Last updated: 26 January 2007
Subject: Meade ETX 60 Rediscovery Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 11:54:05 From: Brian Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) I have been touring the winter night sky with my trusty old ETX 60, and was hoping you could use a "belated" review of this smallest member of the ETX family. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Meade ETX 60 Rediscovery November 20, 2006 I have owned a Meade ETX 60 since September 2001, and this little telescope has continued to amaze me. I never posted a review of this scope on your site because other users had already done so and it seemed redundant. After using it to capture images of the November 8, 2006 Mercury Transit with my Lunar and Planetary Imager, I decided to take it out for a tour of some of my favorite Messier objects on November 20, 2006. I was so impressed by its performance I felt compelled to share it with you. First, a little history about this mighty little telescope; back in 2001 Costco was selling Meade ETX 60's for $99.00 ($129.00 with a $30.00 coupon for members). My friend and neighbor Tim Mountain bought one in mid July of 2001 and we spent a lot of time on the balcony of his apartment learning to use it. I finally bought one for myself when I returned from a conference in Canada that was unexpectedly extended in the wake of September 11th. By that time there were only three or four ETX 60s left, and all of the boxes had been opened. We examined all the scopes, picked one and hoped for the best. We spent the next few weeks learning how to align it. I won't bore you with the details, but I had a lot of trouble learning how to align the telescope. Until I figured out the proper alignment procedure, I was convinced I'd bought a lemon. Now I can align this scope practically blindfolded, and even when I "fake align" it amazes me with its uncanny accuracy. I acquired a lot of accessories over the years I bought a Meade hard case and a Meade dew shield, and I received a Meade field tripod as a Christmas gift. I bought a 2X and a 3X Barlow lens, which extended the use of the 26mm and 9mm eyepieces that came with the scope, and I started buying a wide variety of filters. I shopped for eyepieces, but the prices kept me from going crazy. I bought an eyepiece projection adapter for my digital camera and a piggyback adapter for my 35mm camera and started experimenting with astrophotography. The Starry Nights Bundle Edition planetarium software that came with the telescope was also very cool. Using this software we simulated solar and lunar eclipses, simulated shadow transits on Jupiter, planned observation sessions and printed star charts with this software. Very high-tech! Meade put together a great package for the ETX 60, but three "after market" accessories dramatically improved the performance of this scope: The first was the Scope Tronix Flexi-focus. Wow, what a major improvement! I'm a patient person, but struggling with the teeny little focus knob on this scope really tested my patience. After installing the Flexi-focus I was able to achieve focus effortlessly. I started using the scope more often simply because it was more enjoyable. The second accessory was a Celestron Solar Filter. This full aperture mylar filter only cost $19.99 at Scope City, and it allowed us to view the June 2002 Annular Solar Eclipse in perfect safety. The third awesome accessory was an Orion Explorer II 21mm to 7mm zoom eyepiece. I bought this eyepiece at Oceanside Photo and Telescope for less than $75.00 and it immediately became my favorite eyepiece for this telescope. With its excellent eye relief, wide field of view and smooth range of motion, it's the only eyepiece I needed for this scope. Soon after I outfitted my little ETX 60 with all of these accessories, I contracted a mild case "aperture fever". After looking at Saturn and Jupiter through my friend Neil Wright's 13-inch Dob, I became dissatisfied with the low power planetary views through my ETX 60. But because of my good experiences with the ETX 60, I remained loyal to the ETX family. Portability was a big concern, and I didn't have space to store a huge light bucket, so I bought an ETX 125 UHTC in the summer of 2003 just in time for the Mars Apparition. It took time to learn the quirks of that model, but once they were ironed out I started using that scope almost exclusively. My ETX 60 was still the scope of choice for solar and lunar observing, and it excelled at capturing images of lunar eclipses, but the ETX 125 provided superior high contrast views of the planets and deep sky marvels like the Ring Nebula and the Hercules Cluster. I bought a set of Meade ser ies 4000 Super Plossl eyepieces on sale for $99.00, and I bought a Meade Lunar and Planetary Imager two years later for the same price. But I was so impressed with the Scope Tronix Flexi Focus and the Orion Explorer II zoom eyepiece that I bought one for the ETX 125 too! My ETX 125 has seen the most use over the last few years, but I began to develop a deeper appreciation for wide-angle rich-field views that only a small refractor like the ETX 60 can provide. I occasionally took the little scope out on clear nights, but not very often. It performs flawlessly every time I use it, and the only real problem I've found is that it cannot be aligned in Polar mode because the Right Ascension lever was improperly installed in the factory. I'm sure it's an easy fix, probably just a