Last updated: 31 December 2001
I have read a few inquiries about the capabilities of the ETX 60AT on your site. I have used the 60AT for several nights viewing and would like to post my results for any potential buyers to read.
I am absolute amateur so read my findings with that in mind. I expect all of the people considering this scope are also beginners. I live in central NJ and my backyard is pretty dark an clear. I am also using the highest magnification eyepiece that comes with the scope.
Overall I like the scope it has shown me some interesting things. It's easy to set up (minus the Autostar) and rugged, so I can drag it in and out of the house multiple times in one night if I have to. I am going to return it to upgrade to the 70AT just for the additional aperture. I realize this won't be much of an improvement but the extra $50 won't hurt me - so I figure why not. Plus, (as you will read below), I think (hope) the Autostar system on the scope I have is defective so maybe the exchange will correct that problem also. I eventually want to have more than one scope so I figure it's a good one to have around for a while.
What I have seen so far:
Jupiter. Jupiter appears white and small but bright and sharp. I can easily see 4 moons in varying nightly positions. I can just make out a band of off white color going through the center of the planet. I assume this is a large cloud band.
Saturn. Saturn appears smaller and more faint then Jupiter. It also appears white in color. I can easily see the "ring" of Saturn. I say "ring" (not rings) because the planet looks like a small white dot inside a single faint white ring.
Orion Nebula. This nebula looks like a faint white glare. I can only see three stars within the glare. I have read most small scopes should allow you to see 4, but I have only been able to see three. With binoculars I can only see two - so I know the scope is better in that respect.
One of the reasons I went with this scope instead of a larger dobsonian was the Autostar system. As I am sure you can tell by my comments so far, I am a beginner at this and I figured the Autostar system could act as a tour guide to suggest things for me to look at while I get my feet wet.
The system was a little annoying to set up. It seems that there is a time limit on how long you have to find the stars it is using for alignment. The longer I took to center the stars in the FOV the less chance I had of successfully aligning the scope. The most efficient way I have found so far is to find two stars I can locate easily (Rigel an Dubhe) and use the two-star alignment process.
Once the scope was aligned I was disappointed with the accuracy of the system. The only objects the system locates accurately are stars. I have yet to have it even point in the right compass direction for any deep sky objects or planets. Also, the "identify" feature of the system has not identified anything. I have even selected a star from the menus, which it tracks to accurately, but then can't identify. This was a feature I wanted to use often but am unable to. I have trained the drive and double checked all my settings with no improvement. I am also skeptical of some of the objects the system has in it's database. I don't see how this scope could possibly see some of the things it has listed (like Black Holes - which are on the menus).
I hope this is helpful for anyone considering this scope and I always appreciate advice and comments from others.
Subject: What the heck can you see with a very small ETX? Sent: Sunday, February 18, 2001 09:25:53 From: RMOLLISE@aol.com As some of you know, I couldn't resist the temptation of the Wal-Mart Christmas "special" on the ETX ($197.00) and scooped one up. I've heard questions concerning exactly what you can see with this little fella. Well, it's obviously not a planetary powerhouse, but it will show at least three cloud bands on Jupiter and satellite shadow transits. Saturn shows of the Cassini Division as well as a moon or two beyond Titan. But where this widefield scope really shines is on the deep sky. For one thing, this makes Autostar alignment a no-brainer. Get the scope more or less level and pointed more or less North and you're on your way. It was cold last night--for down here on the Gulf Coast, anyway--but I decided to head out to my club's suburban observatory site. With the passing of the front, the skies were at least _clean_. I wasn't sure how long I'd stay, so I grabbed the li'l ETX 60 AT, an Orion Deep Map 600 and the eyepiece case. The site, Pine Lake Observatory, is now well within the city. The