Last updated: 25 April 1999

Comments from New Users

From: jwatkins@orenda.com (John Watkinson)
My ETX is 6 months old now and I thought I may share some experiences with you and the ETX community. Firstly, I purchased the "Backyard Astronomers Guide" by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer. This publication is invaluable for the beginner (Myself) and in fact for the more experienced observer. Many of my questions about Astronomy, equipment, lenses etc.etc. were answered clearly. I purchased a 2X Barlow lens (Celestron Ultima), the Meade 18mm and 13.8mm super wide angle lenses, and a 9mm Orthoscopic from University Optics (smaller FOV than the Meades but tack sharp, and a fraction of the cost) This lens seemed to struggle a little when Barlowed (278X) when viewing Jupiter & Saturn. However the Orion Nebulae was spectacular (without the Barlow) and a distinctive shape was visible. Some of my favourite subjects are: the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, and the double cluster in Perseus (spectacular with the Meade 18mm SWA) Unfortunately the weather in Toronto has been lousy so I haven't had the scope out this Year but took it back to the UK during Christmas (not many scopes are that flexible). That is about it anyway so once again Mike, thank you very much for your site and the help you have given myself, and I am sure many other observers. Keep up the good work

Best Regards

John Watkinson
Toronto, Ontario

From: jh@brainiac.com (Joe Hartley)
With the zeal found in the newly converted, I've got a bit to say about my new ETX! First, though, thanks a million for taking the time to do your website. This sort of user-group interaction and enthusiasm adds immeasurably to the experience of owning the ETX. Now, to begin...

I was fortunate enough to receive the Learningsmith catalog (a chain based in MA and affilliated with the local PBS outlet, WGBH). It had a 20% off all scopes coupon, and an ad on the ETX, which I'd already selected as the scope of my choice for Xmas. Since I already knew the ETX was rarely discounted, I scooped it up.

Of course, the skies were cloudy for the next week, so the anticipation of first light was heightened! The first objects sighted were Jupiter and Saturn. Just beautiful! The optics are razor sharp. Jupiter's moons were sharp as pinpricks. Saturn was equally astounding, with the gap between the rings and the planet sharply defined.

I went out a litter later in the evening and viewed the Orion nebula and the Andromeda galaxy. Both cried out for the Barlow lens! Even at 48x, though the 4 stars that make up the trapezium in the Orion nebula were visible, and again, sharp as pinpricks.

The Andromeda galaxy was wonderful as well, but did bring home one short- coming of the 'scope - it's very difficult to sight on objects near the zenith. Part of this was the fact that the scope was on a table, so it was hard to get down far enough to use the finder, but it's also that the scope base gets in the way. I ended up just sighting along the tube for a rough alignment, then searching the general area until I found it.

Had another chance last Friday to go out with the scope, and viewed the Orion nebula again. It was in a darker part of the sky than the previous night, and the misty wisps of the nebula were just phenomenal.

Saturday night I came home after going to the theater with my wife and even though I was tired and it was _cold_, the sky was so clear I couldn't help but bringing out the ETX, especially since I'd gotten a tripod and Barlow lens that day!

The tripod works well. It's a Quantaray Titan II (QT II-750) that I got for $70 at Ritz camera. The folks there (who are dumb as stumps) say they sell a lot of these for use with the ETXs they sell (and they sell a lot of ETXes). It seemed a little shaky at first, and I suspect they only ever sell the spotting version of the scope. I was concerned that the tripod wouldn't handle the weight, but it worked well enough. It's got a built-in level and quick-release legs, which made it simple to set up and get level. The quick-release shoe meant I could affix the ETX to the shoe and set the tripod up without the ETX, then just slap on the shoe. I liked that!

I purchased the wrong Barlow, though. I got the #122, which is a long lens. I just wasn't happy with the size of it, and I couldn't seem to focus as sharply as I'd hoped. I returned it, but the recommended #126 was not in stock, so I'm back to the single eyepiece. I viewed Saturn and the Orion nebula that night. I noticed some shakiness as I fine-tuned the focus, but not enough to ever shake Saturn out of the field of view at 96x, so I think I may just be too optimistic in my expectations of how steady a tripod should be. Since I don't do astrophotography, this should do fine.

The one thing that has driven me absolutely nuts is Meade's choice of a finder scope on the ETX. The 8x21mm scope chosen is a bit too powerful and has too small a field of view, making it difficult to use. It's also absolutely useless when doing a polar alignment, since it's completely obscured by the base when the scope is at 90 segrees dec.

I got the Daisy electronic point sight as mentioned in the Finderscope portion your website. The modifications were trivial to make, and works like a champ. I didn't bother removing the coating on the lens - since the finder can be used with both eyes open, it's not a big deal, but make sure of the proper placement on the scope! I put mine a little too far down towards the left for comfort. If I can find some muratic acid, I will probably strip the coating off since I don't own a Dremel or similar buffing tool, and re-mount the finder.

Thanks again for the site! Hope these comments are some help.