minor re-adjustment of the lock lever set screws, but the scope performs well enough in Alt/Azimuth mode, so I haven't felt compelled to tinkered with it. I used the ETX 60 to capture images of the giant sunspots of October 2003 with my digital camera, but it saw very little use in 2004 and during the entire 2005 Mars apparition, I never took the little scope out of its case. I checked it out occasionally just to make sure I didn't leave any batteries in the scope, but that's about it. During this time I used the ETX 60 primarily for solar observing, but as we approached Solar Minimum, that became less and less frequent. I was pretty excited to get the little scope out for the Mercury Transit on November 8, 2006. I set up the day before just to get re-acquainted with the scope, the LPI and the digital camera. I set the scope up on the grass to minimize thermal distortion radiating up from the ground, and used umbrellas and hand towels keep the sunlight from overheating the OTA. The rehearsal paid off. The Lunar and Planetary Imager captured crystal clear images of the transit even though the scope was aligned in Alt/Azimuth mode. The sunspots really popped in the stacked images, and you could clearly see faculae around the active regions. The photos had as much detail as SOHO's MDI images of the sun that day. The weather got cloudy after the transit, but it cleared up by the 18th and 19th of November. On the 20th the sky was clear and the seeing was incredible. I was outside admiring the night sky when I remembered that the ETX 60 still had fresh batteries, so I decided to check out three of my favorite Messier Objects: the Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Orion Nebula. Setting up the scope was easy and took less than five minutes. After attaching the scope to the tripod, I carried it outside, pointed the scope at Polaris, put it in the Alt/Azimuth "Home" position, plugged in the Autostar and turned it on. The Autostar selected Capella and Fomalhaut for alignment stars. I had to make some minor adjustments to center them in the 26mm eyepiece, but once they were centered the Autostar beeped and displayed "Alignment Successful". Piece of cake. First stop, M45 the Pleiades. Using the "Deep Sky" menu, I found the Pleiades listed under "Named Objects". I hit the "Go To" button and the ETX 60 slewed and centered the cluster in the 26mm eyepiece. The magnitude 1.39 cluster was awesome. Not only was the entire cluster visible in the eyepiece, but stars as faint as magnitude 10 were clearly visible, and using averted vision I could just see the faint nebula surrounding the cluster. I scrolled through the information about this object on the Autostar, and I was surprised at how much information there was to read! There was a wealth of information about the Pleiades. I admired the cluster for a very long time, soaking up the view, taking occasional breaks to read the text scrolling across the Autostar display and looking at the cluster with my unaided eye. Every time I looked back in the eyepiece, the cluster was precisely centered. The little scope tracke d perfectly. Next stop, M31 the Andromeda Galaxy. Using the "Deep Sky" menu, I found the Andromeda Galaxy listed under "Named Objects". I hit the "Go To" button and the little scope slewed and found it; a fuzzy oval with a bright central core. I traded the 26mm for the Orion Explorer II zoom eyepiece, and the magnitude 4.5 galaxy was awesome. The cool thing about this eyepiece is that it does not require any refocusing when you change magnification. At 21mm it was a bright fuzzy oval, and at 7mm it was a little dimmer, but a lot larger fuzzy oval. Not enough aperture to pick up the galaxy's spiral arms, but knowing that it was a galaxy, one of Hubble's "Island Universes" almost 3 million light years away made it very cool. The longer I let my eye soak up the view, the more sure I became that I could also see M110 and M32, but because I didn't have any star charts with me, I couldn't determine exactly what I was seeing. < /P> Last but not least, M42 the Orion Nebula. At 21mm the magnitude 4.5 nebula was a beautiful sight. At 7mm the Trapezium Cluster was clearly visible. I was totally blown away when I realized that I could see all four of the major stars in this cluster with only 60mm of aperture. The longer I admired the nebula the more detail in the gas clouds became apparent. The seeing was excellent I could not detect any distortion, and the scope really hadn't had enough time to properly cool. What an amazing scope! It quickly became too cold to stay out, so I packed it up and went inside. Once again, I was impressed with the performance of this little scope that I felt compelled to share it with you. The "Go To" capability allows more time to be spent actually looking AT things instead of looking FOR things. For those of you with ETX 60's languishing in your closets, I say let them languish no more! Take them out of their cases. Dust them off. Clean their objectives. Put in fresh batteries, fire up those Autostars, and take a low power tour of the night sky. You'll be glad you did. Because this simple, easy-to-use, lightweight, ultra-portable refractor is a worthy telescope for exploring the sky. Its optics are top notch, and its uncanny accuracy will amaze you. I hope to continue enjoying this little telescope for many moons. Brian Miller Spring Valley, CA November 21, 2006
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