Eastern skies? Below 40 degrees altitude you're lucky to see 4th mag stars. The West and Southwest is much better. On a dark night like this, I'd say you can do mag 5 for sure. I set Miss ETX up, did an alignment and got started. Over the course of the next three hours I observed the following Messiers: M1 (a real surprise...it's usually fairly difficult in a 6 inch from this site. But there it was in a 7.5mm Plossl). M31 (waited too long for this...it was really low, but a treat, nevertheless). M34 (the galactic cluster in Perseus...one of my faves. Naturally I did the Double Cluster too!). M35 (in a 17mm Plossl it was stunning--the best I've ever seen in the ETX. With a 7.5mm eyepiece, I also convinced myself that I could see its little companion cluster, NGC 2158). M36 M37 (A standout!) M38 M40 (This asterism/double star that Chuck M. mistook for a "cluster with nebulosity" was easy enough, but required the 7.5mm Plossl). M41 (Never get my fill of the Big Dog's cluster.) M42 (Naturally I kept coming back to this all night). M43 (quite easily visible, though I could not make out the "comma" shape). M44 (On a huge object like this, the ETX 60 really shows its stuff!). M45 (I almost convinced myself that I occasionally saw a hint of the Merope nebulosity). M46 (Cool. But I was so cold by this time that I forgot to look for the embedded planetary, NGC 2438). M47 (Nice) M48 (Even nicer, IMHO). M67 (This aged cluster looked great. It's a bit dim, so a 10mm Plossl helped while maintaining plenty of dark space around it). M76 (Now this was a damned big surprise. I wasn't at ALL sure that the 60 would turn this up. But, it was visible. Easy even. Couldn't make out the double lobed shape, however. This did require the use of an OIII filter.). M77 (This Seyfert galaxy in Cetus was easy enough with the 7.5mm). M78 (Reflection nebula in Orion--nice and big tonight). M79 (Looked comparable to the view in a nearby C5, believe it or not. This lone Winter globular was just above the "light pollution line" to the south). M81 (No missing this. I did have to wait until UMa got above the Eastern horizon crap). M82 (Was easily placed in the same field as M81 with the 10mm Plossl. Obviously cigar shaped. This was harder than M81, but waiting for this part of UMa to get above the mess allowed me to capture it with direct vision). M105 (It was getting late and cold, but I wasn't about to leave without at least one of the Leo galaxies. M105 was still in a bad spot light-pollution wise, but was visible, anyway). M65 (Encouraged by my success with 106, I went after this beastie. It was in an even worse area of light-pollution, but visible with moderate difficulty, nevertheless). M66 (Same-same). 25 plus Messiers (and a handful of NGCs) in less than three hours from the suburbs--I was quite pleased. Despite the 30 degree temps, the scope and its Autostar performed like champs. The scrolling displays do become a bit hard to read in the cold, but slowing down the scroll speed helps. For more difficult objects, I did cover my head with a dark cloth. I think the above list should be easy for anybody with a little experience from a half-way acceptible site. OH, as I was leaving, I realized that I'd forgotten to look for the Rosette. Ah, well--NEXT TIME! Peace, Rod Mollise, Moderator, sct-user, The mailing list for CAT fanciers (MCT, SCT, and MNT fanatics!) http://members.aol.com/RMOLLISE/index4.html
Subject: Some words of encouragement Sent: Monday, February 26, 2001 00:16:03 From: email@example.com (Bob Minnick) For those new to the Meade ETX telescopes, or perhaps new to astronomy, this little tale is for you. I call this, the tale of the misaligned and mal-aligned alignment, or the trials of two bumbling newbies, fumbling in the dark until they finally see the light. Dateline: Northern Idaho, the sticks, rural america, primitive, anyone know the formula for fire? We received our scope in early January, its only an EXT60, but it sounded like a nice scope for a couple of total newbies to learn with. Now if you're unfamilar with the region, Idaho winters aren't bad, they start snowing sometime in October and it usually stops as early as the following May. So naturally on the first clear night we get, my wife and I rush out see what we can see with the scope. Its a mild night, downright balmy at 15 degrees (f) with a 12mph wind (Hint: Dress warmly, then put your coat on OVER the rest of the clothing!). Lining up the scope turns out to be frustrating, and its just too darn cold to be futzing with it, so eventually, we turn off the autostar and