), Texas
Subject: First Impressions of ETX/CE Sent: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 11:41:00 From: email@example.com (Dick Walters) I unpacked my ETX/CE from Astronomics this morning and it's a very nice piece of work. A few observations: 1. The gross manual alignment is pretty simple: vertical by loosening a "declination lock" on the right yoke arm and horizontally with a friction latch on the upper base. 2. Quality is excellent and the plastic base seems sturdy enough. The base bottom is plastic to accommodate a battery compartment but the tripod holes have brass inserts. 3. The focus control is much smoother than on my earlier ETX. May be just this unit, but it feels like it's improved with little or no backlash. 4. The optional #1244 electric focuser is not shown by photograph in the book, so there's no clue about how it mounts to the telescope, except that it "replaces the manual focuser knob. It apparently comes with a remote handbox, but can be plugged in and controlled from the electronic controller or Astrostar controller. 5. The electronic controller works OK. There is some backlash but plenty of speed control (fast, medium, moderate and slow). The motor noise in high speed is surprisingly loud, but I have little to compare it too. Nothing to wake the neighbors, but 70-73 dB 1 foot away, depending on H or V. It's very quiet in the slow mode. 6. Uses RJ-11,RJ-45 type telephone plugs, which are fine, but probably will be a pain when the little plastic tabs break off. 7. The base has plugs for 2 "aux" inputs (the focuser fits here) 8. The ETX tripod bolts were plenty long to mount the scope to my # 883 ETX tripod. Don't know why Meade thinks they need new bolts. They DO need some kind of bracket to hook the controller to the tripod leg as shown in their photo. Maybe they used Velcro. 9. My particular scope was a bit disappointing, QA wise. Had a missing eyepiece thumbscrew and there's a gouge in the base well under the horizontal lock lever that looks like someone was a bit heavy handed on assembly. Not serious problems, I guess, but disappointing for a precision optical instrument; especially the thumbscrew, which I thought might be rattling around inside the optical tube. 10. The #497 Astrostar replaces the standard controller and the book mentions an optional #505 connector kit, 1 to connect it to a PC for Epock 2000sk software, or to download new object data or software from the Internet, a second to tie two Astrostars together to download one to the other. 11. The booklet describes the #825 right angle vf as an 8x25mm rather than the 8x21 standard that comes with the scope. 12. There's an optional #1422 low latitude balance weight for use on the #880 optional table tripod at latitudes below 30 degrees when the scope would tip back pretty far. 13. The booklet mentions an 882 standard field tripod without polar alignment capability for terrestrial viewing. 14. Also mentioned are a #541 AC adapter with a 25' power cord and #607 auto cigarette lighter adapter with a 25' cord. There's a standard tip/ring plug on the control panel along with an on/off switch for the scope power. 15. One thing I'm not too impressed with on the new scope. When you first turn it on, the scope moves slightly in both axis. Meade told me it was to align the scope. The book says it's to test the motors. I can see why this is perhaps necessary then set for astro tracking, but it's a pain if you have boresighted the scope on an object before turning on the controller. When the Astrostar and focuser come in, I'll add to this. Hope it satiates some curiosity till the data starts rolling in. Dick
Subject: Questar vs. ETX 90/EC Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 1999 13:09:05 From: LBartolomei@pubdef.state.mn.us (Bartolomei, Luis) First, I'd like to let you know how much I enjoy your site! Please keep up the good work. Yesterday I was able to pick up an ETX 90/EC that I plan to give to my father for his birthday coming soon. I pulled it out of the box and placed it next to my Questar Duplex for a simple test. In a well lit room, I taped a crisp new dollar bill on a wall. I then made sure that the scopes were aimed at the bill from the same angle to maintain even lighting. With the ETX's 26mm Superplossl and the Questar 24mm Brandon, I compared the views of the bill. I then switched the eyepieces from scope to scope and then I juxtaposed the scopes themselves from their positions and switched their eyepieces again. The difference was rather obvious: The Questar view was significantly brighter at the slightly higher magnification that the 24mm Brandon produces. The brightness of both views became roughly equal only when I doubled the power on the Questar with its built in barlow. The resolution appeared roughly the same (with a slight edge going to the Questar), but focusing the ETX was much more difficult. Based on reviews that I've read, the authors made it seem like the optical differences between the two were slight. Perhaps that is indeed the case, but from my glib little test, the difference was sufficient enough so that even my "bias control" user (my wife, who would rather watch paint dry than partake of my hobby) picked up on the difference immediately and without prompting. Just thought I'd pass this on. Luis Bartolomei
