Last updated: 21 October 2005
Subject:	Just got the new ETX80_AT
Sent:	Monday, October 17, 2005 06:47:59
From:	Hancock, Monte (
When I saw the ads for the new ETX80AT earlier this month, I just had to
have one.  Given that you can easily pay $300 for a high-quality
eyepiece, $280 for a complete, easy-to-use GOTO system seemed like a
great deal.

My Meade ETX-80AT (3.15" refractor) arrived this past week. I put it
together in about 20 minutes (real easy), and watched the instructional
DVD that came with it (terrific, also available online; 26 minutes
long). I took the scope outside and calibrated the drive on a
terrestrial target (according to the video, this increases pointing
accuracy). All very easy. The hand control is sturdy and easy to use.
There are no numeric buttons, so everything is done using scroll
buttons. There are many well-chosen top level menus, so none of the
scroll searches is overly deep. The user interface is very intuitive,
and the adjustable display is bright and clear.  The whole thing is
powered by 6 AA batteries which go in the base.  This is supposed to
provide about 20 hours of service.  I've put about 4 hours on them so
far, and have noticed no degradation yet.

Last night I had the scope out for 2.5 hours. The sky was clear, but
since I was in town, there was quite a bit of ambient light. I was able
to visually see M13 (globular cluster in Hercules) and M31 (Adromeda
Galaxy), but the light pollution in town was too much to get clear
photographs of these. I could barely make out the M20 nebulosity
(Trifid), but once again could not image. I've had this same problem
even with my 10 inch scope: without filters (I don't have any), you just
can't image these objects in town.

I took a couple of shots of Mars, which is favorably positioned right
now. Using just the open scope and CCD imager (no eyepiece) I could
clearly see the red disc, but no surface features (typical in a small
aperture). The two eyepieces supplied with the scope are high quality
(Plossl), and give clear, crisp images with no discernable chromatic
aberration. The scope has a standard 1.25" eyepiece receptacle, so I can
use the eyepieces of my other scopes in it. The scope has only a fine
focus, so many turns are required when changing eyepieces I actually
found this to be a plus, since it makes fine adjustments easy (very
helpful when using a CCD camera with a slow refresh rate).

Alignment is much easier than in larger scopes, and takes only a few
minutes. Tracking was just as solid as in my Celestron 10" it easily
held centered objects in the field of view for many minutes The GOTO
function worked tremendously well, regularly putting objects near the
center of the field of view at low power. The GOTO has a "spiral search"
mode: if the object isn't in the field of view, the drive will spiral
out slowly from the center; you stop it when the object is seen. I used
this a couple of times and really like it. Slew rates on the hand
control are selectable with a single button from very slow to very fast.

The drive has several built in "guided tours" where you align the scope
and it then slews in order to the "best" objects visible at your time
and location. I haven't tried this, but did look through last night's
menu good selection of objects.

The scope has a built in flip mirror so you can view "straight through"
or in the common 90 degree mode. It also has a built in Barlow: just
turn a little knob on the side and the power of your objective is
roughly doubled. No fumbling in the dark with a bulky second eyepiece.

There is a paper azimuthal graduated ring around the base; this is loose
and tends to fall off.  It doesn't appear to me to serve any purpose, so
I'll probably remove it.  The scope has both declination and azimuth
lock knobs which are easy to use.  There is an accessory tray which
attaches to the lightweight but adequate adjustable height aluminum
tripod.  I would have preferred it be a little closer to the scope (it's
kind of low) given the length of the hand set cord.

The scope comes with a little device which is a combination compass and
level; it has a 1.25 form factor, so you fit it into the eyepiece holder
to roughly true the scope to level North.  I thought this was pretty

The whole thing weighs about 10 pounds; I can pick it up with one hand,
carry it outside, and be set up quickly.

All in all, a great scope at a great price. It should be easy enough for
my 12 year-old daughter to use.

To "prove the pudding", I took the attached photo of the nearly-full
waxing Moon with the Meade Deep Sky Imager CCD. Pretty nice shot (155
stacked mono-images at 0.1 milliseconds per image).

I'm glad I bought this scope; I'd do it again.


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