Last updated: 26 April 2005
Subject: ETX 105/EC Versus the Weather - User Report Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2005 08:06:13 From: Miles (firstname.lastname@example.org) Here is an account you could add to the user observation section for the ETX105 EC (with UHTC), bought new with autostar and the 844 tripod in England. I got my 105 for my 40th, and expecting a 90, was delighted and surprised to see the 105, for some reason I had missed this model. Thankfully my spouse found a good dealer who pointed out the small step up from the 90, with the better viewfinder and sturdier build, and threw in 4 series 3000 eyepieces instead of the LPI - that advertised offer had expired. Despite the thorough research I thought I had done, I soon felt pretty dumb not having added in one of the most important determining factors in what you will see with your new scope - the weather. First night out of the box it was cloudy - and it was that way for a week. By the second week, I had had enough of looking at birds, aligning the viewfinder and training and stuff, and was getting pretty despondent. I must point out that the British Isle are one of the worst places for clear skies - it is a battle ground for weather systems. Then one night I stepped out for some late shopping and looked up to see an appreciable gap in the clouds. I ran back in, checked the charts and realised that if the upstairs south facing window sill was deep enough, I could get a glimpse of saturn. The little scopes broad base sat perfectly, with the deep ledge allowing the tube end to be outside, and there it was, a perfect jewel in the 26mm lens. Upping the magnification brought out the 'wows', and 'thats amazings!'. The series 3000 plossls seam fine, they are japanese made, and so far the atmospheric conditions have rarely allowed me to see there full performance anyhow, so I will not be replacing any yet. It seams a little mean to only include one eyepiece for new buyers, but then I guess the after sales market would dry up if to much came with the scope! Another say, 15 or 10mm lens, or / plus a Barlow would be essential straight off - so add that to any purchasing calculations. The weather never really cleared for five or six weeks, if it did it was late, or an obviously temporary affair that did not encourage taking the whole thing out. However, now that I realised we had South and North facing deep window ledges I kept and eye on the sky every half hour and simply moved the scope round the house whenever a usable gap appeared, and used it as a mini dob - tapping the motors to keep things in view. Over the course of a month, from indoors, I have managed to see some beautiful clusters in Cancer, the spring farewell of the Orion nebular, many fascinating star systems, saturn, jupiter - (including shadow transits), and countless views of the moon. The views have been very good. Bright stars focus crisply, clusters look very jewel like, moonscapes are very contrasty with astonishing detail and '3d' views, and the Cassini division and markings on the globe have been visible everytime on Saturn. Obviously with these limited vistas it was hit or miss what became viewable but I am astonished when I count up what I have seen from 'indoors' - the compact portable nature of this machine has really come in to its own. Finally - an autostar test. Eventually, after about five weeks it was clear enough and early enough to take it out and switch it on. This was actually the third attempt, since I had ran outside previously trying to quickly do alignments during gaps in the cloud. Human error resulted in many fails - including, (to my embarrassment but to give hope to others!) : Pointing the scope north towards Polaris while leveling the tripod, failing to tighten it up after star hoping, watching the motors in the base throw the compass out, getting British Summer Time mixed up, droping stuff in the dark, and of course not having enough knowledge about the sky to replace the stars hidden behind roofs! The moral is take time and practice and make sure human error has been eliminated before worrying. Eventually all was textbook. Autostar is an amazing device - being able to dial in objects and watch the scope swivel itself and get the object centered, and then track it has to be seen to be believed. I will point out that GOTO is far from a 'dumbing down' of astronomy. You will find yourself having to think about alignment and understanding the concepts of telescope mounting to set it up, and at the very least you will need to expand your knowledge of bright stars - the chances of your backyard offering unobscured views of automatically chosen stars, anytime of night, is slim. Some thoughts and things for potential buyers. The compact nature of this little thing weighs heavily in its favour. Any other scope needs to be on a tripod, but the fact that this thing can operate like a mini observatory on any level surface makes it highly desirable - if you can, compare this in a store with other models, of similar sized aperture - even much smaller scopes are useless without the big tripod. I have sometimes left this thing on my bedside table - ready to set it on the window ledge to peak at Jupiter in my nightshirt out of an open window! Shame about no holder for the controller though? The 105 is worth seeking out over the 90, its still very portable but is better made and for a relatively small jump in price band puts you in the big small scope bracket. Remember the upgrade for the 90 finder will eat into that price jump. (On this point I fail to see why people complain about the finders position, it does say in the instructions to rotate it away if smaller eyepieces are blocked, it is not a major design flaw). Optically the views are very good. I have limited experience, but can report beautiful images through this thing. Everything seams crisp and well focused with no vices - when the seeing settles, planetary views can be thrilling. This scope is not battery reliant. Switched off with the clutch loosened it moves smoothly if you want to just star hop or scan around, GOTO does not rule out making your own way around. Do research and take time before buying your first major scope, though I must admit to wanting an ETX since it reminded me of the Questars I had seen in the copies of Omni and Scientific American my uncle used to bring me from the States - I didn't want a Questar, just that type of compact design. However some astronomy communities have the view that any money not spent on aperture - even if that means a huge cardboard tube held up by doweling and rubber bands - devalues your credentials as an amateur astronomer. Realise though its 'hourses for courses'. Some love small scopes, some large, some apo's, some binoculars. Try not to be influenced by others, hey - even if its the color you like - thats fine, but read and be sure about what you really can and cannot see through different scopes - then you won't be disappointed. However, also realise that even an pill sized low power well imaged view of Saturn seen through YOUR scope with YOUR eyes on a cold night is infinitely more thrilling than seeing the best picture someone else has managed with their 24 inch and super CCD. In fact if what you can see in the diminutive ETX 70 does not impress you and ignite a passion for observing, then its doubtful any larger scope will. ( However I'll bet that even people on the Hubble team during all night image processing sessions have mumbled to themselves 'if only we could see just a little bit more!') Quality There is no doubt this is a fine instrument, and I must admit that I only followed up the reports in detail on this site after I had bought it, and some of the bad things obviously make people doubt the excellence of the ETX range. If I had read some of these things first, I might have shied away - but Im glad I didn't because I have obviously been lucky, or perhaps this is normal...these things should work! I have two powerbooks that I depend on for work, but if I visit Apple forums, apparently they are always going wrong, and for some Apple sell nothing but underpowered over-designed lemons! So Meade may have a QC issue, but specialist forums do skew things towards the bad. I will let you know if I am proved wrong! Best Wishes Miles P.S. thanks for the site - and thanks for the links to the constellation and observation guides - though tech and spec talk is interesting to a point - its great to be finally clicking on those links - and getting outside!
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