Subject: RE: RE: New ETX about to hit the streets Sent: Monday, January 25, 1999 20:54:31 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rod Laird) ETX/EC arrived with new tripod and Autostar. Limited testing time so far, but some nice Autostar features include: - lots more object info than Mag II (and Presumably LX). Nice access structure for named and catalogue numbered objects. Good descriptors of many objects as well. - heaps better construction / display - great contrast and fabulous keys in contrast to Mag / LX handbox - smart setup - put in city or long/lat, and the date/time and the easy align feature will select optimal alignment stars for that time (!) - satellite tracking - with a feature that sets an alarm to remind you of a coming satellite acquisition window - nice 'guided tour' - picks some 'pretties' in your current night sky - Good utilities for eyepiece selection and for timing of various celestial events (Moon phases, eclipses, solar system object rises and sets etc) - Landmark or terrestrial database - allows to you memorise non-tracked stuff too. Ideal for setting up at the beach house / office window, where you have items you would like to jump to automatically - Ability to transfer data directly between Autostar handsets as well as to/from PC - presumably you can 'share interesting objects with your friends'. Good for example for new comet data etc. - Tiny feature but a goodie - built in LED light at the front which you can switch on and off at the controller... Overall brightness controls deliver superb readability. - All the usual LX type features (park, sleep, HPP); Also features to allow parametric configuration to a wide range of scopes - and the drive and motor tracking calibration needed to reduce errors. Clearly this controller will drive a complete new generation family of scopes Too early to comment on pointing accuracy etc - have not done the basic drive training. No docs yet either (presumably why it's not yet shipping commercially?) so probably floundering a bit in some areas. But the first evening was very entertaining (if hot and full of mozzies...) The AutoStar is clearly the winner everyone is hoping for. This is just a knockout product for Meade... BTW, OTA quality if anything even better than my old ETX; astounding quality control. The new ETX base is good quality and finish for the price point. Power light and plug in external power are great (I use an external sealed cell system for my LX 50 / CCD gear which is 100% compatible). Interested to know what the two AUX connectors are for; one is the focuser - the other??? Definitely no CCD auto-guiding here... Added later: Just came in from round to with the Autostar. Trained the drive chains during the day so it has a clue about the relative Alt. and Az. hysteresis. Now performs very well after the 2 star alignment. All goto's clearly placed the objects in the 26mm field (although often on an edge) - astounding! Only minus (apart from very, very minor early release software glitches) is that the Autostar does not have a mechaism like the Magellans and LX controllers to filter objects by magnitude and other features - OTOH the menu structure allows good access to popular named objects and 'see -worthy' objects of all kinds. Again, this package impresses! I've stuck a quickpoint on it though - a right angle finder remains an option. Rod Laird Melbourne Australia http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/rod_laird PGP at keyserver pgpkeys.mit.edu
Subject: ETX-90/EC : First Light Report Sent: Monday, January 25, 1999 20:44:03 From: email@example.com (John Steinberg) First chance to play around with my new ETC-90/EC. In spite of comments to the contrary, seems real firmly seated on the Meade #883 ETX Tripod. Tonights brief observations of Saturn & the Moon confirmed as much. This is the most stable combination for the ETX that I have viewed to date, plastic base plate notwithstanding. No flexure issues whatsoever. Winds however were quite light tonight. I'd like a four point attachment scheme in place of the two point. Set up would take longer, but I'd prefer the peace of mind. You can utilize the the included hand controller in Alt/Az mode or Polar mode (N or S) Sidereal tracking in polar mode, with only a modest attempt at Polaris alignment, was quite nice. I'll have to snap some pics just to see how good it really is. Mode changes are simple with the hand controller and by removing a screw on its back, one can set up a default mode. The optics on this may even surpass my "original" ETX. Saturn