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Meade ETX-LS - My First Telescope

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After some research into purchasing my first telescope, I decided on the Meade ETX-LS 6 ACF. The "user friendliness" and interactivity won me over, and I was confident that my (very) limited knowledge of the night sky would not hinder the experience. I also felt the ETX- LS could actually be a fix to that lack of knowledge, even with the $1500 price tag (which has now grown to over $2000 with accessories such as a hard case, AC adapter, dew shield, Meade 4000 eyepiece and filter set, but I digress).

After much anticipation (because of the two week backorder delay) the ETX-LS finally arrived. I felt like a kid a Christmas and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Upon opening the box, I found the scope to be much larger than I expected. It's a beast (although this could be from my lack of experience with telescopes). Now I just hoped the dreaded Southern California marine layer of fog wouldn't roll in and spoil my introduction into astronomy.

As I awaited nightfall, I read the ETX-LS manual (located on the CD), all the while checking the the fog in the distance. I had read many reviews, and a few of them complained the self set-up didn't work as advertised. The time finally came, the stars were out and the fog stayed back (other than a light haze). I never really noticed how small my backyard was until I set up the scope there and realized the trees and houses really limit the amount of sky the scope could actually see. I figured I'd try it anyway.

I just flipped the switch and sat back. The control pad lit up red, then it started talking to me. It told me what it was doing, and I wondered if my neighbors were listening. The "Acquiring GPS" portion lasted a bit longer than I anticipated, but that was probably because of the thin layer of haze and the limited view of the sky. The motors to move the scope (or "slew" we astronomers call it) were a bit loud (think coffee grinder), but I guess thats just the nature of motorized telescopes. After the GPS's were located, and north / level were deciphered, the ETX started looking for stars (and it lets you know). The motor(s) kick in and the scope spins to find its target. When the scope stopped slewing, it was pointed at the trees separating my bedroom window from a neighbors backyard. After a few seconds, the scope realized it was obstructed. It told me the view was obstructed and that it would look for another star to align itself. I assume it found the second one because it didn't tell me it was obstructed (and it was pointing almost straight up). The third star was directly behind my house, but the fourth was in view. By the time I finished my first Pacifico, we were in business.

The telescope was aligned properly after about 10 to 15 minutes. I decided to start with the tour that offers the best of the night sky. First on the list, Jupiter. After slewing to Jupiter, I looked through the eyepiece only to find the side of my neighbors house. I backed up against the wall, and sure enough, right where the scope was pointing was Jupiter (I've been tracking the planets using StarMap on my iPhone). The next on the list, (Perseids) Meteor Shower. I was pleasantly surprised to see this in the database, as it's limited to just a few days in August. Again, my limited view of the sky (as well as the below average meteor viewing conditions) hindered me seeing any meteors - through the scope or not. After the third "best" thing to see was obstructed as well, I decided to pick up the scope and move it to a place where I could check out Jupiter (in so doing, taking the scope out of proper alignment). I manually found Jupiter and a few other bright targets in the sky and the optics were very good (again, coming from a novice viewer).

Although most of the targets were obstructed, I'm confident that the ETX was able to properly align itself with a limited view of the sky on a slightly hazy night. Improving my experience is now in MY hands. I will find a location with a much better view of the night sky (even moving to my front yard would open up the potential viewing area dramatically). I eagerly look forward to many nights with my new ETX-LS, and an improved experience as I learn what works best. Not bad for a first night.


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