Last updated: 11 July 2002

Observations with a New ETX-125EC with UHTC

Sent:	Tuesday, July 9, 2002 19:05:45
From: (Robert Wolpert)
I received my new ETX-125EC with Ultra High Transmission Coatings last
week from OPT, and I thought I'd submit my impressions as a new ETX
user. I purchased a classic 12" LX200 last November (my first Meade
telescope), and decided to buy the ETX so that I would have an easily
portable system.  I was also curious about what an ETX-125 could do with
the UHTC, and how it would compare to the 12" LX200 with the
standard enhanced coatings. I received the ETX with the Autostar II,
Meade travel case, dew shield, AC adaptor, and the mount adaptor so that
I could place the ETX on my Giant Field Tripod that came with the
12" LX200. You should see this "Little Rascal" sitting on
that Giant Field Tripod, trying to look like it's big brother. One thing
is for sure - it will never tip over!

The telescope was actually shipped to me in the travel case and
everything arrived in perfect condition. Meade packs the telescope with
white foam packing between the OTA and the forks. There is a label that
describes the correct way to remove the foam without damaging the
telescope, but the warning label is attached to the OTA in a place where
it's not obvious that it applies to the packing material. It would have
been far better to have the warning label simply printed on a sheet of
paper and placed within the plastic bag that protects the telescope
during shipping. Fortunately, I removed the packing in the correct way
simply because it seemed right to me after carefully fiddling with it
for a minute.

I'm new to the ETX and the AutoStar, so I had downloaded the instruction
manuals and had already read through the instructions for both items
before the telescope arrived. I've seen a LOT of questions and confusion
regarding the operation of Meade telescopes on the LX200 GPS news group
and in other news groups, and now I can see why. The instructions would
not be bad for someone who already knows how to use these things. You
can tell that they are written by someone who knows the product well and
sees the process as "obvious." I found that after reading
everything through twice before turning on the telescope, and then going
through the process again with the telescope operating, I'd find myself
often mumbling, "Oh! That's what they mean!" Then it became
obvious. I think it's necessary for a new user to go very slowly through
the setup process, re-reading everything in order to have a successful
"first light." I would think that most problems with Meade
telescopes would be eliminated with a very patient "get
acquainted" process. I know it's not easy when you're excited with
your new purchase and want to see it immediately do everything you
imagined it would do while waiting for it to arrive.

My Autostar has version 2.2E software. At least that's what I assume it
to be since it says "22E" on it's initialization. The
initialization process was rather straight forward. I would have liked
the option to simply key in "My Site" or "Home Site"
rather than choosing a state and city that is closest to me.  I'm still
not certain how to put in my actual home site since when I ENTER
"ADD" under "SITE" it brings me to the state and
cities again. My thought is that I'll have to EDIT the city that is
closest to me with my actual coordinates, but I'd prefer to add a site
titled "A Home Site" so that it would be a completely separate
site and come up first on the list of sites. Is there a way to do this? 
Any help here would be appreciated.

The training process in Alt-Az went well using a terrestrial object, but
I think I'll do it again following Dr. Clay's suggestion to use Polaris.
I didn't bother to CALIBRATE and now I think that I may have left out an
important step that really wasn't covered in the instruction manuals.
Then again, it may just be an optional step for motors that aren't
working correctly. This is not clear to me.

Anyway, I then decided I was ready to actually try the new ETX and see
what it could do. I had read about HOME position, but it wasn't until I
actually tried it that it made sense to me. This was one of those
occasions when I would say, "Oh! That's what they mean!" It's
not obvious from the manual. It could be written better and described in
a more detailed way. I did the home position before the night had
darkened enough to see Polaris, but Arcturus and Vega were visible and I
did a Two-Star alignment. Arcturus was first, and I was amazed to see
the Little Rascal slew over in that direction and put the star into the
field of view of the finder. It did the same for Vega.

I immediately noticed the excellent optics of this telescope. Star
diffraction patterns on both sides of focus were picture perfect. That
was so nice to see that I just spent a minute or two admiring them. The
GOTO's placed the chosen optics within the field of the 26 mm eyepiece,
although sometimes just barely.