was tack sharp viewed with the 26mm Plossl as well as in concert with the #126 Barlow and the 9.7mm Super Plossl. Really nice! Nice factory collimation, Meade. I *was* going for the Cassini division but some clouds and haze rolled in on cue. Orion was pretty well washed out so that ended my 30 minute observation session. It was one of those wet/cold nights that makes the fireplace a seriously real distraction. The focus nob is further extended from the OTA as compared to my "original" ETX. I like it. Even turning it was noticeably smoother. Star testing showed classical diffraction rings around Sirius when racked in and out of focus. The cold was making my eyes water and my teeth chatter, so a more definitive test will follow. There are wo threaded bolt holes on the base plate. The plastic cover over the batteries looks like it was borrowed from an R/C car, but access doesn't require tools and the batteries are firmly ensconced and right beneath the surface. Nice for those of us with "larger mitts" as it were. Dec. numbers are only on the left side of the scope now. The right nob on the fork arm is used to lock the Dec. In place of the slow motion and lock knob under the OTA is a single recessed bar to lock the RA. I like the action of this a lot better than the knob it replaced. It also looks more integrated. Everything seems to operate more smoothly. With both RA and DEC unlocked the ETX moves with, dare I say, a buttery smooth movement. The ETX seems to have grown up a bit with these modest improvements. I always disliked the combination slow motion control and lock nob on the RA and I detested the DEC screw - always afraid it would just pop out. This simplified control scheme is a big plus to this early adopter. The included hand controller seems a *bit* finicky, and I'm not sure its my touch or its sensitivity that's the problem here. The cable for same is nice and thick - though the phone style jack looks like a potential Achilles heel. The controller body is a nice size and weight of plastic. Clean white silkscreening on body and buttons. I've got some velcro gluing onto it and a few legs of the tripod to allow for a comfy resting spot. It will sit on the accessory tray of the #833 tripod without stretching the cord, but I hate to bend if I don't have to. I'm awaiting the autostar and the electronic focuser. I can hardly wait for arrival! High speed tracking is noisy, but not *that* noisy. Sounds pretty cool actually. Not exactly like a Ferrai V-12 mind you.The three lower speeds are very quiet, but I did notice some slight "hopping". Nothing untoward. Nothing that wasn't easily managed. Can somebody make a PEC for these? :) I didn't install my right angle finder yet. I prefer the straight through, but yes, the finders proximity to the EP is awful. On the up side, it's a damned fine optical piece. There's a set screw underneath it and I'm wondering if I couldn't raise it, relative to the OTA, to free it from its tight quarters. I'll have to investigate this at some other time. All in all, one seriously pleased new ETX-90/EC owner. As soon as the autostar and focuser arrive I'll be set. In the interim, if any of the fine programmers wish to adapt their software for use with the new ETX, (and in Mac format, too please!) I can guarantee you at least one sale! Thanks for listening to this, admittedly, sketchy and limited first light report. -JS ___________________________________ Some men see the glass as half empty; Bob Dole see's it as a great place for his teeth. manbytsdog at aol dot com
Subject: First impression of the Meade ETX/EC from a newbie Sent: Friday, January 22, 1999 19:57:03 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Elliot Rubinsky) Here are my first impressions of the ETX/EC. I recently bought the ETX and have opted for the EC. The computer interface appealed to my computer geek background. First the base plate is made out of plastic. The helps to make the scope lighter (about a pound). The battery compartment is accessible by a door, so you no longer have to remove the base plate. Actually you can longer take the base plate off. I'm suspicious that the screws are under the rubber feet. The center tripod hole has been eliminated by the battery compartment cover. The manual no longer makes any reference to using a standard tripod. It appears that a new mounting plate is needed to use both holes at once. One would have hoped that Meade would have made one available in exchange for the tripod legs. The slow motion controls have been removed. I missed the sense of accomplishment in learning how to maneuver a scope. The RA lock is a large lever, in-stead-of a little knob. However, it is located under the OTA. I'm not sure how this will effect it use in the dark. The motor defaults to alt/az maneuvering. By playing with screws on the hand control can you set its default operation for N/S hemisphere polar operation. The manual has been written exclusively for the astro scope. There are more diagrams to help make it more readable, including one on overpowering the scope. It also mentions more (Meade) accessories. There are several useful appendices that deal with basic constellations, astronomical distances and the charts which were scattered throughout the original manual. There are also several typos throughout the book and its figures (e.g. figure 3) . All in all it was easy to move up to this version, even at a cost increase of $146. (The original scope was 20% off.) Thanks for making all of the information public in your site. Elliot P.S. If you need any help beta testing products in the northern hemisphere, let me know. 8*)
