Last updated: 3 October 2005
Subject: ETX 125 PE w/ UHTC review Sent: Wednesday, September 28, 2005 11:54:25 From: Eric Theblack (firstname.lastname@example.org) I will start off by saying that in my humble opinion, there is not a finer SC or MC scope to be had for under $1500. I would even say 2 grand, except there is one scope in particular for around $1900 that I would love to have and that might even be a tad better. But for under $1500, you will not find a better all-around scope with sharper optics. The Meade ETX 125 premier edition with the UHTC coatings costs $1194 and with tax comes out to just shy of $1300. I set it up last night and used the two star alignment. I am using last night's experiences as a review rather than previous ones because last night I saw more objects in a telescope than I had in my entire life put together. Now you can use the automatic alignment, and let the scope choose the stars for you, but last night I decided to use the two star alignment where you select the stars from the database yourself. According to the fine advice I got from Mike Weasner, the stars should be some distance apart. You don't want to use two stars from the summer triangle, for example. So I used the two star alignment, with Vega as my first star since it's so bright it's hard to miss. I put the scope in the home position for two star alignment (counter-clockwise and then back a turn and a half until the fork arm is right over the control panel). Then I faced it roughly north, just in the general direction. When it slewed to Vega, it was slightly off horizontally and vertically. Again using Mike's expert advice, I carefully lifted the tripod and moved the scope so that Vega is vertically aligned. I then used the laser viewfinder to align the star and centered it in the eyepiece. Next I did Capella and with an alignment successful message, I was off and rolling. That's all you have to do. Setting up the scope takes 2-3 minutes. Aligning takes another 2-3. I'll say this now about the premiere edition. It is sooo nice to have. If you can't afford it, then go with the AT version instead, no sweat. The only difference is in bells and whistles and the level north technology, which I have to admit makes things a lot easier. The laser viewfinder took a little getting used to, but now I love it. I move the scope with the arrow keys until the red dot is over the target and then bingo, it is right in the eyepiece near center. The picture design on the tube is nice to look at. All in all, I would say it's like the sports package on a new car. Do you want to go with the base model or do you want to upgrade and drive the one that has extra functionality and will impress everyone? Don't get me wrong, the PE is about more than just impressing friends and neighbors. The LNT and other features really are nice to have. Sure, you can live without them. But if you can afford it then I say go for it. You will get good use out of the extra bonuses. On to the review of the objects I saw. I was viewing from a moderately dark location in Burbank, CA. I have a large hill and other trees blocking the light from the city where I'm at, so it is the next best thing to a dark location on a clear night. At about 1 AM, I even noticed the Pleiades cluster with my naked eye, a very faint glowing smudge up in the sky. So I started with the Ring nebula, which I was anxious to see. The scope put the nebula almost dead center in my eyepiece, a 26mm lens which gave me 73X power. The nebula was faint, needing averted vision to detect. If I had just been panning through the sky, I would have crossed over it without even seeing it. I was so amazed that I had a scope that could grasp something that far away in its field of view... I actually started laughing with glee. If you had been there, you would have thought I was insane. I was giddy like a school boy. I really loved it. I immediately slapped in the vaunted 13mm Nagler type 6 and re-focused. The nebula was twice the size now and with slightly greater detail. I then took the eyepiece out and put my Lumicon UHC nebula filter on and put it back. This filter does not work as well on planetary nebula, it is mostly for diffuse nebula. Still, I could see slightly greater detail with it and with the combination of this and the Nagler, I got the most perfect view of the nebula for that night. At one point, I could just barely make out the central star. My eyes are really good at detecting color and so I saw a faint trace of dark green (or some kind of greenish tinge) in the nebula that I didn't see with the next nebula I saw, the Dumbbell nebula. The Dumbbell was really faint, even fainter than the Ring. I really needed my UHC filter to see this. I could just barely make out the dumbbell pattern. This nebula only showed up as two shades of gray. But it was still beautiful to look at. I've seen the Ring nebula through larger scopes, such as a 14" Meade RCX. And of course, there is so much more detail to be had with those larger mammoths. But you're talking about 1 grand vs. 14 grand. So for the price, my scope really delivers. Since I wanted to see as much as I could, I took the 'Tonight's Best' tour in the autostar menu. This is a really exciting feature, let me tell you. This is where I saw things I had never seen before in a scope. I saw the Pleiades open cluster (my favorite open cluster in fact), which just barely fit all seven stars into my 26mm eyepiece (Well, at least six. There was one that was faint and I wasn't sure if it was part of it or not). I saw my favorite galaxy, Andromeda, which appears as a faint, fuzzy object with a brighter central buldge visible. I saw the planet Uranus, floating so far out there in space. It appeared as a small disk and I got the best view when I used the Televue 2.5 Powermate with my 13mm Nagler. I could clearly make out its greenish color. The I saw Neptune, an even smaller disk with a faint bluish color. I saw the Double Cluster in all its glory(The Nagler really shined through here. After staring at it for a couple of moments, the space walk effect kicked in and I was floating through space there. If you can't afford the $100 million for a ticket into space, the Nagler is the next best thing.). I saw the color contrast of Albireo (looked even better in the Nagler). This is also where I saw the Dumbbell nebula. There were other objects that were less obvious, such as Cygnus X-1 which is a binary system with one star being a black hole that is leeching off of the other star. The black hole isn't visible through a telescope, of course. But you get the satisfaction of knowing you are looking in its direction and knowing it is out there. I also saw Mars, which gave the most detail through my Nagler/Powermate combo. I could make out the dark markings through the middle of the planet and the southern polar ice cap as well. It really looked spectacular with a white and red glow. The Autostar has a cool feature where if you press the down arrow scroll key (bottom right corner of the handset), it will give you information about what you're looking at. You can see its distance from Earth and other pertinent information. Then the autostar scrolls some other info such as the story behind its discovery or its name or whatever interesting info exists concerning the object in question. This helps you learn the sky, let me tell you. If anyone says Goto technology doesn't help you learn the sky, he is full of it. I can point out any number of stars to you, constellations, star clusters, planets, etc. without the aid of the autostar. Only a moron would look at things and not remember anything at all. It's a gradual learning process, to be sure, but I have much greater knowledge now then when I first bought my scope. I can't describe my emotions to you last night. At times I was elated. At other times I was almost moved to tears by the beauty of what I was seeing (especially the brilliant blue sparkles of the Pleiades cluster). The ETX 125 PE has a learning curve and there are things you have to deal with, such as are described on this website. You definitely have to train the drives and calibrate the motors and sensors every time you change batteries as well as periodically (I didn't do it last night and I was fine). But as I said, I don't think there is anything better you can spend your money on for under $1500. The views of the moon are amazing, with excellent detail of the crators and mountain ridges. The optics really are razor sharp. In closing, if you have not purchased one already then I strongly suggest you buy the scope at the Discovery Channel store either at a location nearby or online at their website if there is not one close to you. BEFORE you buy it, join the Discovery rewards program. For every $150 you spend, you get a $10 gift certificate! The Discovery Channel store has pretty much the entire Meade line of scopes up to the LX200 14". How much you will get will depend on what the price of the scope you bought was, of course. So for the money I spent on my scope, plus a $15 book I bought, I got $80 worth of gift certificates! That's a free eyepiece right there. Or a barlow lens. Or a pack of filters with money left over. The store carries all Meade accessories such as filters, lenses, barlows, electric focusers, carry cases, etc. You can buy several items or, in my case, I am using my gift certificates to get $80 off the Meade 6.7 UWA series 5000 lens. One heck of a buy, I would say. Best of luck and many nights of clear skies... -Eric
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