Last updated: 22 April 2005

Subject:	"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." - A. Einstein
Sent:	Friday, April 22, 2005 08:11:24
From:	Phelps III, Robert C. (
In early summer of 2003 I purchased an ETX-125.  I had watched the
evolution of the ETX series of scopes for a couple of years before I
purchased mine (the $100 eyepieces and free tripod helped me make the
decision).  One of the reasons that I decided to purchase a scope now
was the upcoming close encounter with Mars that was to take place in
August of 2003.

I had been using a 10" Coulter dobsonian given to me by my sister after
she had purchased a 10" Meade with GOTO capabilities.  The dob was a
good scope, but the lack of tracking made using it frustrating.  I did
use it to see the dark, blotchy scars on Jupiter immediately after comet
S-L 9 smashed into it, so it was an effective scope.

After reading all I could about the ETX, I set it up on my south-facing
deck off the first-level of our two-story home.  I then discovered that
Polaris was not visible and I needed to use a compass to find north.  I
also realized that I was surrounded by trees making it difficult to find
alignment stars for the easy-alignment routine built into the Autostar. 
Over several evenings I worked with the scope and manage to occasionally
get a decent alignment and began to see the worth of the scope.  That
first summer I spent most of my time watching the moon and Mars.  I
purchased a web cam, did the necessary alterations to use it with my
ETX, downloaded some astrophotography software, and tried to prepare for
the close encounter with Mars.

During August, 2003 I did manage to get a couple of groups of decent
stacked images of Mars.  Using the Sky and Telescope web site, I was
able to identify some of the details (more like shadings on the planet's
surface) in the images I processed.  All in all it was a satisfying
experience.  Winter approached and I seldom got the scope out.  In early
2004 we made the decision to sell our home and build a new home.  We
found a building site on a 200-foot bluff overlooking a wide river
valley.  The back of our new home faces south.  While making the
transition from our old home to our new, the ETX stayed in its hard case
and through the winter of 2004-2005 there was little opportunity to use
the scope.  In fact, for the first six months of our occupancy we had 15
days that it didn't rain.

Late in March of this year I discovered that I could see Polaris from my
deck and tried to do an alignment but I had forgotten about centering
the scope's circular travel.  During the alignment it the scope hit the
clockwise stop and the alignment failed.  Clouds moved in before I could
try again and I gave up in disgust, wondering why I had spent all this
money on a scope that was so hard to use and didn't seem to work all
that well.

I went back and re-read all of the documentation on the scope and
discovered why it had failed the last time I tried to use it.  I
practiced with it until I was sure I could do an alignment correctly.

The in mid-April I heard a weather forecaster predict 5 days of clear
weather 4/17 through 4/21.  On that Friday (4/17) I brought the scope
out while it was still light.  I aligned the finder scope with a
microwave tower two miles away across the valley and waited for
darkness.  Remarkably, the sky was cloudless, and the night was cool,
but not cold.  It was too early for insects to be out in large numbers. 
It was the perfect night for viewing.  I had checked my Starry Night
software and discovered that Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon would all be
visible during the early evening.  I waited for Polaris to appear.  When
it finally did, I centered it in the finder scope and was pleased to see
a bright shiny dot in the center of my 26mm eyepiece.  I leveled the
scope and successfully aligned the scope using Sirius and Arcturus.  I
navigated through the Autostar menu to Jupiter and punched GOTO.  I was
rewarded with a clear view of Jupiter and the four Galilean moons dead
center in the eyepiece.  It knocked my socks off.  I adjusted the
electronic focus on the ETX and saw light and dark bands on the planet
as well as those four diamond-like moons.  I noticed the over the next
several minutes Jupiter drifted off-center so I synced it and the drift
stopped.  Next, I instructed the ETX to find Saturn.  It slewed toward
Saturn and nailed it in the center of my eyepiece.  I saw light bands on
the planet, the rings and, with some delicate focusing, even saw the
Cassini division.  Saturn started drifting too, so I synced it and the
drifting stopped.  I left the scope for a while (15 -20 minutes) and
when I returned, Saturn was still dead center.  I had the scope slew to
the moon and spent the rest of the evening switching between those three
items.  I was impressed with the precision of the scope and also came to
realize that taking time to do an accurate alignment really paid
dividends as the evening wore on.

I repeated the experience the following evening with equally good
results.  The following evening, Sunday 4/19/05, I brought out the scope
early, along with my laptop and the Meade LPI.  The evening started
clear but patchy clouds moved in as the evening progressed.  I shot
several series of images of Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon with some
success.  I need to work on image processing and using the LPI, but the
success I had keeps me motivated to keep trying until I get it right.

Those three days were the best experience I have had using the ETX.  As
this summer progresses I will try to expand to deep sky items.

There are not many experiences that are more awe-inspiring than that
first look through the eyepiece at the disk of Jupiter and its four
visible moons.  Over the years I have shared that experience with those
that have never looked through a modern telescope with decent optics.  I
have shared it with those that have seen the same planet in images from
the Hubble Space Telescope.  After their initial reaction, which
generally involves some form of "Oh wow", they become quite and
introspective as they processed this new view of the universe.  It is
hard to deny that Jupiter is really there when you look at it across
miles of intervening space.  Then, slowly comes the realization that the
size of the solar system and the size of the universe forces us to
acknowledge that our place in the universe fades into obscurity while
conversely the realization that we are part of that same incredible
universe.  As others, much more astute than me have said, we are
star-stuff that has evolved to the point that we are aware of our

Return to the top of this page.

Go back to the User Observations page.

Go back to my ETX Home Page.

Copyright ©2005 Michael L. Weasner /
Submittals Copyright © 2005 by the Submitter