Last updated: 9 September 2008

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Subject:	Have I been Astro-beguiled?
Sent:	Monday, September 8, 2008 20:15:23
From:	John Edelmann (
Greetings.  I've not contributed any questions or comments for years,
but would like to provide a general observation about the experiences of
one [very] amateur astronomer who has accumulated what seems to be a
small observatory and the related accessories since the fall of 2002 and
am now wondering if I hadn't ought to consider selling everything on

I'll try to remain focused so as not to bore anyone overly ... of course
you can always simply ignore this post in any event.

And so we begin (at the beginning, of course):

In 2002, I won a $750 cash award from then Compaq Computer Corporation,
in the line of duty as a computer consultant on a contract for the Dept.
of Defense.  I purchased a $500 wireless weather system actually, in
July of 2002, but returned it when I realized that I already had a
non-wireless weather system, but which was not in working order.  I got
it working, and it is STILL running fine (see ) and so, I decided to purchase a
"big" telescope.  My rationale was simple: never before did I have this
much $ to spend on something other than hardware, appliances, or other
necessities, or which was "free and clear" to be used as I (and not my
wife) saw fit.  A really "good" telescope represents a sizable outlay of
cash, and I didn't think I was likely to have this much money amassed at
one time for such an endeavor again.

I might add, that my now deceased father had built a small hobby
telescope; a refractor, some 6 ft long.  It was a square concern, not
round, and worked admirably well - at least until I lost the main lens. 
Oops.  At any rate, I often said in the years to come, that my Dad
would have really loved to have seen my pursuit of astronomical

With the refund in hand (+ a sizable amount of discretionary capital) I
purchased a Meade LX55 from the Discovery Channel store first, in Sept
of 2002.  However, it was back ordered until Feb 2003 (!).   This was
normal, I was told.  Bag that I said.

I cancelled that order, and looked at the more pricey ETX line instead. 
The 125EC with UHTC caught my attention as a likely candidate.  Plus, as
I found, it had its own privately managed website of champions (thanks
Mike) and there was a wealth of very candid and helpful information out
there to help bolster its cause.  And there wasn't nearly the long wait
time as for the LX series.

(I had to use the Discovery Channel Store because they were one of the
few stores that were in the "Compaq Award Program" at the time.)

SO, I ordered the ETX125 and it arrived in mid November, 2002.  $990 was
the price.  This included like 6 $10 Discovery Channel gift
certificates, but alas, it was dead on arrival, because the flip mirror
had fallen off the mount and was loose inside the business end of the


I returned it to Meade;  and meanwhile, the Discovery Channel Store
(DCS) had refunded me my shipping fee because of the initial delay with
ordering the LX55.  Then, even though Meade had express details of
when/how to return it to me, they failed to send it where I wanted it to
be sent (following repairs) so the DCS gave me a complementary $50 set
of color filters in lieu of my troubles.

So, I finally got to *USE* the telescope in January 2003.  Now the fun
part starts.

I did manage to qualify for the fabulous $99.00 six piece 4000 Series
Plossl Eyepiece 30th Anniversary deal at the time ... so I got that. 
Then, in February of 2003, DCS had a special where you buy a Meade
telescope, and you get a deluxe tripod for free!  Such a deal.  Bummer. 
I had already ordered my telescope.  Besides, while waiting arrival of
the scope, I had built a fine elliptical mount using the plans from the
ETX website, out of stainless steel tubing and other bits and pieces of
hardware lying around.  I think I had way more fun just acquiring the
pieces and parts I felt were necessary - forget actually looking at

But, not to be outdone, I called DCS and explained the situation, and lo
! they agreed to send me not the deluxe tripod, nay nay, but rather the
advanced tripod (887), with the elliptical mount accessory included (as
long as I paid the tax).

So now I had more than $1000 (or an actual value of nearly $1900) in the
endeavor, which continued to grow, because I *had* to have the heated
dew clip, the Meade dew shield, a dual beam flashlight, a variable
polarizing filter, the 25ft. Auto power cord, the JMI Instafocus
Motofocus (Scopetronix), the Vibration Pads, and heck, why not Dr.
Clay's Cleaning Kit ?

For Christmas, my mother-in-law got me the Autostar.  Now I had it all.

So now we're up to about $1600 invested.

Now keep in mind, all during this time, my use of the telescope
consisted of brief forays with friends and others when we had the
chance, to view Jupiter, Saturn, the Ring Nebula (my favorite) and the
moon of course.

Problem was, and perhaps others reach this point sooner or later, I was
at a point where the viewing operation, which included the time (which
really was minimal) to get the scope out, fire her up, and have it
pointing at things I'd already seen numerous times, simply started
losing the glamour that originally inspired me to pursue a hobby in
astronomy in the first place.

Alas, there I was, with a fairly costly, professional-grade scope, with
not much motivation to get it out, given life's other distractions and
priorities, that all seem to surface in the evening, on nights when the
seeing is good, and the temperatures are fair.

Enter Astrophotography!  Because, you know, those neat pics that folks
contribute are great!  I knew right then, that if I could at least
generate a few coolpix or other shots of Saturn, and see the separation
of the rings with my 125EC, heck, I'd finally be able to salvage a fair
amount of self respect for having sunk $1600+ in this "endeavor".  At
least that was the plan.

