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Date: 8-16-2002
Price: approx $495.00, with Autostar 149.00 extra, with Tripod $199.99 extra
Design: Small Cassegrain telescope that is very portable
Description: 90mm f/13.8 Cassegrain telescope that has optional computer controls.

Review

This was my second scope and I have been observing for about 2 years now, most heavily in the last six months, I am probably still in novice range and I know very little about the optics. I will attempt to share with you my feelings on this scope as per my experience in my central Oklahoma viewing location.

My skies run about 3rd magnitude naked eye at zenith from my front and back yard.  I am blessed with a baseball field, a car lot, and a highway all within a mile of my house so anything that's not straight up or above 45 degrees in the NE is pretty much blotted out.  That said, I have taken this scope to darker skies with slightly better results.

I bought this scope after I received a DS-114 and found it slightly lacking.  This scope appealed to me because of it's high portability and compatibility with all my other 1.25" eyepieces and the Autostar controller.

My initial impression of this scope was disappointment.  There are three main problems that plague this scope:

1. The finder, it is extremely difficult to align and use.  When the scope is pointed at anything within about 20 degrees of zenith it is unusable. Period.  The scopes base causes this problem.  This makes the scope VERY hard to polar align (a feat I have only managed once) and very difficult to find things in my area, as due to the light pollution I try to stick to near zenith.  A right angle finder would fix this problem, but steals from the already limited light supply of this undersized finder.  And they are more expensive than I wanted (and still want to) pay.

2. The focuser, the focuser is good until you get within about 15 degrees of zenith, at which point it is virtually unusable.  Any person with normal sized fingers cannot turn this knob when it is sandwiched between the OTA, the base, the eyepiece holder, and the fork mount.  With gloves on, forget it.  This problem is solved easily enough with a Flexi-Focus from www.scopetronics.com ($35) or a similar homemade device.  The electric focuser I assume would also work, but I cannot vouch for how well.

3.  Where do you set it?  It is very portable, yes, but setting it on the ground makes for difficult use, setting it on your car hood limits you to about 270 azimuth degrees (and neck pain), and bringing a table or anything like that negates the portability, the main thing the ETX has going for it.  I was using my mailbox, but when I wanted to go to a darker site I finally broke down and got the $200 tripod.  I have to say it is a very nice tripod though, it has a built in bubble level (though I already bought one for my other scope) and a wedge system for polar mounting.  It is also quite sturdy.

With those main problems aside, if not cured, there is very little wrong with this scope.  The backlash of the DS-114 is still there, though not quite as bad.  The mount also makes photography difficult through the back port.  If the moon is high, forget taking a picture.  This makes fine tuning your location a bit more of a headache, but it's bearable.  Weasner's Mighty ETX Site: http://www.weasner.com/etx/menu.html is invaluable for fine tuning your scope though.  The first few months, the going was slow, getting used to the backlash and the quirks of the Autostar.  After discovering the site though and making an Autostar computer connection cable, updating the firmware, and tightening a few bolts as per user recommendations, I was very impressed with the scope indeed.

Once aligned, the Autostar has placed M13, M92, M57, M27, and a whole slew of stars within the inner 1/2 of the supplied 25mm eyepiece.  All in one night with a single alignment.  Though my site is not ideal for telescoping, all of the above objects were visible, if not obvious (M57) in the scope when the object approached zenith.  The scope also kept M13 in the eyepiece for a full 15 minutes, without noticeable drift (after 15 minutes I did have to pack up and leave).  So if I have two alignment stars that are not at zenith, I do not end up using the finder scope enough to be thoroughly annoyed by it.

The views through the scope of Jupiter, mars,  and Saturn were pleasant (no Cassini divisions, but obvious moons of the larger planets and visible moons of Mars, if you looked.)  M13 and M92 were both pretty obvious in my skies, no resolution of individual stars, but definitely exciting to look at.  M 57 is very unobvious and kind of a skill shot while M27 is quite readily visible.  Near the edge of the eyepiece coma is present enough to become annoying.  As I stated before I am not qualified to say anything other than the views looked good to me or the views looked bad to me.  And they looked pretty darn good to be honest.

All in all with a little bit of work and more than a few accessories this scope is a very good travel scope.  Quick set up, take down time, high portability (even with the tripod), good views, good accuracy with the Autostar, and the "wow it's cute" factor.  I am planning on getting a larger scope for deep sky viewing but I will absolutely keep this one around for those impromptu viewing sessions.

Happy viewing and Clear skies.

Submitted by Daniel Hayes

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