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Meade 127mm ED APO Refractor (used)



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Date: 3-17-2003
Price: $1700.00 (new), $1300.00 (used)
Design: Large apocromatic refractor featuring ED lens elements. 
Description: This used telescope shipped with the OTA, mounting cradle, and a 10x50mm finder scope.

The Review

The first telescope I owned back in the late 60s was a cheap department store 40mm refractor with a tiny metal tripod. I use to put on the roof on my father’s car and look at the moon.  But it wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I started observing in interest.  Since then I have owned an 80mm refractor, an 8” DOB, an ETX 90, a couple of 8” SC.

Since my main interest is planetary observation I always wanted to acquire a high quality refractor, so I looked at the Meade 127 ED F9.3 APO refractor. Not as expensive as the fluorite Takahashi APOS or Tellevues, the Meade uses a lens made of ED glass mounted behind a Lens of regular BK4 glass to cut down on chromatic aberration.  The trick of getting the best out of the Meade is proper collimation and centering of the lenses.

The Telescope

The 127ED sells new for $1700 and is produced by special order only.  I was able to find one used on Astromart for $1300. I sent a check and good to the seller’s word the scope arrived VIA UPS in good shape about a week later. The OTA included with it a 10x50mm finder and the mounting cradle. The OTA weighed in at approximately 20lbs to include diagonal and mounting cradle. This scope is very portable.  For the time being I have the scope mounted on a Meade LXD-55 goto mount (approx. cost of mount $500). This mount is supposed to handle the 30lb AR6 F8 6” refractor that Meade sells as a combo. The 127 mm ED/LXD 55 combination is just sufficient for visual observation. If someone else decides to try this mount/scope combo, a set of more sturdier wooden legs to replace the light aluminum ones provided would make observing easier and cut down on vibration dampening time. The goto works great once aligned. On the mount the scope looks beautiful. I was ready for first light. One thing I did notice though was the lens glass being very dirty and lightly stained. A sign of lots of years of good use.

First Light

On the first night of observations I quickly aligned the mount and played with the goto. My first target was DSO targets M57. Using a 32MM Meade 4000 EP the target ended up in the lower end of the FOV. Even though I was not observing from dark skies the donut smoke ring was there. My next target was M32 that showed up as a small light smudge. Bumping up the power helped a little bit but I could not expect too much from a 5” refractor. My next target was M42. Here is where the refractor shined.  Using an Orion sky block filter and a 32mm EP I marveled at the gas cloud that filled the FOV. Having never viewed M42 from a quality refractor I was surprised at the clarity and pin point star images. Not bad as a DSO instrument, About this time the clouds rolled in and ended my brief session. The next night I decide to devote to the planets. Pointing the scope to Jupiter, which was at about 35 degrees relative to the horizon, and using a 15mm Meade 4000EP I could only detect 2 belts on the planet. I tried more power but to no avail. I could not bring the planet into fine focus and all I could see was the atmosphere boiling in the FOV which I took as atmospheric turbulence. I looked at Saturn, there the image was slightly better but I could not see Cassini an easy test on any 5” refractor. I attempted a Star test everything looked okay but the atmosphere was just too unsteady. The vibration factor was also bad. The mount had been set up on grass and the flimsy aluminum legs were causing vibration on the Richter scale at high powers. Wondering if the collimation was off, the lens being very dirty and wanting the new adjustable collimatable lens cell that Meade had started using on their newer APOs a few I paid Meade $100 and sent the scope to the factory for service. Five weeks later and after a few telephone call and emails to Meade the scope arrived. The scope lens had been cleaned and the focuser oiled. I hoped the collimation had withstood. UPS.

2nd Light

A few nights later the skies over north Florida had cleared and I was ready to put the scope through its tests. I had spent most of the day doing collimation tests and star tests with a home made artificial star using a silver Xmas ball set up outside in bright sun light on top of a bucket about 50 feet away. From what I could tell everything looked good. As soon as the sun went down I set up the mount and scope on a cement surface for added stability and was ready to go.  After a quick 2 star alignment the mount goto slewed to Jupiter which was almost dead center in a 26mm Meade 400 EP. The atmosphere was rock study viewing condition about 8. I could see the 2 bands very clear. I bumped up the power using a 10.5 Tellevue and put the planet in focus. Here is the 127Ed started to perform. The planet was a creamy white with no obtrusive color showing anywhere on the limb. I could clearly see the North and South belts (light orange hue) and make out the GRS. I could barley see a hint of more markings.  I quickly changed eyepieces and installed a Meade 6.7  4000 EP giving approx. 175X. Now I could clearly see the GRS and make out some structure inside it. In short periods of good seeing I could see more marking and belts in the Polar Regions. I decided to see what the scope could handle so I installed a Celestron barlow with a 10.5 Tellevue eyepiece for approximately 210X. Just about this time a shadow transit was in progress across the planet’s surface. The moon showed up as clear distinct disc. All 4 moons did show up as clear distinct disc. Attempting to get more power out of the scope I swapped the 10.5mm form the barlow and installed the 6.7 giving the scope approximately 356X. At this power the image began to brake down. I could not bring the scope to perfect focus. At this point I slewed the scope to Saturn. Using the 6.7mm EP I could clearly see the Cassini division going all around the planet.  Knowing that Saturn could take more power I installed the barlow with the same eyepiece. The image was a little dim because of the barlow but the scope focused perfectly to the point where I could clearly see the rings shadow on the planet and could make out some of the cloud banding and I though I could make out the Olivine cap on planet’s top pole. I think if I had another eyepiece or a 3X barlow and a steadier mount I could have used even more power.


My only negatives are with this scope that I wish it was a 6” or even better yet a 7”.  If I decide to keep this scope I do need to get a stronger tripod or better mount. For low to mid power observation a stock LXD-55 mount works okay but if you want to take photos or use high powers on this scope then at minimum an Orion Atlas (EQ 6) is needed in order to avoid vibration. Another negative could be collimation issues. In order for the Meade Eds to really perform their lenses must be properly centered and collimated. If anyone is interested the Meade Yahoo forum refractor group has with the help of some of its’ more mechanically inclined members made a Collimation manual (found in the file section) for this telescope which outlines the steps that must be taken to collimate this type of refractor. The manual can also be used for your basic Synta refractor with a push pull lens cell. This scope performs excellently on the planets and is not a bad DSO performer for its’ size of 127mm. I am sure a braver person than I would attempt to tweak the collimation even more to squeeze every bit of performance from this scope. Will I keep the scope? Probably not as with most amateur astronomers I like to buy and test different scopes. ( I would love to try a TAK). If I had a bigger budget I would buy the Meade 150mm ED and mount it on a G11. This would be my keeper refractor as it would be on the limit of portability that my sore back could handle. Would I recommend this scope? Yes, I definitely would.

Submitted by George Mavromates - USA

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