release the baselock and start pointing at the things we knew in the sky.... like THE MOON! The next time out (about a week later), its even colder! And this time we have it down pat. We're supposed to point the scope NORTH! And another night goes by with a misaligned telescope. The next trip, we learn that we should be pointing true north, not magnetic north, but at that point some bright person in our Search & Rescue group told us that true north was 19 degrees to the right of magnetic north. And still we don't have it aligned! However by this point, without the controller we've taken some photos of the moon (afocally), spotted the moons of jupiter and even seen saturn and a ring! All with the stock lenses that came with the scope. Several more freezing cold sessions occur without proper alignment, and we're such newbies that the night sky is still pretty much unknown to us. Finally, after a near tearful call to Meade, and feeling quite foolish because despite my technical training, I was admitting defeat. A very helpful tech at Meade explained that the 19 degrees deviation off magnetic north was correct, but in the wrong direction. AND he told me I could steer the scope with the controller and the system would take the positioning changes into account (something the manual doesn't say you can do). It never seemed like the steering worked in the alignment mode before, so tonight, I set the steering to max speed, lined up on Dubhe and Betelguese without a problem (two star alignment). Having finally actually seen the alignment stars in the scope, we set the scope to Saturn and prayed. Whirrrrr grind grind, and sure enough, Saturn and four of its moons rolled into view! WOW!!! If we had any neighbors they would have thought we were nuts, two people dancing around in the snow, in the dark, but to have solved the alignment problem finally, after 7 freezing viewing sessions, it was cause for praise. Tonight, thanks to correct alignments, we saw Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, the Pleiades, and throwing all caution to the wind, Andromeda, fuzzy, but unmistakeable in the eyepiece. To all the newbies out there, Don't give up! If you're in the same boat we are, with no nearby club, keep plugging away at it, the ends are well worth it! I ordered our barlow lenses (a 2x and a 3x) tonight, and a scopetronix red dot finderscope, both my wife and I are eagerly waiting to see what vistas will become available once we have some decent magnification. The 60 is a nice little scope, and easy to use once you get over the initial hurdle of aligning it. Clear skys! Bob
Subject: My ETX-60AT Sent: Friday, December 28, 2001 22:47:00 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Corey Olsen) I just have to add to this page the wonderful experiences I've had since christmas. My wife bought me the etx-60at as a surprise gift and I have been absolutely fascinated by it. The first night I looked at the moon but didn't know where anything else was (ie planets, constellations, etc). Thankfully the sky has been very cloudy which has forced me to go to the book store and buy some beginning astronomy books. I've plowed through those and found some star charts for where I live in North America so I could locate things without the aid of the telescope. Tonight was the first clear night that I could go outside and let me tell you what I saw. After locating a few things using the star charts and my eyes and turned to the telescope and found some amazing sites. I saw the rings around Saturn! Now, I had to squint a focus quite a bit but for someone who is very new to astronomy this was a very exciting. I can't believe that I could actually distinguish between planet and ring. In fact, I don't know if I've witnessed anything more spectacular in the outdoors. I was also able to locate 4 tiny dots next to Saturn, I'm assuming those are the four moons that Galileo also observed. This has been a tremendous experience for my first night out! A word of advice to those having trouble aligning their scopes follow the directions carefully. I was able to practice once inside and go outside on the first try and get it done although I admit that the practince inside helped tremendously. One quick question, how does one see all the colors that I see in the different galleries online? Thanks for a great site, Corey OlsenMike here: The eye is not as sensitive to color as film/CCD so generally you won't see the same colors (or details) you see in astrophotographs, especially for faint objects.
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