So, thru 2004-2007, I added $400 worth of step rings, a Nebular filter,
and the Scopetronix MaxView40 for my Minolta dImage200 Digital Camera
(which, by the way, doesn't work too well with the eye piece adapter
because it won't stay zoomed out;  the weight of the camera is too great
for the zoom apparatus, and it "unzooms"), and, of course, the "webcam"

As it turned out, though, none of these additions successfully
rearranged my priorities for me, and the telescope saw even less use. 
From September 2007 thru September 2008 I used it . ONCE.

So, now I have arrived at the dilemma that perhaps we all end up with at
one time or another.

Can an ETX125EC telescope really keep an adult occupied for the
"foreseeable future", or is astronomy unlike other disciplines for the
following reasons:

1) once you've seen the planets that are visible with the ETX 125,
you've seen the planets you can see with the ETX125. 2) seeing deep sky
objects like nebulas and the like are cool for a while, but after you've
seen the few that really stand out, trying your luck with different
degrees of "seeing" is a bit like playing cat and mouse; and finally,

3) the only way to really alter your experience of things astronomical,
is to view them differently (i.e., different hardware, different scope)
which means more $.

Contrast this to, say, wine making.  Every season brings new vintages,
new fruit, and new ways to modify the art; what was nice and dry one
season, may be so so, but sweet the next.  But from year to year,
Jupiter really doesn't change all that much, nor does Venus (the phases
notwithstanding). And short of photo rendering of multiple digital
images, the clarity of the various galaxies and nebula only yields a
limited amount of diversity.

So whereas many hobbies can be revisited time and time again, with new
experiences, etc., astronomy seems to me, to be a bit beguiling, in that
it has sizable startup expenses, but once you've invested in your
hardware, you're sort of stuck with what you have.  Only then do you
begin to wonder if $2000 or more invested in a bunch of hi-tech imaging
hardware (and software) hasn't lost its initial alluring nature.

And so, here I am, in what seems to be the autumn of my love affair with
my ETX125, only to wonder if it hasn't attained the boring caliber of a
fine coin collection:  really cool to talk about, and especially to show
off occasionally, but otherwise, primarily a financial investment that
really isn't appreciating all that much (in interest or money).

So, all of this drivel simply leads to one profound question:  Does my 6
year affair with my fabulous little 125 mm telescope end with an ebay
sale, or do I donate it to a struggling school, in the hopes that it
will find a more appreciative home, or do I redouble my efforts to
reconsider what it is I have already, and try to rekindle that vestige
of child-like excitement at having a really cool Meade telescope that
brought me to the ETX family in the first place?

I do admit that my one lone daughter has not helped matters much.  She's
not destined to be an astronomer (nor a meteorologist, nor, thankfully,
a chemist with pyrotechnical tendencies (like me)), so there is scarcely
any cheerleading from that sector to engage in looking at the night sky.

I am only 46 years old.  Let's suppose I decide when I'm RETIRED that I
would have TIME to look to the heavens and most properly conclude my
interests thereof.

So do I mothball the ETX125 until "then" or sell it all now, because, in
20 years, one has to hope that even Meade will get their act together
better than it is now, and fashion telescopic marvels that [today] would
make us ETX brethren collectively faint in one large international pile?

I could donate it, and take a nearly $2800 (the actual dollar value of
my equipment if "purchased separately") tax right off, I suppose.  But
would the school really appreciate it?  Is there a list of schools
somewhere seeking astronomical assistance from misfit donors who have
outgrown their interest in the field?

As you may have guessed, I did only recently bring out the scope for a
seafood fondue event this past Saturday evening.  I don't know. It just
seemed that ETX telescopes and seafood fondue somehow seemed to go
together. The folks were mesmerized by the closeness of the craters on
the moon, and the ability to actually see features on the surface of
Jupiter (not to mention the four moons).   And that without even having
the benefit of the autostar! (I had inadvertently misplaced the cable!) 
I still don't know where my instafocus control unit is .!)

I do admit that it is a neat instrument, capable of winning over the
excited hearts of nearly any who haven't looked in the business end of a
fine optical piece before.  So perhaps I'll not sell it right away.  But
I am wondering if I really am getting my money's worth, or if I simply
fell prey to the consumer chasm of material want trumping realistic

If you stayed tune this long . well, gosh.  Thanks!  I hesitate to hope
to that it was worth it.  I'd be interested in any comments, pleas, or
other thoughts on this matter in the hope that I get back on the right
comet trail here, or at the very least, appreciate better what it is
that I have.

And as always, clear skies everyone .

John Edelmann
Mike here: Well, there IS a universe of things that can be viewed and photographed through any small telescope. Of course, expectations can seriously influence how happy you are with what you see and do. That said, there is more to just looking at objects if you want to expand your universe. Take measurements (colors or double stars), learn how to draw the objects you see, monitor variable stars, study craters on the moon, track asteroids, and so much more. There is a LOT that can be done and there are even contributions to science that amatuer astronomers can make. It just takes enthusiam, patience, and a willingness to gain experience. If you are no longer excited about astronomy then sell or donate the system and take up some other hobby.


Thanks ... enthusiasm (happily) isn't the problem ... otherwise I
wouldn't keep finding new accessories to try to make it more
interesting.  It's probably patience and time that is at issue.  And ...
I don't think taking up another hobby would go over so well !  I (like
many I'm sure) have a lot on my plate already.

For now, I think I'll hang in there, and make sure to bring it out more
often for myself, and when guests are around.  It will be interesting to
see if any of your esteemed contributors might also have any insights to


Mike here: Yes, having time to enjoy ANY hobby can be a challenge. The next thing about amateur astronomy when having a small, easy to set up telescope like the ETX, is that it can be enjoyed while minimal preparation.

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