When the sky became fully dark, I turned off the telescope and took more
care to put it into an accurate Home Position. I used a small level to
level the OTA and aimed it to North as accurately as possible using
Polaris. I chose the same two stars for a two star alignment. Once again
Arcturus was in the field of view of the finder, but this time when it
slew to Vega, it was actually in the field of view of the EYEPIECE! 
That was impressive!! Way to Go, ETX! Not bad for a "right out of
the box" instrument on it's first night with a newbie at the helm.

I looked at M13, M92, M57 and epsilon Lyra. Epsilon Lyra was easily
split with my Televue Radian. The globular clusters and ring nebula
looked very good for an instrument of this size. Neither cluster was
actually resolved, and there was a world of difference between the views
in the 12" LX200 and the ETX-125. The saying that there's no
substitution for aperture is definitely true. But I still enjoyed what
this little ETX could do - and it did it with such finesse!  Regarding
the UHTC coatings, all I can say about it is that you're getting all
that you can expect to get from the telescope's aperture, and that in
itself should be comforting. It's not going to turn a 5" into an
8", let alone a 12".

One thing that I had to get used to was that when the sound of the
slewing motors stopped, it didn't mean that it was finished locating the
object as it does with my LX 200. When the sound of the fast slewing
stopped, I'd put my eye to the eyepiece and watch the star field
continue to move until the Go To object came into the field of view of
the eyepiece. Pretty amazing, actually. I learned to not touch the scope
or the Autostar until I heard the beep announcing that the object was
located and positioned.

Mechanically, the scope is much more prone to vibration than the LX 200.
This doesn't bother me too much since any photography or CCD photometry
will be done with the 12" LX 200, while the ETX will be reserved
for visual work. The Altitude/Dec lock took a decent amount of
tightening for it to keep from slipping. I tried to limit the tightening
from being much more than was actually required to keep a non-slip grip
on the axis.  The Azimuth/RA lock is probably a little TOO tight. Even
when forgetting to tighten the lock, the Az motion would not slip when
moving to a GOTO. When completely unlocked, it took more force than it
should have to rotate on the RA axis, but it was not so bad that I
couldn't work with it. However, I needed to hold the base steady when
rotating the scope on its RA axis. Regarding the focus mechanism, I
think an electric focuser or the flex cable is a required accessory and
next on my list of purchases. The 8x25 finder works surprisingly well
and will easily come to a good focus on terrestrial objects or stars.

I did notice a inconsistent response time when pushing the 4 motion
buttons, especially in the slower selections, although there was
discernible movement even with the "2" and "3"
speeds as there should be. Perhaps an "Azimuth Percent"
correction to 15% will help in this area. I could always get it to work,
but it was a little annoying and shouldn't be having that consistency
problem. The tracking was acceptable, but not nearly as good as my LX
200. I think that a re-training of the drive could help here. It was
good enough for visual work, but I know it can do much better than what
I was seeing on the first night out.  I didn't see any "rubber
banding", "creep after the beep" or residual drift.

I checked to verify that my ETX-125 was of the new design - and was
pleased to see the proof that it was. Another question that this raises
PERFECT "GO TO" ETX OR LX 90" and Jordan Blessing's
"ETX Tune Up" still completely applicable to the new design
ETX-125?  I would guess that at least 90% of it would be.

I'm anxious to take out my ETX-125EC on a more complete check-out that
includes a measurement of limiting magnitude and resolution. I expect to
be using it quite often with visual variable star measurements while I
prepare the LX 200 for photometric ones. Overall, I'm EXTREMELY pleased
with the new ETX-125EC with UHTC coatings (I realize that's a bit
redundant!). This scope performed extremely well on its first night out,
using it right out of the box without any modifications, and being used
by someone who touched an ETX scope and the Autostar II for the very
first time.

I'm looking forward to Dr. Clay's evaluation since it will be coming
from someone who's so expertly familiar with the instrument and
qualified to make an accurate evaluation.
Best Regards,
Bob Wolpert
Mike here: You said "Autostar II". I presume you meant just "Autostar". And you can ADD a site. You can see the full version number from the Statistics menu. As to tuneups and performance enhancements, I wouldn't do them quite yet and only if you are sure you NEED to. And as you've noted, not everything would apply.

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