Subject: new ETX Sent: Friday, January 22, 1999 19:18:31 From: email@example.com (Bill Kamon) From MAPUG ------------------ Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 16:29:32 -0800 From: John W Downs (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Re: [M]: ETX-90 EC-reply The little scope is a work horse. Not designed to compete with the LX-200. Lots of fun and the same price. OPT carries the full line, but no star computer controllers yet. john Willard Observatory (not far from Mt. Palomar) http://members.aol.com/rlecker/optas.html Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 09:55:56 -0800 From: "Loren A. Busch" (LBusch@ix.netcom.com) Subject: Re: [M]: ETX-90 EC I set up the first of the ETX/EC's to arrive at out store Tuesday night. Has RA/Dec slew in four speeds and SOUNDS just like a mini LX-200, actually not that mini, almost as loud. Comes without table top tripod (optional extra) and with the new base to the mount (not the very heavy and stiff baseplate of the original ETX) is not as stable on the Meade ETX tripod. No electronics available yet to test. BTW, when set to track (Polar Mode only) the RA drive is VERY noisey. Date: Thu, 21 Jan 1999 14:19:14 -0600 From: Robert Haler (email@example.com) Subject: RE: [M]: ETX-90 EC (anyone who has tried one) There are clutch release controls so you can move the scope manually, but it does not have manual slow motion controls. All fine movements are made using the 4 speed hand controller. The existing tripod fits the new ETX. We won't have the computer controllers for them until next week. One thing I do not like is that the original metal base plate has been replaced with plastic - which does not seem quite as stabil on the tripod. And get ready for the coffee grinder jokes.....I think it is actually a bit LOUDER than a 12" LX-200. All in all, a pretty neat scope, but I'm not in love with it yet. Bob ----------------- Also from the latest issue of ASTRONOMY, it looks like the right angle finder will be sold separately (49.95). I'm assuming it will fit, but it pays to ask first. Bill Kamon
Subject: FYI Sent: Monday, January 11, 1999 20:58:13 From: Shutan Camera & Video It's Happened! The successor to the largest-selling modern telescope in the world has been announced! Meade's new ETX-90/EC offers the same fine optics that created the ETX revolution but with the following enhancements: A new fork mount design with standard high-torque motors on both telescope axes, permitting electronic operation from the standard-equipment plug-in hand controller! Use the hand controller at any of four dual-axis speeds. Totally cordless power system! The best is yet to come-- plug in the optional Meade Autostar computer controller for LX200-type operation including GO TO capability to more than 12,000 celestial objects-- the best from the IC, NGC and Caldwell catalogs, as well as all 110 Messier objects; 900 stars; the 8 major planets; 26 of the brightest asteroids; 15 periodic comets; 50 earth-orbiting satellites; plus more! The optional Autostar also offers continuous digital readout of RA and DEC. Precise sidereal-rate tracking in either altazimuth or equatorial modes. It even has an RS-232 Serial Port for operation through a personal computer, using Meade Epoch 2000 sky software. Orders are now being accepted for the first allocation-- scheduled to begin by the end of January '99. The price you ask? Same price the standard ETX used to be sold for. Used to be... as in... not anymore. This is also the best time to buy the STANDARD model ETX. We have a limited number of brand new stock available at our lowest price ever for an ETX Astro, including table tripod legs, finder, and Super Plossl eyepiece. You can also purchase the new model for thru our trade-up program! Here's how it works, it's very simple. You send us your ETX Astro along with its factory-supplied accessories and we'll sell you the new model for our trade-up price. Modified, damaged, or non-working ETX's will not be accepted on this trade-up program. Call for authorization before sending us your ETX.
Mike here: I've deleted the prices from this. Please visit Shutan Camera & Video ETX page for pricing info.
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