Home / Meade ETX-80 AT-TC
by Luca Cheli 01/04/07 | Email Author
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Meade ETX-80 AT-TC
I live in
Turin, northwest Italy near the Alps (45-deg03' N , 7-deg 41' E) and I started
stargazing more than twenty years ago at the age of sixteen, first with a pair
of 16x50 Pentax binoculars and then with a Meade 826 20 cm (8 inches) newtonian
time I was living in the open country 30 km outside the city with rather limted
light pollution and a house with plenty of space for storing cumbersone items
like the 826.
live in downtown Turin, with much worse light pollution and only a small
balcony at the first floor to look out to the night sky. My flat also has not
much space for storing items.
So I needed
something much smaller than the 826 and considering the urban environments and
its limits the natural choice should have been something like the ETX-90, but
alas, when I stumbled upon an old Meade 2045 (4 inches SCT) which I had always
desired in my youth, I bought it immediately.
honest it (the 2045) allowed me decent views of the moon and Jupiter and a few
looks at Saturn and Mars, but on the whole I felt there was something not
perfectly OK with it.
When I used
the small SCT during a Star Party on a mountain refuge at about 6000 ft, I was
rather disappointed by the view it offered, so I decided to try a different
ETX-80, short refractor, goto empowered RFT at an interesting price of 400 euro
(certainly higher than in the USA, but that's usual for telescopes in Europe):
I thought it could give me a different, low power, half-binocular like, view of
the heavens, so I bought it.
telescope arrived in a sigle cardboard package about 90x25x100 cm rather light
(about 10 kg), with colourful images printed on it: nice appearence on the
it was much simpler, but neat, with the scope, the tripod, a useful bag for
tripod transport, two Meade 4000 Plossl with a "DS Series" mark on them,
obviously made in China as the whole package, a bubble-compass for the level
north process, the Autostar 494 and a printed manual in English, all of them
contained in crude cardboard sub-packages.
mount and the tripod.
experience of a scope this size was with the all metal-really sturdy Meade 2045
from the early 90s, so grabbing this all plastic, very light telescope gave me
a first impression of flimsyness, which was not dispelled by the ultralight
tripod (maybe 1 kg weight, maybe less).
impression notwithstanding, as soon as I started to use the ETX-80, I started
to appreciate its extreme overall compactness, that allows me to store it
easily in a corner of my flat's small vestibule, and its reduced weight
(something around 5 kg telescope AND tripod), so that it can easily be moved
around (already placed on its tripod) with just one hand.
speaking the mount is an altazimuthal fork double tine, motorized on both axes
and equipped with the Autostar 494 computer; it hasn't a RS232 port and cannot
be, as it is, directly commanded by a PC with the Autostar Suite installed (a
Meade #506 optional cable is required to achieve that), but this is not a
problem for me.
mildly serious reproach I can blame on the mount is that the DEC axis almost
immediately gained a looseness, which nevertheless has not so far impaired
visual use even at high magnification nor imaging with the Meade LPI at over
2000 mm focal length.
can't explain this to myself: there is an unmistakable backlash but it cannot
be perceived during observations. My previous experience with similar
loosenesses was that they had noticeable effect on telescope operation.
This is the
first time I try a GoTo telescope after years of starhopping and planetary
viewing and even imaging without motorized tracking, and I must say that for
all what the purists can object, GoTo is a great thing. When you have maybe ten
to fifteen nights a year to observe under a decent nightsky you want to spend
your precious time observing and not searching for, or, even worse, battling
with a misaligned and not very performing 6x30 or 5x24 finder.
494 is the simplified version of the 497 equipping higher priced Meade
telescopes, it has "only" 1400 objects in its database and less memory for user
defined object, but it works great.
requires that you put your scope levelled to north with the help of the
included bubble-compass, but you must remember that magnetic north is not
celestial north and you should better know the difference in degrees at you
can choose one or two stars alignment: of course two stars allow better
results, but I' ve verified in my urban environment that one star alignment is
enough as long as you search object about 30-40 degrees around your orignal
alignment star and even better results can be achieved periodically resynching
on each new object you have just "gotoed".
is as easy as pressing for a few seconds the enter button on the 494 hand
controller, center the object possibly in a medium power eyepiece and then
press enter again: this procedure improves the precision of Autostar's
"knowledge" of the sky map.
stars chosen at 90 or more degrees apart in the sky and carefully centered in
the field of a medium power eyepiece (66X) you can obtain a GoTo initial
accuracy of about 20 arcminutes or even less, but to maintain it, you have to
and motors are operated by six AA batteries (I use the NiMH 2600 mAh
rechargeable type), which up to now have granted 7 hours of operation at 0-degC
(32-degF) or less and are still running.
