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My Dad has owned this scope for almost 18 months now and he and I have 'logged' many hours staring through the eyepiece at the night sky. Our experiences of this telescope have been a mixture of excellent and not so excellent. I thought I'd share my thoughts with anyone considering purchasing this telescope.
The Meade ETX 125-PE is a small(ish) Maksutov Cassegrain astronomical telescope with 'Autostar' computer control (also known as a Goto scope). The Maksutov Cassegrain optics makes the telescope shorter than the more commonplace refractors or reflectors, and the computer control, in theory (I'll expand on this later), allows the user to send the telescope to any object in the sky with a few pushes of the key pad.
The appearance of the scope is quite pleasing, whilst looking little like a 'traditional' refractor (long thin tube), its short tube set in the chunky fork mount looks quite attractive and high tech.
The mount for a telescope is extremely important. It must be stable and vibration free or the high magnification used causes the view through the eyepiece to wobble, making viewing extremely difficult. A mount can be tested by rapping sharply on one of the legs and seeing how quickly the vibrations die down (hopefully within about 2 seconds).
The ETX 125-PE's mount is excellent and quite heavy duty. The legs of the tripod are made from tubular steel and, partly due to the shortness of the telescope tube, gives an extremely stable platform for operation. Any induced vibrations are damped within about one second. This is definitely one of the best features of this package.
The Maksutov Cassegrain telescope design can give superb views due to the small central obstruction (for the secondary mirror). The Meade optics do justice to the Maksutov design and are superbly implemented. The image is bright, sharp, and crisp, with little of the potential distortions of other scope types (e.g. chromatic aberration, coma). The UHTC coatings of the 'PE' edition increase the image brightness by a reported 15%.
'Goto' telescopes as they're known are advertised as easy for beginners to get the hang of. I have two issues with this. Firstly, the best way to learn about the night sky is to use a manually operated scope and 'star hop' following sky maps, to where you want to go. Secondly, the 'Goto' is rarely as easy to operate as the advert says.
The 'Autostar' software allows the scope to be sent to any part of the sky. Before this can work, however, the on-board computer must be trained. This involves inputting the date, time, user's latitude and longitude, then levelling the base, and pointing it north. Once these initial parameters are in, the telescope slews to two bright stars. The user centres the stars in the eyepiece and the telescope is ready for use.
It is not as easy as that, however. We've found that if the base is not completely level, then errors are introduced, and if the object is outside of the eyepiece's field of view, it can be difficult to find.
If the telescope is perfectly set up and levelled, then the software can operate perfectly, with all objects being centred in the field of view, but it's not as easy as the adverts would have you believe.
Although the telescope appears to be well built, the internal moving parts are quite fragile. Two different gears have been damaged in my Dad's scope during use. Fortunately, he's quite good at fixing things and has rebuilt these parts to a greater strength than the originals. Without his skills, the telescope would have been returned to Meade, twice.
Overall, this is a high quality, compact scope with superb optics with a computerised control system which, when set up correctly, works brilliantly and allows you to see more during a nights observing than a manual scope would.
The fragility of the mechanics gives some cause for concern, however, and I can't recommend this scope unreservedly.
Focal Length: 1900mm - Max aperture: f/15