Joe Hartley - jh@brainiac.com - brainiac services, inc
PO Box 5069 : Greene, RI : 02827 - vox 401.539.9050 : fax 401.539.2070
Without deviation from the norm, "progress" is not possible. - FZappa

From: NOTA911@aol.com (Jerry Pierson)
I've had my ETX since last June and I've accumulated a fair number of comments. I don't know if these will help anyone, but here goes . . .

The ETX was--and still is--my first telescope. My astronomical stirrings began in grad school when I picked up a copy of Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley's 1951 classic, "The Conquest of Space," at a rummage sale (for a quarter!), because I thought the pictures looked so cool. A few years later, I ran across Richard Preston's extraordinary "First Light" in the city library and from then on I was hooked.

By the time I was ready to consider a scope of my own, I had noticed Meade's magazine ads for the ETX, did some surfing, and wound up at this most useful site. I bought my ETX from Shutan in Chicago last June, and what can I say? I love it!

In the past 10 months, I've collected a fair number of eyepieces and other accessories. I now have, in addition to the OEM 26mm Meade Plossl, 32mm, 17mm, and 7.5mm Sirius Plossls from Orion, a 12mm Konig-II from University Optics, and a 5mm Orthoscopic, also from University Optics. In addition, I also have a Celestron "shorty" Barlow (model no. 93507) which I bought from Shutan when I got the ETX.

The Meade 26mm Plossl is the best of the bunch, with excellent brightness and clarity. Of the Sirius oculars, the 32mm and 17mm Plossls are both good, but the 7.5mm (at 167x) shows dim and fuzzy images. This becomes a major problem with the 5mm Orthoscopic, which is just too much magnification (250x) for the 90mm ETX. The 12mm Konig-II, however, is sharp, clear, and bright, and is my favorite eyepiece for viewing the planets.

As far as filters go, I have a lunar filter, a dozen color filters, Orion's SkyGlow light pollution filter, and a solar filter, also from Orion. The SkyGlow filter was a recent gift, and I haven't really used it yet. The solar filter is useful for tracking sunspots, but it just boggles my mind to see a star as a disk instead of as a point of light. The lunar filter is very useful and highly recommended. The color filters are also useful, but I get the feeling that a larger aperture is needed to bring back brightness to images viewed with the darker filters.

By the way, unlike other accessories, filters and eyepieces are fairly easy to rationalize to one's spouse: "Gee honey, I'll really need that set of planetary filters if I trade up to a different scope. If I buy them now when they're on sale, I will have saved us a lot of money."

For a good-enough polar alignment in about 30 seconds, I use a Silva Type 7 compass (available at a camping store for about $10) and hold its straight edge against the back of the ETX's optical tube assembly while I line it up to North. I then use a Dasco Pro Angle Finder ($6 or so in a hardware store next to the levels) held against the top of the tube while I adjust the Bogen tripod head. In my latitude, a tube angle of 49 degrees is just about right. Polaris, shmolaris . . .

I rarely use the ETX's finderscope. Instead, I use an Orion EZ Finder 1x red-dot sight mounted on top of the OTA. Of course, I should have offset it so I don't need to remove the eyepiece to sight.

For focusing, I found this tip on your website, and it's made a huge difference: a simple spring-clip clothespin clipped to the focusing wheel. The jiggles are greatly diminished, and my focusing accuracy has much improved. Sometimes the best ideas are the cheapest.

I use the least-expensive hard case offered by Shutan, and I have no complaints. I also have a similar but smaller eyepiece and accessory case from Orion. If I didn't have to travel to every observing site, I wouldn't have spent the money, but it's nice knowing my optics are going to arrive intact.

I plan each night's session with Starry Night Deluxe software (on my Mac, of course). I like Starry Night and it works well enough for me, but I've been considering getting Red Shift 3 since it trounced Starry Night in a review in February's issue of "MacFormat" (UK). I'd like to hear from anyone who has used both and can offer an opinion.

I've been considering moving up to a larger scope, but there are three things holding me back: 1) portability: my house is heavily obstructed and it's a 20 minute drive to a field with a decent lunar and planetary view; 2) I don't yet have consistent access to a dark-sky site, so there's no point right now in even thinking about feeding my aperture fever with a light bucket; and 3) I'm not made of money.

For my next scope, I had been considering an 8" or 10" Meade LX50 or even the 7" Mak, although these are more than I can spend. The 8" LXD 500 for $895 is a possibility, although the drive system costs extra. The ETX-EC/125, assuming the price is about $900, would be a step in the right direction, although the Autostar is extra and I'd have to get a sturdier tripod.

For all the talk about upgrade paths, I'm certain Meade actually intended original ETX owners to move up to larger and more sophisticated scopes, like how GM starts 'em off with Chevys and ends up selling 'em Cadillacs. Trading up to an ETX-EC/90 isn't worth it to me, but getting an ETX-EC/125 does make certain sense.

In any event, thanks for the helpful site! Clear skies!

Jerry Pierson
Peoria, Illinois

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