I fell in love with the night sky when I first looked through a telescope as a young girl living in Delhi - Priyamvada Natarajan
Astronomy, just like every other scientific discipline, is a mass participation passion that welcomes anyone and everyone with an interest in the night sky.
Whether your interest in observing the celestial is confined to the planets in our solar system or you have an irresistible yearning to gaze further afield and want to study the hundreds of millions of discernable stars in the Milky Way, all you need to join the legions of worldwide astronomers is a keen eye, an irresistible thirst for knowledge and a telescope.
The weapon of choice for all stargazers since it was first used to chart the heavens by the father of observable astronomy Galileo Galilei in the opening years of the seventeenth century, the telescope is the ideal medium to bridge the gap between earthbound imagination and the beauty of the cosmos.
And in the four hundred years since Galileo initially used it to scrutinize the planets in reverential wonder, the telescope has evolved far beyond the limits of his wildest dreams to become the quintessential method for viewing the majesty of the universe.
While the choice of telescope for astronomers, both amateur and professional alike, has never been broader, finding the right one to help you leave the boundaries of Earth behind and lose yourself in the wonder of the planets and stars isn’t as easy as you might think.
The problem with having an almost infinite choice of telescopes is that it’s all too easy to choose the wrong one. We know that, because we’ve been in that position and having found ourselves saddled with a telescope that we neither cared for and wasn’t much use to us, we nearly gave up on astronomy altogether.
But we’re not quitters, and our continuing astronomical journey eventually led us to Meade Instruments, a telescopic name that we've slowly come to trust more than any other in the field. And the Meade telescope that we’ve taken to heart and entrusted our star gazing futures to is the ETX125 Observer.
Who Are Meade Instruments?
Founded by John Deibel, a fellow amateur astronomer, Meade started life as a small, one-man postal operation that sold refracting telescopes in nineteen seventy-two.
In the intervening half-century, since John introduced Meade to the world, the brand has risen to a position of entirely justified dominance in the field of astronomy as they have always put passion before profit and have rarely if ever, deviated from the ideals they were set up to encourage among their customers.
A visionary who was determined to supply amateur astronomers with high-quality telescopes at affordable prices so that they could completely lose themselves in their chosen endeavor, John Deible’s company has followed his business model to the letter since day one.
Widely acknowledged as being one of the leading lights in the telescoping industry, Meade prides itself on its innovation and desire to continually push the envelope of what can and can’t be done in its chosen field.
And adhering to their core values has led them to introduce dozens of improvements that have made amateur astronomy more enjoyable than it’s ever been at any other point in its long and storied history.
Meade was the first company to introduce an eight-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with a fully integrated worm-drove to the commercial market in nineteen eighty and they haven’t taken their foot off the telescopic accelerator since.
And the end result of those decades of invention and engineering excellence is the ETX125 Observer.
Designed specifically for beginner and intermediate level astronomers, the latter camp being the one that we comfortably reside in, the ETX125 uses a Maksutov-Cassegrain lens set-up to make it easy for the urban stargazer to immerse themselves in their first love whenever the mood takes them.
It may not have the biggest aperture size, but the way in which it utilizes its lens and mirror means that it gathers all of the available light from its surroundings to use for lunar, planetary, and star-field observation.
Having fallen in love with the lunar landscape after hearing tales of the early Apollo missions and our closet superior planetary neighbor Mars after spending far too many hours immersed in the pages of Wells’ The War of the Worlds, the ETX125 provided an ideal platform for us to “waste” (as our families so eloquently put it) far too much time staring at both worlds and imaging what it must be like to walk on their surfaces and feel their dust under our feet.
The ETX125 is also adept at finding, and helping you to lose yourself in the magnificence of the outer superior planets, and we honestly can’t ever remember seeing the rings of Saturn look as beautiful or as detailed as they do through the lens of this Meade scope.
Meade ETX 125 Buying Guide
Astrophotography and Portability
Due to the size of the telescope, which is mainly down to it being a Maksutov-Cassegrain design, it’s incredibly portable and easy to carry from location to location, and the tubular steel tripod construction of the tripod, means that it’s not only relatively light, but it’s also easy to set up when you reach your desired location.
The design and the fact that it’s focal ratio is f/15 means that it’s also a slow scope, which makes it ideal for astrophotography.
Before we used the ETX125, we hadn’t ever thought about venturing down the photography avenue, but after trying our hand at it a couple of times we were, and are hooked and it’s now become an integral part of our stargazing.
If we didn’t know that the gorgeously detailed images of the lunar surface that we were able to capture with the ETX125 were entirely due to the telescope, we might have tried to convince ourselves that we actually had a smattering of photographic talent, which of course we don’t.
Seeing the Stars The ETX125 Way
As we’ve already said, the ETX125 packs more than enough punch and detail in its lenses to make (relatively) close planetary observation a joy and opens up the heavens in a way that few telescopes that share a similar price point can.
Meade also includes two separate one and quarter inch eye-pieces with the ETX125, a nine mmm and a and 125mm, which thanks to them being multi-coated were designed to, and actually do, minimize observational blur and cut chromatic aberration (color separation) to an absolute minimum.
It’s also nice to have a choice of eye-piece size, and when either are teamed up with the red-dot viewfinder that the scope uses, they make the Meade devastatingly easy to use, and enjoy telescope.
A GoTo Scope Of Choice
The ETX125 is also a GoTo scope, which means that it is computer-driven, so you won’t need to actually train it on any object in the night sky. It’ll do it all for you.
With a database (AudioStar, a proven system that gets a double thumbs up from us) that includes thirty thousand points of reference, it’s simple to find whatever you want to look for by accessing and using said database.
And don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as complicated to use as it sounds, and the comprehensive instructions that Meade supply with the ETX125 explain in excruciating detail how to use it to your advantage.
There are a number of astronomers that regard GoTo scopes as glorified cheats as they make astronomy easy, but that’s exactly why they exist, to make astronomy as simple as it possibly can be and to ensure that you spend your time seeing what you want to instead of wasting to by endlessly trying to locate whatever planet or star that you’ve set your heart on watching in the night sky.
As you’ve probably guessed, we’re fans of GoTo scopes and love the way that Meade has incorporated AudioStar into the scope’s functionality, and it is partially responsible for helping us to rediscover our love for, and of, staring at the planets and the stars.
The EQ plate on the mount is also tilt adjustable for polar alignment, which makes using it so much easier and simpler, and is one of those super-secret secrets that you never discover until you become a fully-fledged member of the global astronomy family.
But when you do, it’ll become abundantly clear why you’ve always needed it, even if you didn’t know that you did.
The Final Assessment
Meade describes the ETX125 as an intermediate level telescope that’s perfect for introducing beginners to astronomy, and we’re forced to admit that we absolutely agree with them.
It’s easy to use, light enough to make nighttime field trips an absolute joy, and the AudioStar and lens set-up will enable you to see all manner of galactic wonders and hidden treasures.
The only slight reservation that we have about the ETX125 is the same one that troubles all GoTo telescopes, and that’s the price. It’s far from cheap, and because of that, and that alone, it isn’t really an entry-level telescope.
If you’re going to invest the sort of money that the ETX125 asks of you, you should really have some sort of established track record in astronomy and already know that you’re fully committed to spending your leisure time looking at the heavens.
Having said that, if your heart lies out there among the planets and the stars, there’s no better way to follow it than with a little help from the Meade ETX125.