A fast (f5)
achromatic doublet should be synonymous with chromatic aberration, especially
in a rather cheap realization like this, but this little nice toy has really
The lens is
bluish and Multi-Coated is printed on its border; its diameter is 80 mm and 400
mm is its focal length.
reached moving the primary and not the diagonal-focuser block, which is, I
think, rather unique, but it does work.
requires a lot of turns to focus with non parfocal eyepieces, especially when
you use the builtin flip Barlow, but it is now placed parallel to the 31.8 mm
(1.25 inches) barrel, much more comfortable than in the old ETX-70.
has also a flip mirror for photographic purposes, but I suppose that attaching
a T-adapter and a DSLR to it would be too much for the DEC clutch.
shield is given with the telescope in this version (it's present in the BB
version), but it's dearly needed as soon as you find yourself in a moisty
was under the moon after a week of
"New Telescope Curse": it was a night of good seeing (I-II Antoniadi)
and I tried immediately to test chromatism and magnification.
the surprise:while at about 16X with the Meade 4000 SP 26 mm chromatism was
outrageous around the terminator, it was less and less so rising up with
internal Barlow and a Skywatcher 6 mm UWA I obtained 133X: at this
magnification the view was sharp
with hints of a yellow-green halo only on the twilight zone of the terminator
and details were seen inside Clavius (which was out of the terminator) that I
had never seen with the Meade 2045 SCT.
recently I could finally try the ETX-80 on Saturn (sadly only 20 degrees high
above the horizon) at 133X with the builtin Barlow and the usual 6mm EP in a
night of shoddy seeing: I could barely have a glimpse of the Cassini Division
and of the planet-rings shadows, very weak and unstable, but, most important,
even without a Fringe Killer filter, I couldn't perceive any blue haze around
the gas giant, so chromatism, at least in my perhaps lucky sample, is not a
problem as big as it should be according to the lore.
Chromacorr in my eyes and I don't know?
with 80 mm should be a joke, isn't it?
No, it is
not, because you must think to your scope as half an astronomical binocular
when turning to DSO and we all know that astro binoculars are no joke.
two nights of good transparency in a suburban location with a naked eye
magnitude 5 sky and the fast searching capabilities of the GoTo, I have
observed the following objects:
M32 (which is not easy), M33 (weak, but present),M34, M35, M36, M37, M38, M39,
M42, M43, M45, M57 (very good even without filters), M76 (just a glimpse with
UHC filter), M77, M78 with its two stars, M81 and M82.
palmares we could add NGC752, the Double Cluster and a bunch of other open clusters, while an attempt to see
NGC891 has failed but maybe it was too much to pretend.
the galaxies and the planetary nebulas were a different show in my old 20cm
reflector, but the open clusters are a much more exciting view in an RFT and in
any case and concerning any of the forementioned objects, the ETX-80 afforded
better views than the 2045 SCT.
example M1 could only be perceived with averted vision with the 2045 at 50X,
while the ETX-80 allowed direct vision at 42X.
So it's no
joke, it's for real.
my Meade LPI to image the Moon with the ETX-80 and also to try to capture the
core of M31 from downtown Turin (crazy experiment).
look with your eyes at the results: Copernicus has been imaged with a focal
length of 1600 mm stacking about 20 shots with the Meade Envisage software but
without tracking, while M31 has been imaged stacking 15 seconds exposures for
about 3 minutes and of course with tracking.
the outcome on M31 is poor, but do not foget that it was obtained with a camera
designed for other tasks and in a seriously light polluted environment (street
light 12 feets in front and above my observing site).
Copernicus on lower left in this LPI image at 1600 mm focal length.
M 31 core imaged at 400 mm
with a total exposure time of 180 sec (15 sec per exposure).
A last note concerning the two Meade 4000 "DS
Series" EP given with the scope: their appearance and the "Made in China" mark
may seem to put them on a lower level than those sold separately, but since I
own a 9.7 mm Meade 4000 SP Made in Japan, I can say that direct confrontation
between the pair hasn't evidentiated any apparent deficiency of the "chinese
As for what concerns the 26 mm EP, I've found
it rather corrected except for coma in the last quarter of the field before the
border. But considering the low magnification and the wide (3-deg) field, all
all I think it fulfills honestly its task.
As a conclusive word to my review, I can't but
promote the Meade ETX-80 as a very comfortable grab and go RFT for binocular like
DSO view, which delivers unsuspected performances in the lunar-planetary range,
well above and beyond the limits of a bino.
I share no vested interests whatsoever in Meade
Corporation, but certainly I do appreciate they products since a long time, so
it's right that you know that certainly I've no bias against Meade.