If you’ve been involved in astronomy for any length of time, or even just interested in the subject, then you’ll have heard of Meade Instruments by now and the telescopes they make. That’s because Meade aren’t newcomers to telescopes and have been in business since 1972 when John Diebel first started supplying low-cost refractor telescopes to people across the United States.
What he found was that there was a demand for a lot more than a basic refractor telescope, and that people were looking for more advanced types of telescopes. In 1977 Meade released the first telescope carrying the Meade Instruments brand name and they’ve been constantly working ever since then to produce some of the best telescopes on the market. Overall the goal of Meade Instruments is just to make astronomy more accessible to amateur astronomers everywhere. In fact Meade has been responsible for some pretty big moves in the amateur astronomy market like creating the first computerized telescope with their ETX series for example.
Coincidentally, one of the Meade telescopes that we’re going to review here today is the Meade ETX 90 computerized telescope – get settled in!
As you’ve probably already figured out from the intro this is a computer-controlled telescope, which is becoming far more popular. The heart of this telescope is the GoTo system which means that a computer takes over the whole process of alignment and then tracking down individual stars, planets, nebula and other Messier Objects. What’s really neat about the GoTo system is that even in areas where there’s tons of light pollution this system can use your current latitude and longitude to pick out the celestial object you wanted to look at in the first place. Calibrating the GoTo system is a very easy affair and once you’ve pointed it at either Polaris, or a handful of similarly bright stars, and entered your current co-ordinates on the planet the computer takes over from there.
The Meade ETX 90 telescope itself is controlled via a handheld computer, which we’ve found to be very easy to use and except for the odd hiccup here and there it’s pretty accurate too.
The Meade ETX90EC telescope is what’s called a Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope which basically means it’s a hybrid telescope which uses both lenses and mirrors to produce the images you see. You see there are reasons for using both refractor or reflector telescopes depending on your actual requirements but to get around this a compound (Maksutov-Cassegrain) telescope takes what’s best from both of these other telescope technologies and combines them in one “device”. You’ll find that the optics in this telescope provide very high levels of contrast, image brightness and, most importantly, high resolution images too. A compound telescope like this also offers you the more traditional viewing position of from the back or downwards into the optical tube itself.
One of the main reasons we can see in this Meade telescope being very popular with amateur astronomers and hobbyists is that it’s very portable and can be just set up on any flat surface of your choosing. When you compare the size of this telescope to a 10-inch Dobsonian or similar it’s tiny in comparison. However with the lens/mirror system this Meade uses you’re not getting shortchanged when it comes to the overall aperture or focal length of the ‘scope itself – it’s on a par with reflectors and refractors with physically far bigger apertures.
One of the very neat things about a Maksutov-Cassegrain/compound telescope is that it functions as well during the day as it does at night. Refractor scopes can be very difficult to use during the day and reflector telescope projects all of their images upside down. A catadioptric telescope like this can be used during the day so you’re basically getting two telescopes in one.
Plus another thing people love about compound telescopes is that you don’t have to worry about the collimation process (the process of adjusting mirrors in a reflector telescope), which is something nobody in the history of astronomy has ever looked forward to. In short a compound telescope is ideal for somebody who just wants to point-and-view, or in this case just pushes a few buttons and let the computer do all the work for you.
As you would expect from the vast majority of telescopes the Meade ETX-90EC comes in a black finish on both the fork mount and the optical tube itself.
This Meade ETX 90 has been obviously designed to be portable from the outset and the fact that it weighs in at just 8 pounds and is a little over 15-inches in length means that you won’t need to be an Olympian to move it. It has a focal length of 1250mm and a focal ratio of f/13.8 too. The actual aperture of 90mm might seem small but once you see the clarity of image this telescope can produce you’ll instantly realize the benefit of owning a catadiopter.
You get a pair of Super Plvssl eyepieces with the Meade ETX-90EC – in 9.7mm and 26mm focal lengths.
- The Maksutov-Cassegrain design makes for a very trouble and maintenance-free telescope
- Being a catadioptric telescope means you can use it during the day and at night also
- The AutoStar GoTo computer system has proven itself to be very accurate, if somewhat quirky at times
- There have been some mixed reports as to the experiences of some people using this catadioptric telescope but it’s very hard to judge whether that’s a lack of user experience or an actual fault with the telescope itself.
Verdict of the Meade ETX90EC Telescope
In summary the Meade ETX-90EC is a great telescope for both astronomy and terrestrial use, if that’s something that appeals to you. Priced below $500 means that only amateur astronomers with deeper pockets are going to be able to afford it however.